Dane Reynolds and Kelly Slater were instrumental in filling 2010 with some of the greatest highlights of all time in ASP competition, and in doing so they forced every surfer on Tour to step up their own game. Kelly expanded on his already perfectly calculated routine by delivering several heat-winning knockout blows that none of his competitors were able to duplicate. Dane, on the other hand, looked as if he wanted to make history on every wave he rode—and most often he did—en route to finishing fourth overall, a commendable result for such an audacious do-or-die approach. Fans and fellow surfers turned up en masse like never before to witness the incredible displays of surfing from both Dane and Kelly throughout the year.
By losing either surfer, the World Tour would suffer greatly from the initial shock. But, with a stacked field of emerging talent, it wouldn’t be long before others would follow the examples of Dane and Kelly—just as Dane took from what Wardo had done in the past and built on it, and Kelly took from what Curren had done in the past and blew the world away with it.
At this point in their careers, I don’t believe either surfer should stay on Tour. Kelly has already proven he is the best competitor any of us will ever witness, leaving nothing further to accomplish in the realm of competition. It would be amazing if Kelly decided to put all of his energy into advancing surfboard design and continually seeking out the very best waves the world has to offer with his every breath. That could be Kelly’s final gift to all of us, and future generations, as we would benefit tremendously from better surfboards and a tremendous archive of footage to view from the best surfer ever, riding the best waves imaginable.
Dane, conversely, was never meant to be a World Champ, or even a competitor. The surf industry systematically and forcibly morphed him into a contest surfer at the lure of fame and fortune—two things that all aspiring young surfers are susceptible to. However, his needs and image have outgrown the ASP at this point. A contest at Lowers, Snapper, or Pipe would still be good for him, as all three waves are almost impossible to surf outside of a contest due to crowds. But with Dane’s amazing gift for riding waves—I mean, even scrap footage of Dane surfing near his home in Seen and Unseen became one of the best surf movies of 2010—and the amount of quality waves out there, it seems Dane (and all of us) would be happier if he spent his peak surfing years shooting and filming for our viewing pleasure.
The long-term benefits of two distinctly different, but equally great, surfers cutting the cord to competition would be game-changing for the advancement of surfing—both in the contest setting and outside of it. This is 2011, and the best surfing isn’t solely defined by the World Champ.