Alex Gray Interview

The California charger on Cloudbreak's massive paddle session

Alex Gray, never one to bring a knife to a gun fight. Photo: Maassen

Following the historic session at Cloudbreak yesterday, Alex Gray spoke with us about the controversial decision to suspend competition, what happened when the Volcom Fiji Pro webcast turned off, and how this session may have changed big-wave surfing.

Tell me about today. How did this session stack up for you?

Today was one of the greatest days I have ever had as a surfer. To have Cloudbreak as good as it gets, at 15-feet plus with the best big-wave guys and World Tour surfers out, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

What were you guys thinking when they called off the event?

To be honest, I truly wanted to see the event run today. I think alot of WT guys would have surprised themselves with what they are capable of in waves of consequence with their talent. That being said, calling off the event allowed nine out of ten waves coming in to be ridden by around 40 of the world’s best big-wave surfers. The paddling bar was raised yet again today. People rode the waves of their lives.

What was the vibe like out in the water?

The vibe was incredible. The big-wave world is full of competition, camaraderie, and friendship. Everyone was taking turns and yelling at each other to go, then throwing high-fives after exchanging the waves of a lifetime. Pretty unbelievable. Most guys only wore paddle vests, or just boardshorts due to the talent of water patrol. I don’t think the level would have been raised so high without knowing Kaiborg and Jamie Mitchell were there to get you after getting caught or eating shit. Cloudbreak is one of the most intimidating waves in the world, and probably the easiest to get a two-wave hold down. Those two factors are constantly going through your head out there on a day like today.

Who had the wave of the day?

The wave of the day today was ridden by Dave Wassel. After being on the webcast announcing the live freesurf session, he paddle out on a 10’2″ straight into the best wave I’ve witnessed. He caught it within less then a minute of getting out to the lineup. Everyone screamed him into the first wave of the set with his hair still dry. The drop was gnarly, then the foamball, then the near board-slide out after letting go, and then standing straight up in a green cavern as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon. After kickin out, Wassel went straight back to the boat and cracked a beer. He’s a legend.

Dave Wassel on what Alex Gray dubbed the wave of the day at Cloudbreak. Photo courtesy of Volcom Fiji Pro

Did it feel like you guys were making history today?

Towing is becoming non-existent. Ten years ago, today would’ve been a tow day and deemed impossible to paddle. For many of the giant-killers today, there is no such thing as impossible in the paddling realm anymore. It was a day for the history books.

How did today stack up against last year’s session at Teahupoo?

Today’s session and Chopes’ Code Red swell were similar and different. Both were surfed during a WT contest when the competitors voted not to run the event. Chopes is strictly tow at that size. It’s in a league of its own past 10 feet. Through towing that Code Red day, the big-wave standard was raised. Now, Cloudbreak is different in that it  more consistently gives you a chip shot to get under the lip when you’re paddling into it. I don’t think Cloudbreak is easier to surf than chopes, it just gives you more of an opportunity to paddle into it past 10 feet. With both days in mind, surfers had the wipeouts of their lives and waves of their lives. One tow, one paddle. I’m very lucky to have been at both and to have such great friends to share them with.