What do you do when the ride's over?
Keep surfing. Obviously.
But out of the water, it's a question Alex Gray has been trying to answer lately. For the entirety of his adult life Alex has been a professional surfer. From a talented, rising star out of L.A.'s South Bay, for the better part of two decades he's had a sticker on the nose of his board. Unfortunately, that is not the case at this moment in time. And while his lifelong relationship with Channel Islands Surfboards is tight as ever and he's got no shortage of great sleds under foot, as an old surf magazine editor used to say, he's a "civilian" surfer now.
Even from his earliest NSSA days, three things clearly stood out about Alex. They're attributes that would serve anybody well in life. Alex has an all-consuming passion for whatever he's doing … and there's nothing more he would be doing than paddling out, cackling to the sky, screaming to the surf gods, and catching wave after wave after wave.
"I don't think I've ever walked into the ocean, I've always ran because I'm just so stoked," Alex admitted in a conversation with the WSL last weekend.
After a stint on the Qualifying Series, he successfully slid into the roll of free surfer and charger. Considering the waves he grew up in around Hermosa Beach, his evolution at places like Cloudbreak and Teahupoo has been nothing short of impressive.
But passion only gets one so far. Alex is dedicated to his craft. Behind the scenes, the pro surfing life isn't glamorous. It's hard. For every epic score there are a million things that can go wrong -- lost board bags, missed flights, shitty winds, you name, he's been through it. But through it all, Alex pushed himself, and always got better.
And finally, he has humility on his side. Life has humbled Alex more than once, but he's learned that the best way forward is to pick himself up and keep chasing the dream.
Before the covid crisis, Alex followed a wild hair to the Atlantic in pursuit of a strong Atlantic swell. It was his first trip without stickers on his board, without any contractual obligations or commitments. He simply got to go surfing for the purity of it.
"People probably think that going on surf trips as a pro surfer is just like going on any surf trip, but it's not. There's always something you have to do or something your are thinking of," Alex explained.
"The stickers on your board kind of become part of your identity. But once I got used to it, it was really nice, really liberating to just go on a surf trip for the joy of it."
In and out the the water, Alex is bubbling with talent and positive energy. I met him about 20 years ago on his first trip with Surfer Magazine. He wasn't even old enough to drive at the time, but my first impression is that Alex was one of those kinds of people that accomplished his dreams. I still believe that. And I can't wait to see what the next chapter brings.