Gravy’s Gone Surfin, Surfin USA.
Ben Gravy has surfed all 50 states.
Your brain might be processing that thought and going wait a second… only fifteen states are on the east coast, only three states are on the west coast, Alaska is somewhere up there, Hawaii is an island, only four meet the shore of the gulf, and then there’s those northern ones that sit on the Great Lakes. We’re not the best at math over here, but that definitely does not equal fifty… Has Mr. Slater gone full McDonald’s with the franchising of wave pools? No.
How does one surf landlocked states? Nebraska for example. In the center of tornado alley, we wouldn’t think you could catch a left. Not until we sat down with Ben Gravy, that is. Novelty wave surfer and YouTube vlogger found a niche wave to ride in every state. Yeah, you heard us, every state. Even you, Arkansas.
Remember that song “Surfin’ USA” by The Beach Boys? Well, Ben made that happen IRL. We had some questions about this accomplishment and new world record.
We asked Ben where this goal originated. Was it a crazy dream? A dare? Or more of a fuck-it-let’s-do-it kind of mission? Turns out, Mr. Gravy went on a surfing trip up in New England, and added a video of each state he surfed to his YouTube Channel. As his fans were watching, they asked him how many states he had ridden a wave in so far, with the answer being fourteen. The following comment read, “If you’ve surfed fourteen, why don’t you just surf all fifty?” And that’s where it all began.
Fourteen down, thirty six to go.
A long cross-country trek entailed the purchase of a new van with sixteen different sized boards strapped to the top and some Pat The Bunny coming through the speakers. This mission led Ben west from his home state of New Jersey to every other state on the list.
Ben told us he had it mapped out almost precisely, with a special thanks to all the kayakers in the country that have sought out rivers and lakes with decent rapids from sea to shining sea. American White Water gave Ben the answers he needed when trying to locate a barrel in those cactus-infested states like New Mexico.
Trying to surf level-five rapids?
As you could conclude, the standards for rideable waves from surfers to kayakers is radically different. Unlike surfing, this journey was no smooth ride. Trying to surf level-five rapids? Spoiler alert, also not a smooth ride, even for a kayaker.
“In North and South Dakota, and Wyoming specifically, the wave wouldn’t even let me paddle into it because it was such a steep river wave, so I would actually have to find a place to stand behind it and get momentum and jump on my board and glide into the wave and then I was able to ride it,” Ben told Whalebone.
“It was something that you could easily give up on but I just kept trying to figure out how to do it and it eventually worked.”
Who would’ve thought surfing in landlocked states would actually turn out to be as challenging as it seems. Probably most people, including Ben. Along with driving hours to find a river with no success, some of the rivers he did surf made Ben question the entire mission.
When surfing in Missouri, which he told us was the hardest, he got caught in a hydraulic and was pulled under, fighting to resurface.
“It pulled me under and I thought I was gonna die,” he said. “That was only my twenty-something state and after that it took me half a year to try again.”
Mr. Gravy swears by perseverance. We asked him three pieces of advice he would tell someone trying to achieve a goal as seemingly impossible on the surface as this one: “If it’s important to you, it’s important. It doesn’t have to be important to anybody else. It’s gonna suck most of the time, but in the end it will be worth it.”
You can’t give up no matter what. No matter what anybody says, no matter what anybody thinks, if you feel alone or not, you cannot give up.
Most people tend to dish out advice, but never take their own. But Ben, Ben is a different story. He lives by these three rules. Ben set a world record by surfing these waves, better surfing than trying to grow his fingernails longer than the standing record of six and a half feet. But that would still take perseverance, nonetheless.
What are the words he lives by to get him through the ups and downs he went through to make this happen. He just said, “For the dream.”
And he says, “No matter what the dream is, what you do, do it for the dream and it will happen. I used to say ‘for the dream’ as a joke because I thought I would never get there. But now I say it everyday and it truly is a motivator.”
Embrace yourself and go for it. Give up on everyone else’s perceptions. Everyone needs to do that. I followed my passion for surfing instead of following what I thought a normal surf career should look like, and when I started doing that all my dreams started coming true.
The most rewarding wave came in Alaska, of course. Fifty of fifty. Mission accomplished. He even admitted to tears of joy. He described that surfing that last wave was surreal, but it wasn’t until after he got back to the beach, it all came full circle and he realized he had done it.
“It was one of those things where it’s not a big deal until it is. It was almost like I had just rode another wave, but when I saw my girlfriend filming me and everyone who was there supporting me, it all circled back and I was like wow. This is mind-blowing.”
But of the other forty-nine candidates, the wave he surfed in Montana stuck out to him. This was one of the waves that required a 6-hour detour, leading them to a river that was on a farm surrounded by cows in a field.
“It was in the absolute middle of nowhere, waste high, fully shortboardable, fully rippable. It was literally perfect,” he says. “Those were the moments where I was like wow, this is extremely unique, and extremely worth it to be out here doing this.”
All fifty states means meeting a whole lot of different people. We asked Ben if any individuals stuck out to him in particular. His answer was simple: “Dude. I met some serious legends.”
After driving eighteen hours straight, into the middle of bumfuck nowhere, Arkansas, Ben got to the river he scouted and there was a lone rider on a Costco surfboard, shredding. He said it was awesome seeing small, even single-souled surf communities in the places you would never expect. Who even knew they sold surfboards in Arkansas?
“They are so stoked on what they have. It is so different than normal surfing. They make it work where they are and they are so happy to do so.”
We talked about clichés and how they wouldn’t be clichés if they weren’t true. Never give up. Never back down. Believe in yourself. All clichés, but all valid. Ben lives by these on the daily and it has left him positive, confident, and the new holder of a world record. Pretty damn rad.
After completing such a seemingly quixotic quest what’s next? Disney World? Sort of. “I’ve been surfing some of the worst waves ever for the past three years, so now I wanna surf some really nice waves, get some barrels for myself, live in the tube, ya know?”
We can actually only imagine. You go, Ben Coco.