Dylan Graves and Tanner Gudauskas. Photo: Ellis
Dylan Graves and Tanner Gudauskas. Photo: Ellis

Tanner Gudauskas Interviews Dylan Graves

The two friends talk about "Weird Waves," creativity, and Graves' new site, Casual Slice

Just a couple weeks ago, I was having breakfast in San Clemente with Dylan Graves and his wife, Carly. We sat together around the kitchen table, catching up on life, when someone suggested we could use a road trip. To just get in the car and escape to wherever we chose. A day later, Dylan’s van was packed with boards, 4-mm wetsuits, and camera gear. We were heading to Bend, Oregon.

While Bend isn't exactly known as a typical surf destination, we weren't burning down the I-5 to score perfect, flawless waves. Or even an ocean wave, for that matter. We were going to Oregon to find a river wave. Or, as Dylan likes to call it, a "weird wave."

I met Dylan for the first time about 15 years ago during a surf contest. Over time, Dylan has become like a brother to me and has inspired me with his innate creativity. Throughout the last couple years, in-between chasing swells throughout the Caribbean, Dylan’s experimented with filming, editing, and producing his own content. He birthed his creative brainchild, CasualSlice.com, where “Weird Waves” lives–a series where Dylan hunts down the most bizarre waves on the planet, like river waves in Wyoming or tanker waves in Texas.

Over the course of our road trip and the filming for his most recent Weird Waves episode (which you can watch here), Dylan and I talked about the creation of "Weird Waves", his new website, and the limitless potential of river surfing.

TG: What’s your relationship with road trips been like? Did you ever road trip when you were a kid in Puerto Rico?

DG: I've always loved road trips. In Puerto Rico, we couldn’t drive very far, because it's an island, but we would still drive a lot and would rip to the other sides of the island. I don't really remember sleeping in the car overnight or anything like I do now. With road trips, I think it's the sense of adventure, where anything is possible, that gets me more psyched than anything.

I remember that when we first decided to go on this trip to Bend, we weren't calling it a "Weird Waves" trip. I think we were calling it a scouting trip or something.

I think we were just going to scout it out and have fun. But once we were there and we were shooting more stuff, we got more amped on what we were getting. Once I started putting things onto a timeline, I was like, 'Wow, we actually do have a lot of stuff here; this could be an episode.' I feel like it naturally came together.

When did you feel like you were being drawn to weird waves and when did you want to create something with that concept? I mean, was it a specific moment, or did the idea develop over time?

I think "Weird Waves" definitely stemmed from loving those novelty sessions I used to have with my friends. Growing up, everyone has a wave in their hometown that they and their friends get psyched on. The spirit of those waves keeps you looking out for similar spots and conditions. I was working with Graham Nash at Vans, trying to come up with a series for Off the Wall TV. Graham was really backing the novelty side of things, and said, 'What if it was just a show based around novelty waves?' And so it kind of grew from there. We were slowly developing this show that was a huge production–there was a lot of budget from Vans and we shot two episodes—but before they could even air, Offthewall.tv got canned.

So you had actually done the trips already?

We did the trips, we did everything. We had even hired the Mattson 2 to score a soundtrack and had Joel Fox do some animations. Andy Baker did the opening animation.

How did you end up with the footage?

All the footage was just on hard drives up at Vans–two trips and an entire year of working on this thing. So I asked for permission from Vans to get it. They said 'yes,' and then I just went for it. I created my own website, Casual Slice, and was amped to start my own platform and have a place I could put all this.

But then you had to learn to edit, right? Because at that point, you didn't really know how to do that? Or did you?

“Weird Waves” became my drive to learn more on Premiere. The edit was already around halfway done by Graham and his team, so there was this cool layout that had already been started. But after that, I just kind of ran with it. I had figured out some things on Final Cut, just messing around with stuff for Instagram, and then I got a ton of encouragement and help from Dave (Malcolm)–he was basically my Obi wan Kenobi. He gave me a ton of tips and would walk me though the really complex stuff, and when he didn't have time to walk me through something, he just told me to watch YouTube tutorials, which were awesome. I was learning slowly and chipping away at the stuff I knew. Then I dove into After Effects, because I really wanted to learn how to animate characters.

You where also injured at that time, right?

I had tweaked my knee and was out of the water for a while. I realized this project was something I was really interested in. I have always liked cartoons and animations, so I started with this pizza character and this mini script. It took me, I don't know, a couple weeks to make this minute-long animation. I was so proud of it and it looks like shit (Laughs). But it was really cool because it was my first creation. After I learned about editing and animation, I got the domain name for Casual Slice and built the website. It's super basic, nothing crazy. But it's perfect because it's a home for everything I want to create and put out there. It definitely motivates me to keep creating and do more stuff outside of surfing.

What's the future of Casual Slice?

I would love to eventually get to a place where I can collaborate with other surfers, artists, musicians, and editors. Full froth fest to just keep creating.

What gets you most excited about the making of “Weird Waves?”

What I’m most hyped on with all the “Weird Waves” episodes is the community aspect—it's surfing without the bullshit, I guess. There's a lot of positivity and camaraderie, people just amping and lifting the session. The community surrounding the river in Bend was so cool. It had a totally different vibe up there. To me, it felt like a blend of skating, snowboarding and surfing, because there was this wave that stayed in the same spot — like an ever-changing moving ramp that you were surfing — but the crowd was made up of all snowboarders and skiers. It was like worlds colliding, big time.

We met this guy from Montana who was on a road trip surfing all these river waves, and it was super inspiring. He was telling us about all these other river waves he scores. It got me thinking about how many more people might be out there doing that.

On this trip, I was super inspired by how hands-on you were during the filming. I really had no idea you did so much yourself. We would surf and shoot all day, talk about the angles, and then go home, and you'd start to lay down an edit. We did the music for the episode and then you started to bring together this amazing clip. It felt like we were making a skate video, where you switch on and off with the cameraman. Do you want the future of “Weird Waves” to be a completely homegrown operation?

Definitely. This was the first episode since the first two were filmed three years ago. It really opened my eyes, because we were shooting everything ourselves. We are by no means videographers, but we were at least able to get enough to tell the story. This trip was a total game-changer. It taught me so much and gave me the confidence to create more shit.

Which weird wave have you enjoyed the most and what other weird waves are on your list?

The journey to each one has been so damn cool. Wyoming was pretty magical, though; never in my life would I have guessed I would’ve flown there with surfboards. Plus we had Bryan Iguchi showing us around, who is an absolute boss. And we got to see moose, elk, buffalo, and bald eagles… all animals I had never seen before. Texas was a totally different beast with really interesting logistics for how each wave would break. Both were great learning experiences and were totally different than any normal surf trip I’ve been on. I’m thinking I would love to do a Weird Waves tour of the US and see what I find. I’m down to keep an open mind. I’m finding that my definition of a weird wave changes daily.

We're heading into the Hawaii season. Are you going to try and keep the Weird Waves dream alive while you're on the North Shore during the Vans Triple Crown?

I'm thinking of doing some snack-size Weird Wave episodes while I'm on the North Shore. I'm helping Vans create fun content around the events here for the Triple Crown, just basically fucking around. I've really come to love all aspects of making content–from coming up with a concept to editing it, it's all really fun. A giant, novel puzzle, basically.

All photos by Tanner Gudauskas