Under The Influence: Alex Gray

posted by / Magazine / June 17, 2014

Alex Gray, the pride of Los Angeles. Photo: Dave Nelson

Alex Gray, the pride of Los Angeles. Photo: Dave Nelson

“I get a lot of the exposure for surfing big, scary waves…” You don’t say. Photo: Corey Wilson

“I get a lot of the exposure for surfing big, scary waves…” You don’t say. Photo: Corey Wilson

“The best way to figure things out is to get out into the world. Travel. Get out of your comfort zone. The world is the school of life, and traveling will change your whole perspective.” Ireland. Photo: Brent Bielmann

“The best way to figure things out is to get out into the world. Travel. Get out of your comfort zone. The world is the school of life, and traveling will change your whole perspective.” Ireland. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Alex Gray, at home in LA. Photo: Dave Nelson

Alex Gray, at home in LA. Photo: Dave Nelson

According to Alex Gray, kids shouldn’t go to college. At least, not right away. And while some parents may frown upon this advice, Alex’s own story suggests there might be some wisdom in his unconventional guidance. The day after graduating high school he took a surf trip to England and has been traveling nine months out of the year ever since. Chasing life experiences. Charging the world’s scariest waves. And while he’s never made a Dean’s List or been the life of a Sigma Chi frat party, he’s 27 years into the school of life, and has no plans to graduate anytime soon. —Mike Misselwitz

ALEX: I tell every kid to avoid going straight to college out of high school. When you’re 18 years old you’re still a kid, you don’t know who you are or what you want yet. The best way to figure things out is to get out into the world. Travel. Get out of your comfort zone. The world is the school of life, and traveling will change your whole perspective.

From age 12 to 22, I traveled with a jersey on. I thought it was the best thing ever. And then, thanks to my sponsors, I got to start traveling without the jersey, and I was like, “Yes, this is it. This is what I want to do.” But that’s not to say a guy on the world tour is any less stoked. As a freesurfer I get to live my dream, but the competitive surfers are living their dreams, too. We’re traveling for different reasons, but we still love surfing.

I get a lot of the exposure for surfing big, scary waves, but I love going on trips to surf fun waves too. I love traveling with guys like Dusty Payne or Mitch Coleborn to rip small surf just as much as I love trips with Shane Dorian and Dave Wassel to a crazy slab. I think surfers should be well-rounded. A good surfer should think, “Yeah, that looks fun!” no matter what.

When your whole life is centered around chasing storms, there’s a lot of sacrifice. You have to drop everything you’re doing at the last minute, and you end up missing family functions, holidays, birthdays…it’s hard to be in a relationship, stuff like that. But surf-travel is the greatest thing in the world and it’s all I want to do with my life right now. I’m hooked.

Living in the moment is the greatest thing ever. When you jump on a plane last-minute and find yourself at a perfect wave in some wild place with your best friends, that’s when all of a sudden the worries stop. My problem is, I do that so much. Like, those trips where everyone else is going, “I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t go, it might not be that good…” I’ll just say, “Screw it, I’ll go!”, because I’d rather check it from the water. And with that attitude, sometimes I lose. But what did I really lose? Some money, I guess, but I still had a hell of a time. To score amazing surf on last-minute, tactical strike-missions to far flung places around the world, I’ll go broke in pursuit of that.

Tags: , , ,

Related Posts:


  • frothdog

    geesus.. that fukn nixon ad is fukn irritating for the millionth fukn time at fukn top volume.. just fukn saying.

  • zubs

    not everyone can travel on sponsorship funds, but you can on scholarship funds.

  • asdflk22

    travel is great, but what terrible advice, cmon. maybe if you grew up wealthy like alex its feasible, but most people have to WORK to create a long lasting form of income.

  • CMT

    At 18 you are a kid. At 22 you are a kid. Get a degree, then travel.

  • poops in dirt

    i grew up with alex and have been friends with him for the majority of my life. and the truth is alex has been working his ass off since he was 11 to get to where he is. so, while you are correct about the idea of growing up in a well-off family making it more feasible to attain knowledge through travel, you should probably not be so quick to insult or take a cheap shot at someone who A) did NOT grow up in such a family, B) does WORK hard and has been WORKING hard for waaaaay longer than probably 99% of America’s 27 year olds, and C) is probably the most humble pro surfer in the history of pro surfers. that said, i agree with you ;) you are correct about what you said, but you are incorrect about thinking that alex is a part of it. he doesn’t deserve that negativity. he worked hard for his opportunity and monetary ability to make the decision to travel over going to college. is he correct, eh, maybe, maybe not; but please don’t put alex in your box of non-hardworking people, because he is anything but that.

  • YPO

    Education and traveling are both incredibly valuable. I did both and don’t regret any of it.

  • Lindsianajones

    I completely agree with all of this. I moved to germany right out of HS and have been traveling since. I started school last year, but am able to take some of my gen. ed classes online through my university here in socal. I just spent a month backpacking europe, and writing essays on planes and trains all across the countries. I am so happy I traveled and got to figure out who I am before I shovel out thousands of dollars for school. And, somehow God provides both school AND traveling all at the same time. You can have the best of both worlds, its just about being patient and really researching for the direction you plan on going. Next stop, Alaska, then India this year! forever stoked at 22.

  • Lindsianajones

    Yeah you cant throw people in that grouping man. People work really hard to be able to travel, and its not easy and you sacrifice A LOT of things other people normally experience in their 20′s. Shoot, I STILL have never had a boyfriend and im 22. Is it my choice? Sure. Because Id rather work 65 hour weeks and and bunjee jump off the coast of Australia than partake in college campus activities Either one is fine, its up to each individual to make that decision. Because honestly, when you think about it, what does it all really add up to in the end, anyways? Ya cant take a degree with ya when you die! and most people blow ridiculous amounts of $$ on things they dont need or houses that are too expensive. Live within your means, and if that “means” is 25k a year, then thats your limit.

  • sambone

    I agree with Alex. Unless you want to be a dr. or an engineer and you MUST have that degree then College is a giant waste of time and money.
    Start your own thing…Whatever that is. I went to college, got my worthless degree, got into loan debt all for nada. I started my own business and now I kill it every day and barely have to work… College trains you to be someone elses slave and life trains you to be the owner

  • dominicdroulez

    God does not provide school and traveling, institutions provide educational opportunities, and traveling is made possible by transportation, accommodation, and money.

  • Lance

    Alex is a living example of what free surfing is all about. He has personality that makes you believe in what your doing and to chase your dreams. Thanks man for getting out their and living the dream. It’s inspiring.

  • Lance

    * there. Sorry it was an autocorrect

  • StuartS

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen so many mates go from high school into uni, studying civil engineering and the likes, all because their parents had identified those as great career opportunities. Take a year out, travel the world, soak in the different cultures and learn a ton about yourself in the process. After that, you’ll have a far better understanding of who you are and what you want to do with your life. I have an 8 year old and a newborn and both of them will be strongly encouraged to take a gap year after high school.

  • tony

    100,000 a year salary and a rich family doesnt help at all to chase every swell.. Alex is in a elite group that makes over a hungred G’s a year…

  • Lindsianajones

    are you happy now that you fulfilled your daily quota of being a goon?

  • poops in bush

    F**k ya sambone! You are so on point with that last sentence. Congrats to you

  • Matthew Stigliano

    alex gray should sponsor my “education”

  • 805Local

    Travelling and education did not teach Alex life lessons, surfing taught Alex life lessons. Not everyone has a desire to travel like Alex, he is living his dream and we might dream about living his dream, but are you willing to make the sacrifices Alex has made, or even understand them?

    I am a surfer and a musician. I am good at both, but they can’t support me financially. I did my time in school, close to the beach, surfed my ass off. I was never a good student, but worked hard and pushed myself, I did not have any handouts. I then sacrficied weekly surfing for a 9-6 instead of taking “a year off” and now make $150K+yr and vacation in Central America or Indo once a year, living close to the beach at home. I am living my dream, but college is what opened those doors for me. Oh, I am 28 as well. If you want it, you will figure out how to make it happen, stop dreaming and start doing. To say college is a waste of time, means you wasted time in college.

  • Don Key-Chow

    Still want to know whether was him that ditched the Tahitian kid after Wassel’s episode.