The Decision

Rob Gilley on the void Dane Reynolds left on the World Tour

| posted on September 26, 2012

All we wanted was to watch Dane surf, in or out of a jersey. Photo: Gilley

I don’t know if you follow traditional sports, but a couple of years ago one of the most famous basketball players of all time, LeBron James, became an unrestricted free agent. With the knowledge that off-the-charts speculation, analysis, and hype would surround LeBron’s next team choice, a freelance sportscaster named Jim Gray convinced LeBron (and his agents) to announce his new home on a sponsored, nationally-televised one-hour TV special, named, unsurprisingly, The Decision.

Whether a fifteen second announcement surrounded by a shockingly hyped and marketed 60 minute program represented a new low for western civilization remains unclear, but more to the point is that this show succeeded in its intention: it achieved high ratings, furthered LeBron’s brand exposure, and became the topic du jour at water coolers the world over.

Of course the closest thing to The Decision in the surf world is Dane Reynolds’ choice to leave the World Tour. Not since Kelly Slater decided to join Quiksilver have lineups been so afire with debate and gossip.

As for timing, weighing in on Dane’s decision puts me way behind the eight ball, but a recent event gives me a good excuse to flog a dead horse: The 2012 Hurley Pro at Lowers.

With the early demise of Brett Simpson and Taylor Knox in the event, there were no Californians left to cheer for after Round 3, and as much as a global surf citizen I pretend to be, this made me a little depressed. It was like the Chargers taking a beat down from the Patriots…again.

Those familiar with the competitive history of California surfers know that other than the Tom Curren years, our standing on the world scale hasn’t exactly been stellar. In fact, given our population pool, it’s pretty abysmal.

That’s why the rise of Dane Reynolds and his associated pitch-perfect, devil-may-care, throw-caution-to-the-wind ethic was so worshipped: here was a West Coast boy who didn’t seem to give a shit, but was going to kick some World Tour ass just the same. For California surf fans, it was having our cake and eating it too.

And after three full rounds of perfect glassy Lowers ramps, I really wanted Dane to come back and carve me a huge piece of Australian poundcake.

These are impure thoughts of course. As I have alluded to before, in its essence competition runs counter to the very spirit of surfing itself. Time limits, hassling, letting perfect waves go by unridden under the banner of “priority,” and wanting to crush your fellow competitor into unrecognizable mulch are not, and should not, be qualities associated with the aloha sport.

Better heads will prevail, as they say, and lucky for us, Dane seems to possess one. Under grand self-introspection, he decided that surfing contests full-time stymied his surfing, and stymieing one’s surfing is tantamount to selling-out. And further, to answer doubt about his motives, Dane even wrote a raw, eloquent, and decidedly tongue-in-cheek declaration of independence, a gesture that represented, to me at least, the antithesis of The Decision.

While lost in reverence for this soulful document, my desire to see a Californian do well on the World Tour remains. OK, that’s not the full truth. What I really miss, and what I suspect many other fans of great surfing miss, is the opportunity to see Dane surf on a semi-regular basis—that’s it. It was just comforting to know that, at the very least, I could log on to a World Tour webcast and see the young airman take-off and fly at an appointed hour.

What it comes down to is that I support Dane’s decision because he deserved to make it. He has paid his dues. He has proved his ability beyond any reasonable doubt. He has fossilized his validity. He has surfed hundreds (thousands?) of contests, and more than any of us, understands the exact value of competitive surfing.

Admittedly, my opinion on the matter is also skewed by the fact that I know Dane a little bit. I went on a photo trip with him once, and found him to be a polite and humble kid with a sense of humor. He also carried a trait that fewer and fewer professional surfers possess these days—he seems to be smart. He reads books, of all things.

So like a fame-brushed, name-dropping, blinded fan, I am supportive of whatever Dane chooses to do.

But it also happens that I wholeheartedly agree with the basic, over-riding tenet of his declaration.

That above all, surfing should be unrestricted.

  • http://none Steve Briggs

    Dane has received a Wildcard for the Quiksilver Pro in Hossegor, France where he will be in Heat 5 of Round One with Joel Parkinson and Bede Durbidge. While I too like to see Dane surf I find it pathetic that the so-called, “Worlds Best Surfer” now claims that Title as “Worlds Best Surfer at Emma Wood”. How Quiksilver tells itself that they are getting their moneys worth with Dane is beyond most people. If you don’t live and surf in Ventura, Oxnard or Santa Barbara you won’t see Dane surf much.
    Rob, your next post should be on the overexposure and outlandish hype piled upon Kolohe Andino and how his first year on Tour with the BIG boys has been a rude awakening. His most recent loss to Jadson Andre was a stellar example of how his year has gone. Future World Title chance for Kolohe? Faint.

  • http://thesurfernerd.com Gian

    I think that Kolohe has the potential (like Dusty Payne for example) but still hasn’t found a way competitively speaking on the World Tour.

    I will admit that, at first, I thought: “oh look another young blonde photogenic californian”. But the kid (from interviews and stuff) sounds like he has a head on his shoulder and some smart brain between his ears. Time will tell how he’ll do on the WT, but damn if he’s an intelligent and humble person he should be more than stoked to be where he is.

    Looking forward to see him surfing in Portugal.

  • http://tumboverde.com edgar

    great point and def. agree. His decision to not compete will only further his legendary, heavy hitter status and help drive the culture of surfing away from it’s at times very narcissistic ASP driven competitions. We need to have this balance, as it is inherent to what surfing tells us about being human.

  • Jammer

    He lost to Heitor, not Jadson

  • shea

    It is all very selfish of us to heap disgust on Dane for his ‘decision’. We have all made choices based on what is best for our own self-preservation. And that is fine, we are all works in progress. The tour, as it is, doesn’t allow for all surfers to fit in. Just so happens one of the best doesn’t fit in at all. Shocking? Not really, look how many equally talented (for their generation) surfers have been chewed up and spit out of the machine before Dane. I still am a fan, still go to his website for great up-to-the-minute clips, and am really looking forward to catching his heats at the Quik Pro this week

    Another well thought out piece Rob!

  • Brian

    Gee Steve, for a guy who seems to know everything, Kolohe lost to Heitor Alves not Jason Andre.

  • Elias

    Care to share Dane’s declaration?

  • http://www.milesjackler.com Miles Jackler

    Nice article Rob. I think youve touched on a sentiment that most surfers understand and agree with. While it would be great to see Mr. Reynolds flairing up on the regs via webcast to my computer, it is like watching a lion roar in a cage.

    I imagine he will still be sharing clips via his Marine Layer site, and I have a hunch that he will continue to travel the world and share his exploits via talented filmers and photographers. I don’t recall any footage of Ventura in Dear Suburbia, nor do I ever recall him claiming to be the best surfer at Emma Wood, pretty sure Adam Virs has that on lock.

    A common theme that seems to confound me is the expectation and entitlement surf fans feel in regards to profesionals. People were furious that Dane left the tour, they felt cheated. In a similar vein, recent photographic experimentation from Kolohe Andino on his Instagram account caused uproar amongst his “followers.” Grown men called him “kook” and “hipster fag” and conveyed the feeling that they felt cheated and that this young kid owed them something. Seriously people were pissed, it was sureal. They seemed to feel that because he is a sponsored surfer, he should only express himself in the most digestable, straight forward way. I. E. DSLR shots of surfing ONLY. Maybe a selfie or two for the ladies and that one creepy old guy.

    Unless your paying a profesionals salary, what right do you have to criticize them for anything? Million dollar contracts? Endorsements? That’s awesome. Get some. Getting paid by a huge corporation to do exactly what you want? Congratulations on working the machine to your advantage. For all you who take the time to talk trash about these young surfers because they aren’t entertaining you the way you want. Get off your ass and go surfing. Stop paying attention to things you dont like.

    I always thought surfing came from humble roots, a place for those of us who dont fit into molds. An activity and form of expression that is limitless and influenced only by the waves we ride. Why is it that we are trying to stuff surfer’s back into some proffesional athelte mold? Why do we make such a big deal about different board shapes? I dig contests, but the best heats are the ones where people leave the mold behind, drop the formula, and surf however the hell they want. The best surfer’s and the most entertainig to watch do the same thing.

    Convention is the Death.
    Live Free or Die

  • dgb

    Seriously, other than his Quikzara minders, who actually cares. The ridiculous claim that surfing on the tour stymies your surfing is laughable. I like watching the guy surf as much as the next guy though. I’m sure I’ll get to see that either way. Is anyone ready to accept that perhaps he doesn’t have what it takes to make it on the tour? In the same way loads of great surfers haven’t.

  • kelpers

    Looking forward to watching “The Worlds Most Progressive Surfer” aka Dr. 805 kick some arse in the Quik Pro France and Triple Crown Hawai’i. He is absolutely ripping right now. Watch out WCT Title contenders he is a very, VERY dangerous wildcard.

    GO DANE!

  • john

    Steve Landucci is the best surfer at Emma Wood.

  • Le

    Great statement. I was reading Matt Biolos’ blog and it said the same thing. There is a void of Cali talent on tour. The Cali kids need to put up the blogs, stop chasing tail, and buckle down and win some freaking heats, get on tour and make the Brazilian contingency feel some pressure. There are some rays of hope with Kalohe, the coffin brothers, Nat Young, and Droid, but come on… I’ve been all over Cali, the lineups are super crowded! There’s gotta be a world title contender amongst those masses (lowers especially). Freaking Adriana qualified at 16 or something.

    Also there need to be easier ways to earn points for east coasters as well. More asp contest all over the US. Or maybe surf clubs like in oz., more grooming of athletes. Make us more competitive.

  • surf in sicily(italy)

    Dane is the best example of surf in the world together with Rob Machado,Dan Malloy…
    When I see you surfing in the video,I go crazy
    Go Dane!!!!!!!

  • http://surfermag.com surf in sicily(italy)

    Dane is the best example of surf in the world together with Rob Machado,Dan Malloy…
    When I see you surfing in the video,I go crazy
    Go Dane!!!!!!!
    Thank’s Rob Gilley

  • john

    @Le ~ I think you missed Rob’s point.

  • Jason M

    I am both a surfing fan and a sports fan, and I have to admit that I didn’t really care about Dane until he was out on tour. In fact, I was sick of having him shoved in my face through the media. Once he was on tour, I admired his unique approach to the tour. He was trying to kill it on every wave, unconcerned with the final results. The tour does need a guy like that, and I for one wish he would go back on it.

    On a side note: IMO what makes surfing better than any other sport to participate in, is that people can approach from so many different angles. That said, I don’t think, and never have, that pro surfing in any way goes against the foundation of the sport. From a longboarding Great Lakes local to Kelly Slater, surfing is something different to each individual. If Dane doesn’t like it, then I respect that. But if Dane doesn’t do the tour because he was brainwashed by the surfing culture to think that Pro surfing is evil and he feels like a “sellout” for being a surf star, then that’s a shame.

  • kelpers

    Dane is an artist first who expresses himself surfing. It seems the current ASP WCT competition schedule and format does not always fit into that expression. I’m glad Dane is doing it his way. Most artists love their homes and I’ve heard Dane is that way. The full time WCT contest, contest, more contests surfers have to travel A LOT!

    The sport and fans will be tuning in for young Dane’s heats for years to come when he does compete.

    GO DANE! Send Parko PACKIN’ for your boy Jordy who was completely raped buy the trestles judges!


  • Me, Myself and I

    Let me see if I got this correct.

    Dane is off the tour because the tour doesnt fit his surf. He goes for broke and we all admire that…. On the otherhand there’s always tons of hate when I guy gets a 9+ for one manouver waves…

    Ahhh… If only Dane was born in France or Brazil… Odds are that by now he would be called the biggest chicken in surf history.

  • Matthew Barker

    Rob- Been reading your Features for awhile now. Really loving your insights and observations. It’s great to see you’re as sharp with a pens as you are with a lens. Hope to see you posted up on the slide this winter…

  • bethany bob


  • Bufu

    I disagree with most of the article. In fact I enjoy Mr. Giley’s writing but I thought this piece was crap. There is no denying Dane’s wave riding skills. However to state that his apathy towards the structure of contest surfing forced his retirement is faux. What forced his early exit from the CT was the pressure. Before and during the CT he never won a major contest. He crumbled from the pressure. Dealing with pressure is not easy but it’s tiring to hear how the tour hindered his surfing. Face it people, Dane isn’t the best surfer in the world and never was. He doesn’t rush Pipeline, you never see him in Tahiti and it’s rare to see him in waves of consequence. Look I enjoy seeing Dane surf but I am over the hype. Hype is why California has not been able to produce a World Champ other than Tom. And by the way it looks like there isn’t anyone coming soon.

  • Guswer

    Dane proved it all? By doing what, winning contests? The guy can surf, there is no doubt about that, but his mind wasn’t made for contests. And Rob, please, the aloha spirit only exists nowadays when its mostly you and your friends out there in the lineup.

  • Steve Wimer

    Dane is a free spirit. At least his surfing is unique. So many of these guys copy somebody else. And these days, it’s usually Dane.

  • Jay Jay

    Am I the only one who feel awkward complaining about surfers who are much more talented than me? Sarcasm/

    Anyways for me it boils down to Dane surfing waves I find interesting and doing it better and with more style than I could ever hope for. I have no interest in Pipeline, jaws, Teahupoo etc. Seems like waves for people with peen envy or something.

    Whatever GO DANE.