The Return of Dane

In just two heats, the best surfer alive reminds us what the tour was missing

Though he didn't win his first round heat, he captured all of our attention at the final horn with an incredible slob rotation. Photo: Courtesy of the ASP

Shea Lopez

The author of SURFER’s Top 32 Review, Shea Lopez spent 11 years competing on the World Tour and now reigns as our resident expert on the pro surfosphere.

I have to admit something: I replaced Gabriel Medina with Dane Reynolds this morning when the webcast showed solid, lumpy, mostly rights at La Graviere. Gabriel went on to struggle with the extra volume of water in the lineup, with Jake Patterson relentlessly grilling the young phenom over the webcast for his inability to perform in those conditions. Dane, on the other hand, came out of Day 1 in France with two of the highlights of the year—the first being a fully-rotated slob 360 at the horn, and the second, needing a big score to beat Adriano, was a well-overhead left that reminded us why Dane is the best surfer in the world. On his second turn of an already excellent ride, he committed to a grab-rail bottom turn that had to be over-torqued so he could project up vertical enough and tight enough in the pocket for a huge blast. The magnitude of that turn, and his aerials earlier were larger-than-life.

Much like the person he himself has become.

When has there ever been a time when the best surfer in the world wasn’t chasing world titles? Kelly when he retired? But he already had six world titles—and AI was better than Slater at the time. No, only Dane can show up 10 months into the year and in two heats re-confirm his place.

Where is his place?

Meanwhile, the rest of the competition looked similar to the last few, with all the usual suspects keeping their form in place. Owen and Julian both looked strong in the deceptively perfect-looking but wonky surf. Brett Simpson surfed exceptional again, and again fell just short—this time to Fanning, deservedly, when Mick screamed through an incredibly fast tube as the heat came to a close. Being the non-elimination three-man round, both surfers are still in the competition, and, if they continue to find the right waves, both will be extremely difficult to beat.

With plenty of swell and nice weather forecasted during the waiting period, the event should be a huge success—if the sandbar improves with the changing conditions or the event is moved to a better one, that is. Because today looked extremely challenging to find quality waves out there, even with the swell and weather looking like it should have been an epic day.

Editor’s Note: To read more about Dane’s tenuous relationship with the Tour, check out the interview in our November issue.