If ev’rybody had an ocean across the U.S.A. … Then ev’rybody’d be surfin’ like Californ-I-A.
The 30-year-old New Jersey native gave new meaning to the Beach Boys’ classic tune after recently completing his mission to surf a wave in all 50 U.S. states. You, like us, probably didn’t even realize that feat was possible, but Gravy has the video to prove that his novel idea had indeed become a reality.
The quest – which consisted of everything from ankle-high ripples, to overhead barrels – took Gravy three years to complete, and he appropriately finished his journey in the 50th state, riding a tidal bore wave on Alaska’s Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet back in July.
“I came up with the idea after a road trip to New England in May 2017,” says Gravy. “I realized that after river surfing in Vermont, I had surfed in 14 states. A bunch of my YouTube followers joked about surfing all 50, so I did.”
Ben Gravy’s Nub Nation
That’s a lot of voices to heed. Gravy’s Nub Nation YouTube channel has nearly 87,000 subscribers, amassing a whopping 18 million views from his off-color surfing antics. His most viewed video, One Mile Miracle in New Jersey, has clocked more than 600,000 views. Throw in nearly 95,000 Instagram followers and Gravy is legitimately a well-known social media personality.
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Gravy’s allure? His “everyman,” sophomoric tone, easy-going demeanor and penchant for surfing anything that pulses.
“It’s been fun watching him grow his YouTube channel,” says friend and team manager Kevin Womersley. “He’s an amazing human being and an ambassador of surfing who draws attention from all ages and every walk of life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a frothing grom, an older guy who is just learning to surf or an avid surfer, Ben’s vlog is entertaining and his positive energy radiates through.”
Life wasn’t always such a bowl of social cherries. He struggled with alcoholism when he was younger while doing “stunt” videos, at one point rupturing his patellar tendon while jumping out of a moving truck.
“I couldn’t do anything physical for about nine months,” Gravy explains. “It was a huge part of my decision to get sober and start living my life for myself. I starting vlogging around then and haven’t stopped surfing, filming or being sober since.”
Complicated Logistics of Surfing All 50 States
Billed as a “spreader of stoke,” Gravy took 36 months to achieve his “Waves Across the USA” goal, becoming adept at not only scouting surfable waves, but also discovering decent coffee shops en route. Whether it be the landlocked boondocks of South Dakota and Tennessee, or quintessential hotspots like Maine and Washington, his only criteria was the wave had to be “surfable by others” and have “some sort of surf culture around it.”
Another hurdle was orchestrating a plan of attack for hitting all 50 states, for which there wasn’t exactly a road map. While he had 13 states under his belt from his pro days, that still left 37 to tackle.
“I didn’t have a specific route,” Gravy confessed, adding that most of it happened pretty organically. “With what little river surfing information there is out there, I researched a lot of kayaking websites. Then I just drove to anywhere that was breaking at all. The hardest part was finding places to surf in spots like South Dakota or Utah, but eventually I found an inkling of hope and chased down some type of breaking wave in every state.”
Gravy used at least 10 different surfboards on his ocean and river odyssey, traveling in a van stacked with 15 boards ranging in size from 4 feet to a 9-foot longboard. His wingmen varied, but most of the time it was his older brother, Hob, helping him reach his goal. (He also credits his parents for “Allowing me to live outside the box when I was a kid, and supporting all the crazy ideas I always had.”)
And naturally, some waves were better than others. “The most memorable wave was definitely in Pennsylvania,” he says. “I caught a storm on Lake Erie and surfed overhead lake waves in a state I didn’t know if I’d even be able to check off the list. The best state was probably New Jersey or Rhode Island, and the worst was New Mexico, where I kind of struggled.”
A handful of great waves and a smattering of wave parks, river and lake waves later, Gravy found himself closing out his mission by surfing the infamous bore tide in Alaska on a six-person party wave carrying him past the towering, snow-capped Chugach Mountains.
“After kicking out of my first ride in Alaska, I was totally elated,” Gravy says. “I still don’t feel like the whole thing was real. I’m pretty stoked.”
Gravy Explains How Each of the 50 States Stacked Up
Alabama: “Warm water and a not-too-shabby shore break for my short board.”
Alaska: “A tidal bore party wave to wrap it up.”
Arizona: “A wall jump at a wave park.”
Arkansas: “A long scout, then finally sitting down in a driving pose on a longboard.”
California: “Been there a bunch; the video shows a rockin’ pier break.”
Colorado: “Huge cutbacks and a 360 on the Colorado River, in Glenwood Springs.”
Connecticut: “Ankle-biters during a solo sesh off Meeks Point.”
Delaware: “Uber-tiny barrel.”
Florida: “Totally tubular ride.”
Georgia: “Surfing by Braille in the fog.”
Hawaii: “A true kahuna; one of the best of the odyssey.”
Idaho: “A visit to the concrete-lined Boise Whitewater Park.”
Illinois: “A short ride, but it counts.”
Indiana: “Lake 360 anyone?.”
Iowa: “A river surf delivers.”
Kansas: “Longboarding a lowhead dam (hey, whatever works).”
Kentucky: “A landlocked GoPro sesh for the ages.”
Louisiana: “A short ride off a pier, followed by Cajun jumbolaya and beignets.”
Maine: “Legit, but small.”
Maryland: “A surf while carrying a pineapple!.”
Massachusetts: “New England-style cutbacks, followed by some chowda’.”
Michigan: “Great Lakes wind swell; short but sweet.”
Minnesota: “A surprising lake surf. Go Twins!’
Mississippi: “Gulfport delivered for my 30th state! Small waves at low tide, but they got bigger at high.”
Missouri: “Nailed it on the state’s namesake waterway.”
Montana: “Maching river surf during a great runoff year.”
Nebraska: “School kids chanting “Surfing dude!” while ripping a weenie ride at a water park.”
Nevada: “From Sin City to Surf City at a lake in the winter.”
New Hampshire: “A ripping short board break with The Grom.”
New Jersey: “My home turf…every type of wave under the sun (including awesome barrels).”
New Mexico: “A weenie river wave crouch-paddle surf, but awesome tamales.”
New York: “A big, but short, barrel near the Big Apple.”
North Carolina: “Barrelled … ’nuff said.”
North Dakota: “Didn’t expect much, but found a rocky weir.”
Ohio: “Lake chop.”
Oklahoma: “Fast action at the artificial RiverSport Adventures whitewater park in Oklahoma City.”
Oregon: “The real deal in the Northwest.”
Pennsylvania: “An eerie surf on Lake Erie, catching a storm and surfing overhead lake waves.”
Rhode Island: “A small state, but big swell.”
South Carolina: “A launch off a pier straight onto a wave.”
South Dakota: “Who are we kidding? Another lowhead dam, in the shadow of Mount Rushmore.”
Tennessee: “A kayaker’s freestyle favorite at Rock Island, while starting at a waterfall.”
Texas: “Everything’s bigger in Texas … especially the barrel at the wave park.”
Utah: “A weenie wave on the Weber River in Mormon country.”
Vermont: “I’m getting good at these lowhead dams.”
Virginia: “Is for lovers of sweet waves.”
Washington: “Good swell, cold water.”
West Virginia: “Paddling hard in Preston County.”
Wisconsin: “Hopping off a concrete platform onto a lake wave in Kenosha County — say cheese!.”
Wyoming: “Pretty piddly and hard to stay on (next time I’ll hit the Snake River’s Lunch Counter at higher flows).”
All Photos Courtesy of Chank. Photography/Ben Gravy
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