It was a warm September afternoon in Hossegor, France, back in 2012, and I was sitting on the sprawling deck of a vacation rental surrounded by Craig Anderson, Nate Tyler, Dion Agius, and Dane Reynolds—basically the freesurfing equivalent of The Beatles at the time. And yet between stuffing our faces with pizza and washing it down with frosty beer, our red-faced conversation managed to turn its focus to competition.
Reynolds told us about a final he’d surfed during his amateur career, when he’d earned the highest score of the heat early on and just needed to back it up with any semblance of a decent ride to solidify his place at the podium. Instead of driving the final nail into his opponent’s coffin, however, Reynolds just sat there, thinking about how awkward it would be to get chaired up the beach and wondering what the hell he’d do with his hands as they carried him. He didn’t admit it outright, but the implication was that Reynolds had thrown the final.
We laughed nervously, afraid to spook the elephant in the room. Just a few hours earlier, Reynolds had defeated Kolohe Andino in the quarterfinals of the Quik Pro France and was set to face off against John Florence in the semis first thing in the morning. Perhaps it was cognitive dissonance that allowed Reynolds to swill several beers, eat greasy slices that no surf coach would approve of, and reminisce about botched heats on the eve of a World Tour finals berth. Or maybe he just didn’t care either way.
You may remember what happened next: La Gravière delivered perfect overhead barrels, Reynolds beat Florence in the semis, and then Slater took down Reynolds in a tube-for-tube showdown that would stand as the high-water mark for Reynolds’ competitive career. No one could discount his adept tube-riding during the final, but I wondered if at any point during the heat Reynolds pictured himself climbing onto Anderson and Agius’ shoulders, staring at his hands like a befuddled Ricky Bobby. Could the thought of awkwardly celebrating a World Tour event win have undone Reynolds’ very chances of doing so?
Reynolds has always had a strange relationship with competitive surfing and the expectations placed on him by fans, sponsors, and, most of all, himself. He became an icon in the surf world not only because of what he did on a surfboard, but also for the unique way he approached every facet of his career, from his offbeat filmmaking and candid blog entries to the way he dressed and the hand-drawn logos on his boards. Dane always had to be Dane, even if that sometimes conflicted with what most pro surfers defined as success. But, in doing so, Reynolds forged a more individualistic path in surfing, which has been emulated by countless surfers since.
This issue is about the unique individuals who have shown us new ways to think about the sport and culture of surfing. We take a look at two generations of influential talent, including John Florence, Kelly Slater, Craig Anderson, Rob Machado, Albee Layer, Shane Dorian, Steph Gilmore, and Dave Rastovich, as they push each other in bold new directions for Taylor Steele’s new film (“The Proximity Tapes”). We also meet with some of surfing’s most eccentric characters, who are unraveling the conventions of high-performance boards, big-wave surfing, documentary filmmaking, and more (“Rogue Lines”).
An issue about influencers wouldn’t be complete without Dane Reynolds, of course, which is why I spent some time with him in his hometown of Ventura, California, and abroad,
trying to find out what happens inside the head of the most influential surfer of the last decade (“Mind Control”). Somewhere along the way, I finally asked Reynolds the question that’s stuck with me for the past few years: did a fear of winning prevent him from beating Slater that day in France?
He said he didn’t think it was a problem in that particular heat, but the idea of winning a major event and enduring the ceremony of it all had always been difficult for him to wrap his head around.
“I was scared of it,” Reynolds said with a laugh. “I guess I just don’t know how to be victorious.”
Considering Reynolds’ enduring impact on the surf world, I guess that depends on your definition of victory.
TODD PRODANOVICH, Editor
[Above Photo: Three world champs and one odd man out. From left to right: Dane Reynolds, Kelly Slater, John Florence, and Joel Parkinson in France, 2012. Photo by Joli; Featured Photo: Dane Reynolds, Portugal. Photo by Ellis]
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