“Season 1 was the tip of the Iceberg”
By now, you would have heard about Weird Waves, Vans’ new series in which Dylan Graves explores the less documented coastlines ones which in fact aren’t near the coast at all, searching for some of the strangest waves our planet has to offer and meeting the individuals who have dedicated their lives to these delightful oddities.
5-episodes long, the first season was a wonderful surprise. At the crossroad of a surf travelog and a modern documentary, Mr. Graves — with the help of his longtime sponsor — gave birth to a unique kind of surf-entertainment that was well needed for these long evenings locked inside at the heart of European Winter. The whole series had this raw & candid feel to it. A playful tone & unique humour, without forgetting to inform us about the singularities of each scenes they emerged themselves in: The Great Lakes, the river waves of Oregon, Montana and Idaho, the Severn Bore & the Eisbach River. And man… These waves were strange. But the characters surrounding them were our favorite part of it all. In case you’ve been living under a rock and missed out on it, we highly recommend pouring yourself one and diving in the series, now live via Vans’ youtube channel.
Being somewhat involved in the pixel selling business ourselves, we know that putting together original series that translate to such international successes doesn’t happen overnight. We were intrigued about the actual mechanics of it all, and decided to take it upon ourselves and delve deeper; We reached out to Mr. Graves, the surfer, host & producer of the series, to ask him about the journey that was putting the season together.
Hey Dylan, what’s up! So you hail from Puerto Rico, a tropical island in the Caribbean, pretty far from the Severn Bore or the Eisbach… where did your attraction to weirder waves come from?
The spark began the first time I surfed this little wedge near my house in P.R … I remember being so jazzed about surfing there cause it felt like I was going faster and surfing better. I did my first air on that little wedge, so surfing different waves helped me progress. I guess I’m still trying to progress, as well as experience new things. Surfing weird waves seems to lead to both things… also, waves that are worse, or have rocks, or are just more difficult to surf have less people, so that is also extra incentive.
How did this enthusiasm transform into a full online series with Vans?
From ins n outs section in the endless summer, to your local wedge, it’s a topic that usually comes up for most surfers. I personally had a love novelty, as did the Vans production team, so it just became this infatuation of how we could make a project based around “different” style waves. In 2014 we finally got the chance to try it out, we went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the first ever Weird Waves trip. The trip blew my mind. It was unlike any other surf trip I had ever been on. We followed it up a few months later with a trip to Port Aransas, TX to surf tanker waves. Another mind blower.
However after those two trips which weren’t that successful upon release, it forced me to re asses how to make the edits better. I felt deep down that the idea was insane, and definitely something I wanted to pursue… but how could we present it in a way that makes other people see how sick it is? They were the best trips of my life and it looked like any other surf edit out there. The whole experience out shines the actual surfing. Surfing is the cherry on top, not the whole cake. So it took a few years but I think we finally got it right.
How do you research the waves you want to go to? Evidently the Eisbach and Severn Bore are well renowned but how do you end up scoring the Stream Tour? Hours pouring over Google maps?
I went up to Bend, Oregon with my wife and friends for New Years. We went to go snowboard, but also heard there was a little wave there that you could surf. We were pumped to go check out both. While we were there we met KB, who was telling us about other waves he’s surfed throughout the US. We exchanged numbers and when I was brainstorming ideas for trips I phoned KB who told me more about the scene in Missoula and surrounding states that had sick waves. So after hearing about the other waves KB surfs, and our experience we had in Bend and how unique that wave was, I felt I HAD to do episodes on these places, because I personally wanted to know more. As I started googling more places to do episodes I learned the Severn Bore was the first river wave ever surfed, by a Captain Mad Jack, the 50’s apparently. And that the Eisbach with the first “standing” river wave ever surfed in the 1970’s. So my thinking was that if I really wanted to learn about these different cultures I would have to start at the beginning of it all. Like if you want to know about surfing in the ocean, you go to Hawaii, where it all began.
Is there one episode in particular that ended up being harder to achieve than the others?
I guess we kind of missed Missoula, Montana at it’s best levels, but we ended up scoring Pipeline, Idaho at perfect levels so that kind of evened itself out. Also, we were meant to go to Bend first in the middle of April and Burton called 2 days before we were going to leave saying the swell of the decade was going to show up and that we had to get up there… both pretty minor plan altering things that usually happen on surf trips. Other than that things went pretty smooth I guess.
How different was it to surf/film an episode of the series compared to a classic surf trip? Is it easier in the way you don’t have to deal with tides / wind / swell etc?
Each destination was its own world to dive into and figure out… for example in the Great Lakes the swells come and go so quick you are lucky to get 24 hours of swell, we ended up getting 3 days of surf. Very rare. So we lucked out there. Learning about CFS (cubic feet per second) is really interesting and it’s much like chasing swell… can be very tricky to predict when water levels will be right for each wave. The tidal bore was probably the easiest one to predict, because you are going off time charts which had the wave pegged down to the minute of when it would arrive. One of the waves was 10 mins late which locals said happens from time to time. That was such a cool one to experience. It was like waiting for a train.
What was the most challenging part of the series? As the leader of the production team/host?
There were a lot of firsts for me with this first season of Weird Waves. I had never been in charge of a budget or a production team. I had never been a host. I don’t know what I disliked more, worrying about going over budget, or having everyone look to you for a majority of decisions haha. But I almost didn’t have time to sit around and analyze it. Since it was something I believed in so much and have wanted to have happen for so long I was kind of just like yeah I don’t care if I’m stressed, this is awesome, Weird Waves is coming to life!
As a surfer? In term of wave riding. What wave was the hardest to figure out?
It’s been RAD to surf all these different waves. Definitely cool to enter each of these locations as a novice and sort see your skills from the ocean come more and more into play as you figure out each wave. Extremely satisfying actually. I think the Eisbach was probably the hardest, it was very unforgiving. So many bumps and such a small playing field, was hard to get your bearings.
If you could only choose one of the 5 weird waves from season 1 to surf until the end of your days, which one would it be?
I could see myself growing old on the Severn Bore with the wave goddess haha.
The theory is that surfer’s are inherently a lil selfish as waves are a finite resource, aka there’s only a certain amount of waves that come through in a session and hence why localism rears its head. Are weird waves a little different as the river is always flowing? Did you encounter any localism issues?
Yeah the dynamic changes a bit. Especially in standing river waves. Cause as long as the water level stays right, you can ride as long as your body will let you. But nobody is really wanting to do that. The general vibe at each of these waves that I have experienced is you kind of get on the wave, mess around for a bit and most likely fall once you push it too far or your too tired to go anymore so you kick out. Its sort of mini ramp etiquette really. You just have to wait your turn. The Eisbach and The Severn Bore had hints of localism, but nothing unbearable. With those having the most history it sort of makes sense. And the more people coming to surf them the more locals are just worried someone is gonna do something stupid that could result in the waves getting shut down or something like that, so it’s coming from a good place.
Are weird wave surfers so different from you and I?
Not really, I think ocean surfers used to be as core and pure as these “weird waves surfers”, but it seems to me as surfing has matured/progressed over the years some major elements have been left behind in that process. I think I love these trips so much cause it connects me with that pure feeling I love so much about surfing.
Any other weird waves on your radar?
Season 1 was the tip of the iceberg. No details I can share at this point but we are just getting plans set for the filming of Season 2 this year. Very excited!