Since the first clip of Slater's Surf Ranch was unveiled online two years ago, Slater has received thousands of requests to "get me in there." But unless you're on the ‘CT, a close friend to Kelly, or a potential investor, it's not likely to happen. At least not anytime soon.
But when Slater went live on Facebook, from the Surf Ranch, during its last day of operation for 2017, he gave a personal invite to someone we weren’t expecting. "I got at least 50 messages today to get Ben Gravy in here,” said Slater. “So, Ben Gravy, you will be my first invite next year. Everybody go tell him. I've wanted to anyways, I just haven't been able to find the time to do it." But Kelly didn't stop there. He finished the clip by saying this: "I love that guy. I love his attitude, and he goes and surfs every novelty wave on earth. So, let's go make him ride the best one."
How did Ben get Kelly's attention? Ben is a 29-year-old surfer from New Jersey. Two years ago, he decided he was going to start making daily video blogs and putting them up on YouTube, basically sharing his entire life in the process. Now, 700-plus videos later, he has a big following and a loyal fanbase (which he’s dubbed the “Nub Nation”), who wait with anticipation for every new video Ben drops. And in this case, the Nub Nation helped Ben get the proverbial Golden Ticket to Slater’s Surf Ranch.
We called Ben to hear the details.
Before we get into Slater inviting you to surf his pool in 2018, let's take it back to the beginning. What motivated you to do a video blog every single day?
A few years ago, I would have never even considered doing it. I went to college and got a bachelors degree in film, and I was really into film: using high quality, slo-mo, 4k, Hollywood cameras, and vlogging wasn't even on my mind. But in 2009, I started making surf edits and putting them on my YouTube, but they didn't gain a ton of traction. I started messing around by putting up little short behind-the-scenes videos to go along with the edits, and people liked them way more [laughs]. The audience seemed to enjoy engaging with me over that platform. So, at the end of 2016, I decided to go for one video blog everyday, and now here we are, at vlog 709, and I haven't stopped yet [laughs].
That's an impressive streak. Is it ever overwhelming?
Oh, it's the hardest job I've ever had in my life. It is literally a 24/7 thing. In the beginning I was filming all day, and filming way too much, and then I would edit until three in the morning. Now I have it a bit more fine-tuned, so it isn't as time-consuming. But I film all day, produce it in my head, and then it takes about 2- to- 4 hours to get it done and ready to upload.
Almost two years later and you haven't missed a day?
In 2016, since it was a leap year, I did 366 straight [laughs]. I missed one vlog this year because I was on a road trip chasing novelty waves in Missouri and I got smoked while surfing in a river. I kind of had a little mental breakdown. I drove 14 hours straight home and I was too exhausted to put something together. But that's the only day I've missed.
Did you expect people to react the way they have to you sharing your life online? You've got quite the loyal fanbase.
It's absolutely blown my mind. My expectations were zero going into it. I figured it would be fun, and if I could get 500 views everyday that would be cool. Everything that has happened is way beyond anything I could have imagined.
Online commenters can be a pretty rough crowd. But you've built a really strong, positive following. I don't often see vitriol thrown your way.
I've learned that the true recipe for success through this is honesty. I'm 100 percent transparent online. I've cried in my vlogs, multiple times. I've shown sadness, joy, epicness…I've shown it all. Sometimes, yeah, it's heavy. I get 99 percent positive comments, but when one person comes at me…it's tough. They go for my throat [laughs]. At times I've had to have thick skin. But I usually just try to win them over with a funny response. I try not to let it get to me anymore.
Your following, the Nub Nation, is a big reason you were personally invited to the Surf Ranch by Slater himself. How did that transpire?
Oh my god [laughs]. When I first saw clips from the pool I just thought, I can't wait to get in that thing. But I knew every other surfer on earth was thinking the same thing, so I just sort of wrote it off, thinking it would never actually happen. But a wave pool is a novelty wave, and since I love novelty waves, some of my followers started telling me I needed to hit Kelly up. I just laughed it off.
Then, Slater actually came to Jersey about two months ago and we happened to surf the same spot. I went up to him and said ‘hi’ in the water, and we talked for three minutes tops. He was super nice. I had no idea he actually knew who I was, but apparently he did, because he mentioned I should try jumping off the pipe by where we were surfing, which was in reference to an Instagram I put up from an earlier vlog where I was bomb-dropping on a soft top.
Fast forward to the other day, I went to Florida to surf Typhoon Lagoon, and at the end of that vlog, I jokingly asked the Nub Nation to hit Kelly up for me and let him know they'd love to see me in his pool [laughs]. The weird thing is, and I didn't know this, the day that video came out was the last day Kelly's pool was open for the season, so he was actually at the pool when he got all of these messages. The timing just couldn't have been better.
And not only did you get the invite, but Slater did it over Facebook Live, and said you'd actually be his first invite for 2018. How did that feel? Was that completely out of left field?
Totally. I was on an airplane flying from Florida to Philly. When we landed, I had a bunch of messages framing out, so we pulled up Kelly's Facebook and found the video. We were in the back of the plane and just freaked out. I was having a complete and total meltdown, laughing hysterically. It was so surreal. It still is. I had no idea it was going to work.
I like how you end that vlog by saying your invite is proof that with hard work and the right attitude anything is possible.
That's my main thing with the vlog. I want to inspire other people to believe that. When I started this I had just recovered from a really serious knee injury and I had no idea where it could take me. I just wanted to put out positivity to the universe because I truly believe you can accomplish most anything. I'm living proof. I'm a pretty random dude to be getting an invite to surf Kelly's wave pool. Two years ago I never could have imagined this happening.
I know you've still got a few months to think about it, but what are you bringing to Lemoore?
Considering Kelly and I talked about the bomb drop, I have to do some type of bomb drop while I'm there. At first, I was feeling insecure and thinking I need to go there and try to rip, but that's not what got me here. So I'm bringing the entire soft top quiver and I'm gonna try to give anyone that wants to watch the full Ben Gravy novelty experience at Kelly's pool.
Safe to say we're jealous, but we'll look forward to seeing it unfold in episode 900 something.
[laughs] We're gonna have a lot of fun. I just really want to thank everybody who has ever watched my videos, and all the people that bombarded Kelly to get me in the pool. It really means a ton. Nub Nation for the win!
To follow Ben's vlogs, check out his YouTube channel by clicking here