by: Jeff Mathis // Photos: Cole Vanthof & Daniel Grant (all photos shot on GoPro Hero 7 Black)

Daniel Grant is only 21. That doesn’t seem right does it? He’s been a staple on Youtube, the cable, a wakeboard, a wakeskate, the Philippines, Orlando and just about everything and everywhere else for years. Maybe it’s because he never sits still that we don’t really know him too well. Grant has been travelling the world for almost half his life, moving around and racking up more SkyMiles than most people will ever dream of. And there are the vague nicknames – Turtle, Tao, Candy Man, DANimal, DG, and DJ HOTBOX – things that do little to either paint a clearer picture of who he is, or how he rides. (If you’ve ever had a chance to see that in person, you’ll know what we mean.) Because Daniel Grant is arguably THE most explosive rider in the world. The amount of control, the passion for boosting, and the sheer amplitude he gets when he, say, hits some random kicker he’s never seen before makes you immediately think, “That dude’s legs are going to explode.” Seasoned pros, I’m talking 15-year-vets who have seen it all, drop everything and make their way to the water when it’s his turn to ride. It’s often nothing short of fascinating.

The first time I met Daniel was one of those times; during the 2015 Monster Energy Triple Crown at Terminus Wake Park, which I happened to be managing at the time. The kid was an absolute livewire. He was already a well-established rider by that point, but having never met or seen him ride in person, I didn’t know the treat that my eyeballs were in for. He was easily going bigger than anyone else, and taking lines on the course that most others couldn’t even comprehend. It was a shit show. He ended up taking 2nd behind Dominik Hernler that weekend but definitely left the best impression on the crowd as far as entertainment. Since then, I’ve been able to spend a bit more time with Dan and get to know him on a more personal level. From the outside, he may seem like a loose cannon but you can’t judge a book by its cover. He’s a very focused rider with a lot of goals. So how does a kid from Thailand become one of the most dominant forces in wake? Well, we caught up with Daniel to chat with him about his home, what it means to him, where he’s going, and how he plans to get there.

Alliance: Daniel Grant … the man, the myth, the legend … what’s been going on dude? Your 2018 looked like it was absolutely insane. With tons of travel, plenty of contests, and photo/video shoots, you still managed to push out content from every spot you traveled to and blew countless minds in the process. What do you have on tap for 2019?

Daniel: Hey Jeff, things are going good. I start every year with a clear idea of what I want but it’s always a challenge to keep it as planned. Last year ended up pretty rough. I was out from July to October with an injury which I got while filming my X Games Real Wake section. For this season, I have pretty much locked everything in. I have selected the events I’m going to participate in, will put together some winch trips and try to get as much of it on film. I also want to start a podcast, which is something I’ve wanted to do since last season. The amount of filming and winching will depend on the level of project funding I get. The idea is, for most of the trips, I have filmer/photographer with me so we can capture as much as possible. It will also help for the planning and organizing the podcast.

A: So you’re originally from Thailand right? How much time out of the year do you get to spend at home? Is your family still there as well?

D: Actually, I was born in the UK but moved to Thailand when I was five. I have dual nationality (British/Thai) and my family have all lived here since I moved over as a kid. I try to spend as much time at home as I can. When I started to travel with wakeboarding as a kid, I would leave Thailand in April and not come back until September. Now I try to do everything in one month blocks, one month trip and then home for a month. It doesn’t work like that in the summer, but the basic idea is like that.

A: When you started riding (aka the “Turtle” days), you seemed to be turning heads right from the start. What was it like turning pro and traveling the globe at such a young age?

D: I was traveling alone for quite a while before “turning pro”. I’ve been with Rip Curl for 10 years already and started by joining events in and around Asia. The “turning pro” thing took me by surprise. I guess it all changed when I won the Wake Park Worlds at CWC. That season I was doing Junior Men, but for the last stop, I wanted to try Pro Division just to see my level. Those wins at CWC changed things for me and the traveling became more intense for a couple of years until I really felt burnt out. The last few years I have tried to be in much better control of my schedule. I do have many great experiences from the beginning up until now. I travelled alone from the age of 12 and have so many awesome memories. I had a lot of fun for sure. Who wouldn’t? I wasn’t going to school and I was just traveling to different cable parks around the world. The CWC win also came at the same time of the Thai Wake Park opening, so very quickly I got to know a lot of riders who wanted to come to Thai Wake Park. TWP had no hotel back then, so a lot of people stayed at my place and invited me to their home country/cable. So, yes, I was traveling on my own, but I was always staying with people I knew well from when they visited TWP.

A: They say “home is where the heart is” and I can imagine the Thai Wake Park crew is like your second family. Who’s your main group of guys out there that you ride with?

D: Back in the day, the crew that helped me develop as a rider were the likes of Didi Anwar, Aye, Bomb and Aum (owner of TWP). I also wakeskated a lot with a neighbor at that time named Freddie Grove. Now I ride with so many different people. Luckily for me, many of my friends come to Thailand for two-three months at a time, especially in the winter. Right now I have Matty Mulholland, Yannik Paton, Terry Bailey and Blake Bishop staying with me. Dominik Hernler arrived last week and Andy Kolb has been traveling between Bali and Thai Wake Park for the last couple of months. Many of them stay at my place, or at TWP which is five minutes from my home.

A: Do you basically have free rein to make and hit your own set ups out at the park?

D: Yeah, it’s pretty much like that. TWP always wants the input from the riders and we always share ideas. They are really good at building stuff and they can knock out rails and obstacles really fast. I’m not the best at building (probably because I never really have to) but I’m trying to do more. I definitely learned a lot building tricks for my X Games part. A couple of years ago, TWP broke down the pool gap (after The Debut and LF N Awesome sections), but told me I could pretty much use it as I like and design it in any way I can. I’ve been doing some new stuff with Matty, Terry and Yannik in the past few weeks. We painted a barrel to look like a pig and painted a sewage tank which looks like a hand grenade. I just wish I had more time, usually I have just a few weeks in between trips.

A: Thai Wake Park has always been a rad spot but it seems to have had some sort of resurgence over the past few seasons with big contests like Plastic Playground going down there this past year, and more and more footage coming from there. Do you work closely with the crew to come up with these rail ideas like the mini-mega ramp? D: It‘s always pretty straight forward at TWP as the owners are riders. Aum is always thinking about putting something new on the water and we often just share ideas. I give ideas from what I see from visiting other cable parks and always try to make sure the layout is good for both wakeboarding and wakeskating. They actually just bought a new machine to help build the rails, so there is going to be a bunch of new stuff coming soon.

A: Thailand is such a different culture than what people over here in the US are accustomed to. How would you describe it to newcomers looking to come over to ride?

D: From a riding perspective, it’s pretty straight forward. They have 3 hotels on site and two restaurants, so for riding, sleeping and eating, you can’t find a more comfortable park. We are 40 minutes from Bangkok City, which has everything you would find in any major city, so it’s pretty easy to come over here and most people adapt very fast. Most people want to stay for 2-3 months at a time. I’ve never met anyone who did not like TWP or Thailand, so I guess it should be a pretty easy decision for anyone interested in coming over to ride. We always have hot weather and the cable is open from 9am till late at night (closing at 10pm weekdays, and midnight on weekends) so there’s more than enough time to shred every day.

A: I personally love Thai food but I’ve never had legit food from Thailand, just the Americanized version. Is there a big difference in the two? What’s a pretty typical dish for you? What about a unique one?

D: Thai food has so much variety and it’s not always spicy. The food is broken down into different regions: south and north. The southern food is more curry based (with coconut milk) while the northern food has what’s known as “sticky rice” which you eat with chicken, pork and often spicy salads. A favorite of mine at the moment is called Kao Soi. It’s from the far north of Thailand and basically a noodle soup (both soft and crispy noodles) in a coconut based curry. You would probably not get that dish outside of Thailand, you just have to come over and try it.

A: If you’re not kicking it at the park, what are you getting into? Besides keeping up with your crazy dogs and pig that is.

D: I spend quite a lot of time DJ’ing at home and I’m always in the middle of editing something. The animals take up a lot of my time so between riding, taking care of the animals and DJ’ing, I don’t really have much time for anything else. I’ll head to the skate park if it’s not too hot. I also head to the city to eat and cruise around.

A: Your riding is incredible, there’s no doubt about that, and your editing skills have definitely gotten better but people are always hating on your choice of music for your edits. Any comments?

D: Since my TAO edit in 2015, I have always put out my own edits with the support of Rip Curl. Monster Energy was also a financial supporter of TAO. Every year since 2015, I have paid for a professional editor to put together a season edit. Those edits always had copywritten music picked by the editor and I usually had to pay for the music used. After Monster dropped me (and the wake industry) at the end of 2015, my editing budget was cut in half. I decided to buy my own camera and teach myself how to use it and to learn how to edit. Every season, at least one full edit is released that I pay someone to edit for me. DANimal was my first full edit in 2017 after I had already released three edits that year (GROM Sessions and two SEARCH edits from road trips in New Zealand and Ireland). DANimal and Heightened State of Life are the only edits with something towards my music interests, but I did those for myself and had already wrapped up my season projects before releasing them. I often spend far more on my edits than I get through sponsorships. For X Games last year, I spent around $20,000 USD on air tickets, RV rental, general travel expenses and editing fees. I try to combine with comps and other stuff, otherwise I would have far less video output. So the other stuff, that you can call “my edits”, are basically what’s left over at the end of a season, and I put those clips together in the way that I want to express myself while learning my editing skills along the way.

A: That kind of music might not be everyone’s cup of tea but if it hypes you up to do your thing then who cares right?

D: Exactly. It’s a video journal of my season (or a part of it), and how I want to express myself. It’s there for me and if anyone enjoys what I put out, then that’s a bonus.

A: Speaking of music, your alter ego is DJ HOTBOX. I saw him in full effect at the first Valdosta Yard Sale in 2017 and I have to say, he got the crowd going. Is that something you do on the side just for fun or is it something that you’re looking to pursue? D: I pretty much do it for myself. I don’t want to spend every minute of the day talking about the wakeboarding. I need to escape from that at times and find a balance in life. It gives me something to focus on and it’s productive for me personally on so many levels. I feel good about putting my music and my riding together, that’s the satisfaction I get out of it.

A: You’ve been good buddies with Brandon Thomas (aka DJ DropTop) for a while. Has he helped you out with your DJ’ing?

D: I’ve spent a lot of time with BT over the years, since I first went to the U.S about 10 years ago. BT definitely helped me understand how to mix and I can’t thank him enough.

A: BT also filmed your 2018 X Games Real Wake part where you winched a lot of heavy local spots. Have you had your eye on those for a while? How did you manage to not get destroyed on some of those crashes? They were so hectic.

D: I did get destroyed but not completely destroyed until the second day of filming in Holland. That’s the moment X Games beat me, but I was pretty close to being destroyed with some of the hits in Thailand before that.

A: What did the locals think about winching? Have they ever seen anything like it before?

D: There’s plenty of locals winching around Thailand. The Skateway crew are always looking for spots and I join them when I can. I have some ideas for this season, which you will learn about soon. With these ideas, hopefully I can bring winching to places that have never seen it before. There are plenty of ideas we have in place for the coming season and I hope to share with you all soon.

A: Well thanks for chatting with us Daniel. I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty more of you over the 2019 season. Are there any parting words that you want to leave us with?

D: I would just like to say thank you to all my sponsors, especially Liquid Force, Rip Curl, Thai Wake Park, Unit Parktech and Shark Energy. Without such great sponsors, I could not be living the life I live today. Thanks also to Alliance for their support over the years!