“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’ ”
-David Foster Wallace
The greatest minds in history have all likened culture, in whatever era or iteration it so exists, to water. It’s almost a low-rent writer's trope at this point. The water-and-culture-thing can be a lazy cliche that operates as a catch-all metaphor. None of that negates the fact that cliches come from somewhere.
In our modern internet era, you can be more warp speed & pointed in that language. Culture, in all of its varying lifestyles, ranges & forms, is a goddamn flood. If we know anything at all about floods, it's that we know they break dams.
In 2020, the entire global dam, built on toothpicks, straw hats, and chewing gum, predicated in all of the wrong shit, came apart.
After a flood, humans historically have had two choices. One, keep doing the same old bullshit. There's literally no chance the ripples don't become tidal waves. Best of luck, champ.
The other way is taking the path of growth, and playing the role of Phoenix. While we all know the damage one can attribute to floods, there's also the fact that universal law & science is a thing. They both teach us that seeds can't grow without water.
The great Mississippi flood of 1927 literally kickstarted the African-American migration to the north, and with that came their music, culture, worldview & powerfully beautiful diversity that reimagined America's story in ways that would not be fully realized until the 90's.
2020 was the flood and nothing was safe.
The entire world changed last year. The band-aides were ripped off, institutions either changed or toppled, crushed by the weight of the people, their ideas, their values, and their heart. Like I said, two choices.
NASCAR, an American institution, was one of those things. Gone are the Confederate flags and cultural allowance of everything they stood for. In late 2020, NASCAR very consciously, and correctly, reimagined itself.
A barrier of distance was placed between NASCAR and its stereotypical bullshit. For the first time ever, a black driver like Bubba Wallace is being awarded the platform he worked tirelessly for against all cultural odds, and he's flourishing. To top that off, Wallace races in a Jordan brand powered car.
Michael Jordan, a titan of sport & global pop culture became the first Black majority owner of a Cup team in the modern era of the sport. In January, rapper Pitbull became the first Latino to own a racing team. TikTok sponsored the car of a Cali-born Mexican-American driver, Ryan Vargas. The largest new fan growth for the racing giant is currently happening with Gen Z.
It's safe to say it's a shining new day for NASCAR. Every new dawn needs a usher, as they say.
Perhaps there's no better usher & face of this dawn than the Boston-born Kaz Grala.
To say the 22-year-old is an absolute prodigy is a soft sell. In 2017, Grala, at just 18 and a few days, he became the youngest driver to ever win at Daytona and rewrote sports history. The Worcester Academy educated STEM student is the polar opposite of the beer-swilling "Good Ole Boy" stereotype that dominated the sport for eons.
Grala connected with fashion & creative space powerhouse Matthew Growney in the autumn of 2020. While Growney historically primarily operates in fashion, art & pop culture, he saw the rising tide of NASCAR and took a strong liking to the young driver. It wasn't so much about his driving (he knew he was very, very good) but about his mind, what he stands for, and how it could blossom. He saw a star he couldn't, and shouldn't ignore. The opportunity to play a role in reshaping the narrative around NASCAR was strong.
Grala x SOULER 2021, discover his curated collection of on and off track essentials. Click the image above.
Grala is a science and engineering wiz whose love of racing was inherited. His father Darius, a Polish immigrant, roared the Daytona track three times in his day. After graduating from Worcester Academy, he was accepted to Georgia Tech but declined, instead choosing to follow his paved track.
“Worcester Academy really did an unbelievable job of working with me and allowing me the freedom to miss some days when I needed to be on the road for racing, just under the one condition that I made up all my work and stayed on top of everything like I needed to,” Grala said. “And I absolutely did that. So they were a huge part in really allowing me to chase my dream and get to where I am today." It's that drive you can't fake.
Grala received straight A's and made the prestigious Headmaster's List at Worcester Academy, enamored by how unraveling tech, science & engineering could make him a world-class driver. It's his curiosity, intense dedication & intellect that sets him apart from the field. The future belongs to those who write it. Full stop.
"I started racing when I was 4 and never looked back." Said Grala. While the young age of 22 may not elude to experience in any area, Grala already has 18 sun cycles of track work under his belt. What started in a Go-Kart took him to the sports biggest stages.
In February, he roared thru Daytona, surviving a wild crash in qualifying at the 500. How he survived it was a miracle & a testament to his mind. He then went on to stake his claim in the big show after qualifying and ran a masterful race, even leading the pack for 10 laps.
Grala speaks after his amazing 6th place finish at iconic Talladega.
On Sunday, Grala cemented his flag in NASCAR like the Iwo Jima memorial. He crushed the iconic Talladega Speedway, finishing an unheard-of 6th out of 40, only just behind legends like Brad Keselowski & Kevin Harvick.
“We got to the front mostly due to strategy. Racing is really like a chess match. You need to time it, in order to be upfront and you need to take things into consideration like how do you keep yourself out of trouble? And for us, it played out perfectly.” He says.
Grala is not some hotshot Days Of Thunder re-gen. He's a banner to wave for out the outliers who buck trends & roar to their own drum. He's a silo & beacon for the highly thoughtful. Smart kids who were always told to keep their heads down, that they weren't fucking tough enough to compete. When you take turns at 200 MPH you can miss me with that nerd shit.
Kaz Grala is here.
If you're reading this you're too late.
SHOP The KAZ GRALA x SOULER Curated Essentials : Here
PLAY The KAZ GRALA Playlist on SOULERSoundwav.s : Here