Dane Reynolds Is Human After All
I just witnessed the most unexpected, awe-inspiring, nail-biter of a heat in surfing history. Thank you Hurley for turning what I expected to be yet another one-sided, public vote internet contest into what will go down as the most entertaining and controversial surf-related moment to unfold all year—in or out of the water. Still live on thehurleypro.com, anyone with a Facebook account can go vote for their favorite surfer to qualify as a wildcard in the lowers pro in September. The entire core of surf fans scoffed at the entire concept as soon as the entry was announced from indie surf god, Dane Reynolds. I shrugged the whole thing off. 'Why vote? Dane's in.' The same thing echoed through my circles. If the public actually watched the surfing closely, and that's all they were voting on, sure, Dane's in. And I'm guessing Dane, hoping to enjoy the fruits of his labor, premiering Slow Dance to thousands of swooning Japanese fans, saw his semi heat against 17-year old Cam Richards from South Carolina and took an extended pull from his frosty Sapporo and said, "I've got this." But who knew that the virtually unknown East Coast grom had more than just one trick up his sleeve.
Let's discuss the surfing part of this event first. Cam's two clips, while they showcased a bit of variety, and, don't get me wrong, shredding for a 17-year old, just wouldn't hold up in a World Tour heat. Kieren Perrow probably wouldn't even stretch before that matchup. Dane's two clips… Well if I tried to describe his flow of turns, I'd sound like Dave Stanfield announcing an NSSA repechage, so I'll save my breath. So that's it. Dane wins right?
Now whether it was Hurley's flawed voting system, hacked by teenagers giving Cam the nod, or the unexpected celebrity entourage he had in his corner pocket, Cam skyrocketed to the front. Like way the fuck out there—inspiring the greatest change of events in surfing in the 21st century. Dane Reynolds showed publicly that he cares. Like REALLY cares. For the last decade I've witnessed the greatest surfer of my generation shrug his shoulders through the entire success of his career. He doesn't care because he doesn't have to…how cool is that?
From his short stint on the World Tour, to his art, to his Surfer Poll speeches, I watched, waiting for a tiny glimpse of a living, breathing human to unveil itself. Nothing for ten years—until this teenager comes from out of the blue, and, with a little help from his buddy Jamie Foxx and the entire East Coast, pulls our carefree hero out of his independent bubble and into the social realm.
@sealtooth is on Instagram. He did it. Not to post quirky photos like any fan would expect, but to win. To win the votes of the public and to win the wildcard into a World Tour event—the same tour he happily walked away from back when not caring was cool. And after recruiting every heavy-duty celeb he could muster, it was still a battle. "Vote for Dane" was plastered all over instagram. @kellyslater, @tonyhawk, @everyoneelseinthesurfingworld was screaming it from the mountaintops. But Cam was still 2 votes ahead! Then Dane took the lead. Then Cam came back, seesawing for hours. Until the horn rang and Dane prevailed.
Now I have to take a little humility on my shoulders as well. I've always frowned upon public vote, user generated, social media events and contest, because it brings the absolute worst out of people. But here I am, inspired to write a few hundred words about the complete success of Semifinal #1. Everyone's a winner in this one. Dane advances to the final (where he'll eventually beat fellow finalist Luke Davis) and now that he showed the world that he cares, he'll probably win the event.
Hurley, you win. Your voting format allowed all this social beauty to unfold. And my conclusion is, even though he didn't make his heat, Cam Richards walks away the overall victor. He's done in 12 hours what no brand, competitor, friend or fan could do in 10 years—show us that Dane is human. He has feelings and he cares about this whole pro surfing thing. Last night I got to witness Dane Reynolds physically name-drop on instagram. Then show frustration. Then give thanks. It was a turning point in my life as a surfing fan. And I thank you for that. Good luck with your already successful career, Dane. And if it helps at all #ivotedfordane.—Dave Malcolm