Dylan Graves and the getting of weirdness

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Talking Heads

Before 5G, COVID, and the Deep State took over, a favourite pastime for weird old guys was explaining how the natural world worked. "We're all vibrations," went their routine, "Sending waves around the universe."

Recently, Dylan Graves has been proving the weird old guys right. There are waves everywhere!

From lakes to rivers to estuaries, some of them hundreds of miles from surfable coastline, Dylan has sought out unexpected waves and brought them to our screen via his wonderful series, Weird Waves.

Now in it's third season, Dylan chatted to Swellnet about the experience of filming, how much longer the series could run, and easing into his role as presenter.

Swellnet: What's been your favourite episode so far? Can you pick one out..?
Dylan Graves: It’s hard to, 'cause when I start thinking about each one, they all have qualities about them that are so unique. Some episodes are harder to film than others, that’s for sure, but when I look back, the ones that were harder to film, or catch the wave properly, were the funnest one. Like the Severn Bore and the Alaska episodes, they were probably the most challenging to actually ride a wave on and try and film properly.

When you're in the moment filming and only have a couple days to nail it, you can start to feel the pressure a bit. But looking back, each of those seem very special now because of the fact that we got to ride a wave from a glacier, and our first tidal bore, knowing absolutely nothing about either. It feels really lucky, and has everything to do with our guides.

Director of Photography Dave Malcolm stays warm as Dylan waits for an Alaskan glacier to calve ice and form a wave

You must have surfed a lot of perfect waves in your career. Is the stoke from one of your Weird Waves adventures comparable?
I’ve kinda always been drawn to surfing novelty waves. I think every surfer does. There is magic in it, especially with what makes each spot do what it does - which is kinda what the series is about.

The first air I ever made was surfing a little wedge near where I grew up in Puerto Rico. So I think there’s a connection I made early on in my brain linking novelty to progression. Plus, there’s seems to be a jazz element to surfing novelty waves, cause most are so unpredictable that you have to improvise and take a back seat to how you would normally read a wave, and that makes the experience extra exciting.

Growing up in Puerto Rico I was really spoiled with good waves, and my whole career up until a few years back was more about traveling to surf and score perfect waves, so this has been an exciting challenge in a lot of ways. I feel like it has made me a better all 'round surfer because it’s helped me see things from a different perspective while also keeping that inner grom alive.

I was going to ask but you've just alluded to it, what lessons have you learned from doing these series?
Too many to count. This series has been the biggest blessing for me and it's taught me so many things. From honing in on my editing skills, to getting more organised in my life, to learning how to communicate better.

Weird Waves has been a great teacher.

There's been challenges during COVID, but once it all lifts will you be travelling further afar in search of more weird waves?
Yes, that’s the plan. We have a master list we are trying to tick off, and it seems to be growing by the day. At this rate we could easily make it to ten seasons, especially with what we learned from Season 3 during COVID. I think if we can make a season out of last year, we can make a season out of anything.

So we’ll see how the rest of this year pans out and what we are able to pull off logistically.

Dylan off the top of The Eisbach in central Munich

As presenter, you've come a long way since the first series. Is that a matter of relaxing into the role, or have you been working on your skills?
Ha...I guess each season I'm feeling more and more comfortable with my role. I'm not sure anyone really gets used to staring into a black hole, but practice makes perfect, right?

In most vlogs, the celebrity presenter is the story, however in Weird Waves you tell other people's stories. How long does it take to film each one? And also, are some people protective of their stories and how they get told?
Basically anything a vlogger is doing, we try and do the opposite! Ha ha...

We like to think of ourselves as the anti-vlog, and hopefully people are seeing us as a series. A very important distinction for us. The filming of each one? It's anywhere from three to six days, editing takes longer, obviously, and we wait till we have four locations filmed before we start the editing process, so we know how to go about laying out each one. That's because we like to arrange them in a way that makes each one stand out from one another. Make it feel curated, sort of like a DJ makes a playlist.

I love watching normal surf porn, but we felt there was a huge gap between high-action surf edits and vlogs. So we try and land somewhere in the middle.

We work really close with each host that we link up with and try to make sure we are telling their story the right way. That’s very important as we're trying to capture the essence of the experience. If that’s even possible.

It always feels like we always could’ve done better or told more of the story. The more I work on these the more I realise that’s just the nature of the beast with storytelling. In the end the experience itself is so rich it’s hard to have an episode compare.

Lastly, who's idea is the Wes Anderson-style colours and effects of the latest series?
That’s funny you got that! Me and Dave [Director of Photography] are huge Wes Anderson fans. All of the ideas that go into Weird Waves are a blend of ideas and inspiration brought to the table by both of us. The creative process at the beginning of the each season is so fun. It’s a blank slate. I could keep us in that phase for months! 

Dave has the brain and the experience as a filmmaker to make our ideas a reality. I use Weird Waves as an experience for me to learn and hopefully soak up some of that knowledge. Dave is a master and he's fun to work with.

The whole season was hosted from my garage, and we built most of those diorama mini-worlds scenes as an ode to being in lockdown and tinkering in your garage, as most people were doing. During the lockdown, Vans was doing this shoebox challenge thing, which was to build whatever you can from a shoebox. So I decided to recreate one of the drawings our friend, Ryan Baczek, made as our logo for this season - which is the binocular-looking device that you see in thea intro of every episode.

Check all the Weird Waves episodes online


Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Wednesday, 9 Jun 2021 at 2:40pm

Nice one, Stu.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Wednesday, 9 Jun 2021 at 3:21pm

I like the weird waves series too. I noticed the Wes Ando correlation as well.

I wonder what Ben Gravy would do if he had a budget? I kinda think he was the novelty wave, bring it to the masses pioneer.

Gary G's picture
Gary G's picture
Gary G Wednesday, 9 Jun 2021 at 3:59pm

Gary loves Weird Waves. Of all the surf content out there he feels it really captures the essence of being addicted to surfing - the insatiable quest to catch waves no matter what they look like and what you have to do to get them.

Also; Dylan treats his subjects & their stories with respect and it shows in every part of the series. No one gets lampooned or made fun of; which contributes so much to the great vibe of it.

H2O's picture
H2O's picture
H2O Wednesday, 9 Jun 2021 at 4:17pm

"the essence of being addicted to surfing - the insatiable quest to catch waves no matter what they look like and what you have to do to get them."
Totally agree Gary G . The level of my surfing would have the objective observer thinking "why does he bother" but the observer just doesn't get it

icandig's picture
icandig's picture
icandig Wednesday, 9 Jun 2021 at 4:48pm


velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Wednesday, 9 Jun 2021 at 6:37pm

I'm really enjoying this series. As a kid I used to dream waves would turn on in the Swan river, not being close to the beach - all of a sudden it would light up with little points and beachies. (You kind of *can* ride one wave there...)

There's also a really stark juxtaposition going on: on the one hand you've got Dylan and the Weird Waves crew presenting these really fun, considerate episodes that have you enthralled like a grommet frothing on these strange waves; on the other you've got the WSL proselytizing circus; and also all these edits of name spots pumping but the crowd factor pumping more and it just looks unappealing, despite a perfect canvas...

420tubelord's picture
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420tubelord Wednesday, 9 Jun 2021 at 9:48pm

This was by far the most entertaining series. Really does capture the essence of why we do it.

kaybeegee's picture
kaybeegee's picture
kaybeegee Thursday, 10 Jun 2021 at 10:11am

Love the series.
I've become so desensitised to surf clips - they're borderline meaningless nothing now.
Amazing what some legit human narrative can do, beyond Nathan Florence monetizing his horse faced daily routine.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 10 Jun 2021 at 10:24am

Growing up in the north-east burbs of Adelaide, on big rainfall events me and my mates would dream of riding some kind of standing wave down Dry Creek or the Torrens. Never made it happen but it didn't stop us dreaming, as is the mindset of most Adelaide surfers..

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Friday, 11 Jun 2021 at 5:06pm

Weird Waves is a great series. It makes me want to get out there and go surfing more than just about anything on the net these days. Good interview.

BigZ's picture
BigZ's picture
BigZ Saturday, 12 Jun 2021 at 8:03am

Love the weird waves in my neighbour hood , taught me so much about board design and on how to ride and enjoy the moment. You do notice so many crew just not enjoying, railroaded on there 5'10' routine, live a little try a mid lenght mate.!

andoman's picture
andoman's picture
andoman Saturday, 12 Jun 2021 at 3:45pm

Love weird waves .. great article!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Saturday, 12 Jun 2021 at 4:33pm

A really good interview of Dylan by Tanner last year. There's a lot of thought, depth (8 years development!) in WW.

1:20 - he talks about how it was always like they had to make surfing seem cool, but he points out that surfing is already cool (as in, a cool activity to do); it doesn't matter, it is what it is. Very zen approach to it imo. He would trip out when someone was saying "we gotta make it seem like X"... my paraphrasing there. He's right - contrast to the way the WSL talks many aspects of surfing and the comps up into epicness. That kind of thing isn't needed.

13:30 - WW as the 'sci-fi version of surfing' lol

16:00 - he mentions being an 'anti-host'. Laid back, compared to the normal versions of show hosts (I guess that is the US sort - the laid back approach to WW fits in nicely with what Aussies relate to anyway)

23:40 - mentions that the people in WW are open and share themselves and their experiences completely. Contrasts with what a crowded lineup is like (with the impersonal stuff and lack of talk, I'd guess), and can't imagine a crowded lineup all going to the same cafe afterward to share stories, general rapport, etc like the bore surfers in the Severn do. Funny to even think of it this way.

Overall it's the content surfing deserves, but not the content that is dominant right now - to mutilate a bad movie quote.

Peter Baker's picture
Peter Baker's picture
Peter Baker Sunday, 13 Jun 2021 at 5:41pm

Andrew Kaineder's film Russell: A Brief Introduction, which is very good, is also a bit of a homage to Wes Anderson although he didn't respond when I commented that how he'd emulated the W Anderson style.

Peter Baker's picture
Peter Baker's picture
Peter Baker Monday, 14 Jun 2021 at 10:47pm

...or perhaps it's a homage to Dylan Graves instead!

dean maddison's picture
dean maddison's picture
dean maddison Saturday, 9 Oct 2021 at 5:09pm

I wouldnt worry about Ben Gravy too much Zenagain . I think hes doin just fine. I feel his vlogs are a little too much family these days but good on him. I would rather watch wierd waves.