Dylan Graves and the getting of weirdness
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.
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.
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.