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Dane Reynolds’ virulent strain

Given all the Dane Reynolds hype of late it’s easy to understand how Daneofilia (DANE-oh-FEEL -yah) is now infecting a wide swath of today’s young surfing prodigies. Some doctors describe the disease as a virulent strain of languorous behavior, others refer to it as syndrome more commonly known as the fuck-its.

Notable young talents (especially those residing along the surf-industry-laden California coast) run the highest risks of contracting this virus, but the symptoms typically flair up once they’ve left their comfy little pond for the bigger, badder world of global talent, where they soon discover winning isn’t nearly as easy as they, their publicist, biographers, videographers, agents, managers, coaches, bloggers and astrologers, thought it would be.

Consumed by self doubt, they begin to question not just the nipple they’ve been sucking on since they got their first pair of free trunks, but the very body producing all the nourishment. And the fleeting nature of their most flavored surfer status hits hard. If things don’t work out…they soon discover…they’re replaceable. At the end of the day they’re just tools. Marketing tools. Being exploited to sell wares. Oh the horror.

The lucky ones, like Dane Reynolds, seemingly have a choice in this matter. They can make a career out of being anti-pros, choosing to go down a “soul surfing” route filled with cameras and cameos. The vast majority of pros don’t really have that luxury.

Take Adriano de Souza, who by most measuring sticks is the anti-Dane. They both love surfing, no doubt, but Adriano actually thrives in competition. That makes him incredibly uncool in hipster circles. After all, he always gives 100% (what a jock!) He loves to claim (kook!), and what’s with that (fugly) wide stance? All that annoying hard work and touchdown dance behavior makes Adriano the tour’s perfect villain.

But look deeper into his story and you might begin to see things differently. While growing up in a poor corner Sau Paulo Brazil there were years when his next meal wasn’t guaranteed. He and his family fought hard for everything they had, and when the remote possibility of a surfing career appeared he left home for good to chase it.

Thanks to hard work and dedication he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Today both his mother and brother are living in houses that Adriano provided with his winnings. Knowing all that, you might understand the passion behind the claims, and you may even start respecting some of his surfing strengths, like how he manages to put his board in all the right places with healthy dose of speed and power.

Adriano’s path was undoubtedly a tough one. And it remains so in the court of public opinion. Meanwhile, as we learn in the new Surfer Magazine interview issue, Dane Reynolds road has been obstacle free, and he’s essentially flying blind out there.

After all, he prefers to travel with six packs over exercise balls. He doesn’t want to waste energy chasing a 5.5 to get through heats just to please sponsors. He finds his friends in Oxnard a lot more interesting than all the exotic people he ignores while traveling. And, oh yeah, Kelly Slater really hasn’t done all that much for surfing. (Apparently Dane doesn’t count the zeroes in his checks before depositing them.)

All this listlessness makes him a huge surfing hero.

Now he’s searching for even less stress. He wants to ride ugly boards in mushy point waves and hang out with his friends scribbling on T-shirts, posting on his blog and making webisodes.

And not surprisingly a handful of younger “highly touted” Californians think the same path will work just as well for them. Incidental stardom is apparently just a cool little blog away.

Of course they’d kinda like to skip that part that Dane had to endure…y’know, the part where he actually earned all his value, the part where he made the tour and validated his hype with brilliant victories on a big stage.

Wait – victories?

Well yes and no. As Slater so aptly noted during his Surfer Poll speech last year, Dane Reynolds has never won anything. Not even the NSSA Nationals. But we needn’t weep for him.

Fact is Dane’s simply not cut from the same heat-winning cloth as most tour stars. Nevertheless the tour is filled with Daneophiles (DANE-oh-FILEs) for good reason: once he made the tour, he subsequently made more than a few dents with his freakish flying and carnivorous carves. Dane’s biggest victories haven’t been mathematical ones, they come in statement form – by how he wins heats, and sometimes by the way he loses them. Either way he’s made more than a few boundary pushing proclamations in his contest jersey, and that’s what’s made him the A-lister he is. He’s won hearts.

But whether Dane knows it or not, he won the majority of hearts up on the big stage, and his message resonates more from that platform than anywhere else. There’s a simple reason for that. Performing on demand in front of hundreds of thousands without the safety net of Final Cut Pro is simply more difficult than posting on a blog, drawing up T-shirts, and shooting videos.

Nothing cheap and easy has value, which is why all that other stuff is considered just surf porn. It’s great for a few seconds of fleeting pleasure. Given the choice, the majority of Dane’s fans would rather see him keep pushing.

Of course, after years of grueling travel and that hefty work schedule they have on the ASP he’s certainly earned the right to pursue what makes him truly happy, be it fashion and film or beer bongs and surf smut. If we’ve learned nothing else from the dearly departed Steve Jobs it’s that loving what you do is the only way to do great work. And we love Dane’s great work.

But history tells us that once surfers leave the tour behind a clock starts ticking on their allure, because flash fades a bit faster in this new media age. A few short years from now when Dane’s added 15 pounds to his boiler, his neckbeard is grown out, and he’s home watching a new generation of stars pick up where he left off, it’s possible he could feel more exploited than ever being a video floozy seeking Facebook followers…By then a few 5.5s might just pale in comparison.