Ben Gravy has made a career traveling around the world and surfing novelty waves. The vlogger has surfed calving glaciers in the arctic, mega tankers in South Carolina, and a DIY wave machine in the swamps of Pennsylvania. On the way, he’s even managed to catch a ride in all 50 states. However, all that has been merely a prelude to his latest and greatest feat, in which Gravy set out to surf all seven seas in seven days.
At the end of October, Gravy started a long and twisting journey that spanned 30,000 miles and nearly circumnavigated the globe. He began with a six-day stay in Tokyo, Japan, where he surfed in the North Pacific Ocean. From there, he went to Bali to surf the Indian Ocean at Keramas. Then he hopped over to Australia, where he rode Bells Beach on the Southern Ocean (at least according to the Australians, but more on that later), then Sydney for the South Pacific. Afterwards, he returned to America to tanker surf in Galveston, Texas (where the Gulf of Mexico would stand in for the South Atlantic ocean). To cap it all off, he took a brief stop in New Jersey to check off the North Atlantic before ending the trip in Hardstad, Norway, on the Arctic ocean.
In the end, Ben completed his mission. However, as his regular vlogs along the way can attest, it was a hard-won victory. I caught up with him as he was still in Norway, just a few days after completing the stunt, to see what it took out of his mind, and body, to surf seven seas in seven days.
How are you doing? You must be exhausted.
Oh man. We’re beat. I was fighting to stay awake just for this, dude.
How does it feel to be finished with everything?
It feels amazing. Right now it doesn’t feel too good, but yesterday afternoon on the beach when we wrapped everything up, I was just over the moon.
Were there any points where you thought you weren’t going to make it?
I would say the morning we woke up in Sydney it hit me like a brick wall. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it.’
Texas was probably the sketchiest one because we did the Gulf of Mexico tanker surfing and the chances of getting a wave… It was up in the air, but we ended up getting one. Then we got home and I only slept for like two and a half hours. That was another point when I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ but as soon as I surfed Jersey and we knew that all we had to do is get to Norway, it was like, ‘Okay, we’re definitely doing it now.’
Pretty much every stop it was just like, ‘Oh my God, how can we keep going?’
Was it the lack of sleep and the time changes mostly?
Yeah. That was the biggest thing that I didn’t account for. I thought we were going to have airplane issues and all these problems with transportation and timing and all that was just perfect. The biggest issue was the sleep. We never really got more than four hours of sleep or we slept on a plane every night, so it was just stacking up. When I was driving in Norway to the beach, I was just like, ‘There’s no way anyone can be this tired.’ I was just fighting through it. It was crazy. You start questioning stuff. Like, is this even real? Like, losing your mind. It was intense.
I saw you had one moment where you’re sitting on the grass, just being like, ‘Is this a simulation? Is this real?’
Yeah, I have that moment a lot.
Is that something you think about a lot, just in general?
Yeah, well, it’s hard for me to believe sometimes what I’m doing. So I question my reality all the time. I don’t know if that’s a normal thing for people, but it is for me.
So how long have you been planning this this whole trip for? What went into the logistics for it?
I came up with the idea three and a half years ago. I just did a quick, ‘Okay, is this possible?’ kind of thing. At that point I just looked at the flights and the time zones and stuff and made sure it was doable. Then I started the arduous process of pitching it to Red Bull and it took me about three years for them to say ‘Okay.’ Then it got for real.
The route itself, I would say it took me five weeks to do because I kept picking it up and putting it back down. I’d be like, ‘That doesn’t work. It’s too much. I can’t figure it out.’ Then I would take a couple of days off and then go check it out. Once I had the possible route, I had to go and see how the flights would all work. Then that was a whole ‘nother process.
You had a couple interesting substitutions, like the Gulf of Mexico for the South Atlantic Ocean. Why did you end up doing that?
What the conversation ended up being was that I’m too hard on myself. [At first] I wanted to make it 100 percent legit and do it perfectly so that it was every ocean in a different country, but just talking through it with everyone, it ended up being like, ‘It’s Ben Gravy’s Seven Seas,’ you know? It’s no one else’s seven seas. So how can Ban Gravy do seven seas without a novelty wave?’
When I found the flight from Sydney to Houston, Texas, it was just too perfect, because that’s one of the only direct flights from Australia into the United States. I was like, ‘I’ve been tanker surfing so many places, but I never tanker surfed in the motherland, Galveston, Texas.’ So it ended up being just the perfect choice. With the South Atlantic Ocean, it was going to be within two hours of if I was going to be able to pull it off or not, so it ended up being like, ‘Why don’t we just have fun with it? It’s already brutal enough, let’s add the novelty wave and make it a good time.’
Then you did Bells for the Southern Ocean.
So Australia counts that area as the Southern Ocean, but they’re the only place in the world that counts it. Back in the day everyone said, ‘Yeah, sure, that’s the Southern Ocean, we don’t care,’ but then there was something to do with the Antarctic Treaty. Everyone was like, ‘Okay, the Southern Ocean is only this ocean around Antarctica,’ but Australia was like, ‘Nah, we’re keeping it.’ So you see in my video I have the map of where Australia counts it and you actually do have to drive to Bells, because if you’re anywhere east of that area, it’s not within the boundary. So my little fun thing that I had with it was just like, ‘We’re in Australia, it counts.’
It wasn’t all science and geography based, you know what I mean? I wanted to go to Bells and surf a legendary wave. I wanted there to be different aspects in the story. That made it fun. Honestly, the conclusion that I came to was that loopholes are good. It’s actually fun to find loopholes and make it an interesting story.
That being said, did you ever have a moment where you were going to try to go to Antarctica?
Ha, yeah (laughs).
What was the process? How far did you get into it?
I got deep. I talked to every Antarctic expedition person ever. So you can fly there, actually, from Argentina. There is a commercial flight, but you have to be part of one of those groups that does like kayaking. You get there and you have to do certain things, so that was really difficult.
Then I spoke to someone who was willing to charter us there on a plane, but it was like $35,000. Then, if we got there, the clearance to get to the beach and go surfing… we wouldn’t really know if we could pull it off until we were there. The other option to get to Antarctica is you have to go there on a boat and it takes like two weeks. So I had all these different budgets written out and I pitched them all to Red Bull. Then the grand finale, biggest budget, craziest one that I came up with was we do all this ‘…and to top it all off, we’re going to Antarctica for a week!’ We ended up just being happy with Norway. You kind of have to be like, ‘All right, let’s get realistic here.’ This whole thing’s already unrealistic, so let’s bring a little reality into this.
You’re also doing a full feature length documentary on this, right?
Yeah. When I get home, I’m going to start working on the documentary. My DP, JT, he shot a lot of stuff that’s not in the vlogs. We’re going to have a bunch of interviews and stuff. You’ll be able to see a different side of the whole story with the documentary, so it’ll be really cool.
What was the highlight of the whole trip?
I would say I got to break it down into three different highlights. My favorite part of the trip was probably getting home and seeing my wife and my dog, but then I had to leave again anyway, so that was heartbreaking.
But I think Bali [was another highlight]. I’ve never been to Indonesia before. We got in super late and slept in the hotel. The air conditioner was broken and we were just sweating all night, got no sleep, woke up, walked down to the beach at Keramas and it was head high and just spitting barrels. I was just like, ‘Wow, that was all worth it.’
Then I kind of had a similar thing in Norway. We rolled up to the beach yesterday morning and it was knee high and I thought, ‘Ah… I guess this is how I’m going to end it.’ So I surfed, claimed it, went home, ate something, we drove back to the beach and it was four-foot little tubes and I was just like, ‘No way, this is too good to be true.’ So it was an amazing way to cap off the trip.