The surfer electric
An interview with Dane Reynolds, a Ventura local who may be professional surfing’s next big thing
By Chuck Graham 05/24/2007
The first time Ventura’s Dane Reynolds surfaced was at a Channel Islands Surfboards team workout. You could see in his eyes that he was hungry, yet rough around the edges while riding a yellowed beater of a board and wearing a slightly tattered wetsuit. At the time, he was 12 years and hanging with one of Ventura’s up and comers, Geoff Brack, who let him tag along to that first workout. Several workouts later, Al Merrick (legendary Channel Islands founder and surfboard shaper) pulled me aside and asked me my opinion on the young surfer. \"You better grab him now before someone else does,\" I warned.
Nine years later, the boy has grown into a man. Reynolds has a lucrative contract with the surf clothing and gear company Quiksilver, his own recently released signature flick, First Chapter, and a future that’s certainly bright. At the moment, Reynolds is nearly 22 and he is currently rated third on the WQS. If he keeps pace through December, he will find himself on the World Championship Tour in 2008. Reynolds is currently considered the best free surfer in the world and competitively he's coming into his own this year. He's had a great string of success in Western Australia, South Africa, and, most recently, in Scotland.
There's a long way to go though as the season runs through December, finishing in Hawaii, but Reynolds has the ability to be the next great surfer in the sport. Without a doubt, he’s a leader in futuristic surfing, but he’s aware he has to tone it down a notch to keep the World Championship Tour within reach. His surfing is electrifying, but it’s consistency that will help him win. Recently, I talked about surfing, First Chapter, his competitive prospects and more as we wolfed down lunch at a local eatery.
VC Reporter: So your first encounter on the WQS wasn’t a positive one?
Traveling the WQS all over the world is pretty grueling. I was traveling half way across the world, and I was losing in the first round a lot. In 1-foot waves, it really brought me down. This time around I think I’ll do better.
How do you need to surf in [competition] heats?
Well, in four-man heats with no priority, you can’t afford to take risks, airs, the stuff I’ll typically do when I’m out surfing. I’ll have to adjust when I come up on a section thinking air, double think it and work on standard surfing.
Then the movie was a good diversion for you to break away from the contest scene?
It was great! So glad I did it. First Chapter was a full year in the making. [Quiksilver] was looking for a new movie project and asked me if I was interested. There’s really not a plot or a story to it. Basically the making of the movie is the movie. We tried to go to surf spots that hadn’t been played out as much. There was no Mentawais, no Indo. We went to South Africa but not J-Bay, also Morocco, Portugal, France, Maui, Australia, but no Gold Coast. We did Victoria, [Western Australia] and Woolongong.
What makes it different from other videos?
I put a lot of myself into it. I chose all the music from my own iTunes. I sat in the editing room the entire time. The whole time we were making it, it was hard to envision what the end product would be, but it won Movie of the Year at the 2006 Surfer Poll. I think people will appreciate what we did. I think it has a different feeling. It’s a signature film, but I don’t put it out there like, \"Look at me, here I am the best in the world.\" It’s hard to explain because I struggled with the concept, and we didn’t know what it would turn out like until the final edit.
How do you mean, \"struggling with the concept”?
When we were in the editing room, we were trying to do voice-overs. Trying to film myself saying a certain line, but it didn’t work out because I’m not an actor. I’m so stiff and uncomfortable saying something.
So it had a natural feel to it?
Yeah, and I think it worked out better. It was so much fun, but it wore on me. It was all made in Australia, so I was there a lot. I planned all the trips, but we never really scored the whole movie. That was one of the most frustrating things about the whole project. The entire time we wanted that one epic session, and at the very end of the film we finally got it at The Box, and that finished the movie.
So, I remember the first time I saw you surf. I was running a [Channel Islands] workout, and you showed up with Geoff Brack.
Yeah, I remember.
I could tell you had talent, kind of raw, but hungry.
That’s when I was competing amongst my friends, because I had a couple of friends who surfed better than me at the time.
What [are your] goals?
Making the WCT and potentially succeeding there. I know I’m a long way from that still. I’m doing the last few remaining events, so I can hopefully get in the main events next year. I want to qualify, that’s my ultimate goal, so I’ll be hammering away.
How many years will you give the WQS?
Maybe three max. I don’t want to be the guy on there for 10 years. It would really wreck my surfing. You really have to wobble your way to the beach to get a score.
Al [Merrick] was telling me several months ago that he thought you had the potential to be world champ someday, but he said you needed to tone it down a bit to surf a wave in a heat.
I hope I’ll do better this time around. I know I need to.
Has Bobby [Martinez’s] success inspired you?
Yeah! I’m psyched for him, especially someone from the area. He worked hard for it. I can’t believe how close he came so many times to making it. He surfs better than 90 percent of the guys out there. He’s as good as the best, but the WQS system is hard. You really have to lose your dignity at the water’s edge. Some guys try for a lot of years and never make it. That’s the last thing I want to do. I want to make it as soon as I can because that’s the only thing the WQS is good for is qualifying. I was talking to Bruce [Irons] about it and he said you have to lose your ego and do whatever it takes instead of worrying about what people are thinking on the beach.
What do you like to do when you’re not surfing?
Surfing consumes my life. I like spending time with friends because it’s kind of rare.
So how does it feel now? You’re 21 and all of a sudden you have legions of [young surfers] looking up to you?
I’m a friendly guy. I’m good talking to the kids, and I know they want to talk to me.