When it comes to novelty waves, surfing has one undisputed king in Sir Ben Gravy. This New Jersey legend doesn't care if you claim you can't surf here, he'll turn nose to air, and, like a human dowsing rod, sniff out waves in the most unlikely of places. And isn't that quite the talent?
Now, after three years, Mr Gravy's just wrapped up the monumental task of surfing in all 50 US States. But Ben's story is more than a whimsical idea of drifting to each state, like a light, silk scarf on a westerly breeze. No. This chapter of surfing's novelty royalty life began on Christmas Day, 2015, when sick of being hungover, of vices and inhibitions through malady – Ben made the decision to get sober – and it's a path he has not faltered on since.
Forecast: New Jersey
“Every success since then has been because of that decision”, he candidly tells MSW when we ask about his lifestyle change. But oh, this isn't a chapel in which to preach! This is Ben's story, all laid out.
Three years surfing novelty waves has its ups and downs, as in, most of the time, you won't be surfing the waves of your dreams. Mostly it's crumbly little, short-lived swell that can sometimes amount to greatness. But that doesn't matter, because you're paving history in a locale where people told you a flat 'no', or side-eyeing your prized whip like chimp to first flame.
Anyway, we caught up with Ben to talk about the accomplishment, what it means to him and some of the weirder places he's put feet to foam.
First up congrats on surfing all 50 states – what was your inspiration for taking this on?
My inspiration to surf all 50 states was to do something new, something that’s never been done before. I really wanted to expand our sport of surfing and how people perceive surfing. Because surfing is not defined, it can be anything we want it to be, and that's how it should be.
So how long did it take?
This whole journey took me three years.
What, over the past three years, has been the highlight?
The highlight of this journey was definitely surfing in Pennsylvania, because it’s the state where I was born. I never expected to score such awesome waves there!
Were there any on the list you thought, no way there’s surf there – and ended up in a fun session?
The most surprising surf session was Indiana. I surfed in Lake Michigan expecting small, choppy waves, but it ended up being head high and offshore with full-blown air sections.
Wow, and what surprised you most about this task?
I went into it thinking it was going to be super fun, it turned out to be a full-time job. [laughs]
What were some of the more difficult factors?
The most difficult part is forecasting lakes and rivers. Sometimes I would drive 10 hours and not even find a wave, that sucked.
You know, the name Ben Gravy is synonymous with surfing novelty waves; what’s been one of the more interesting waves you’ve surfed?
The best and most interesting wave I’ve surfed is definitely the Cape May Ferry ship wave. Sometimes that dreamer can be waist high.
And I guess you're running a surf Vlog as well, is that something that's viable as a career?
Definitely. YouTube is real. I post often and work really hard to deliver good content for my viewers and it’s actually working out. I pull a liveable salary now. For the first few years, I was pretty much just living out of my van, but this year I actually bought a house. It’s all been a pretty natural progression.
And you’ve been sober for a while now, how has that impacted your overall health and headspace?
Being sober has changed my life for the better. I’m living proof that sobriety is an amazing gift that anyone struggling can achieve it. The first step is admitting to yourself that you have a problem and talking to someone about it, but I promise that it’s never too late to save yourself.
I was a full-blown alcoholic and it was ruining my life. Now I surf instead of drink Without sobriety I would never have accomplished my dreams.
I was a full-blown alcoholic and it was ruining my life. Now I surf instead of drink.
So was this journey a result of sobriety?
Everything that I’ve accomplished since December, 25, 2015 has been a result of getting sober. None of this would have been possible without me making the decision to change my life.
For people struggling with sobriety, what advice would you give them?
Give yourself a chance at a good life. We know where drugs and alcohol take us, but imagine where sobriety can take you? Four-years-ago I was sitting in a bar with no sponsors, no accomplishments and no money in my bank account. Sobriety is the cheat code to win the game.
With so many novelty waves on the cards, how do you prep equipment? Choosing the right board must be key?
When I’m on the road searching for novelty waves I have a massive quiver of about 15 surfboards with me. Everything from a 4’10” to a 9ft longboard to make sure I have what it takes to score.
So, you’ve surfed every State, are THE novelty wave king, what’s next for Ben Gravy?
I’ve spent the last three years surfing some of the shittiest waves on earth. Next I want to get barrelled [laughs]