Let's go back to 2010 -- back when the economy was tanked but we were all relieved that Wall Street crooks were going to get what was coming to them. Back when we were all laughing at "The Hangover." And how did we ever get by without Instagram?
Now let's look at the year Dane Reynolds had in 2010. This freesurf messiah gave the entire ASP a B-12 shot of progression. He left jaws agape with his full rotation at the U.S. Open, plowed through a few rounds at Teahupoo, and blew up at Trestles on his way to the third place. He made the semifinals at the Pipe Masters, almost landing a huge slob grab at Backdoor just a few feet from the crowd's sunburned noses. He was second only to Kelly Slater as the most loved surfer in the world at the Surfer Poll Awards. He starred in Kai Neville's "Lost Atlas" and Taylor Steele's "Castles in the Sky," both released in 2010. And his Channel Island's model, the Dumpster Diver, was named Surfboard of the Year by SIMA.
Now 2010 is ancient history. This is 2013. The Wall Street crooks got off. No one wants to see "The Hangover III" and the surf world belongs to John John Florence, a six-foot tall kid who lives at Pipe, busts 12-foot alley-oops and likes to compete.
"Although Dane stepped away from the tour full time after 2011, it wasn't without leaving his mark," explains the ASP Media VP, Dave Prodan. "From board experimentation to some of the most radical performances ever seen, career bests of a season-ending fourth and runner-up finishes at Trestles in 2009 and France in 2012 as a wildcard, Dane's uncompromising and high-octane approach to waveriding not only made him a fan favorite, but evolved the mindsets of the world's best surfers with regards to what was possible on a wave and what was possible in a heat. Two years on and Dane's legacy is in full flight with the very best surfing going down in the live arena of the ASP World Championship Tour."
So far this year, we've seen Reynolds surf one contest where he brushed off Adriano de Souza in round one of the Quiksilver Pro Australia and lost to Joel Parkinson in round three. Other than that, Dane admirers (a small group, consisting of just about everyone) have been following MarineLayerProductions.com to follow him through his directorial debut as he works on a film called "Slow Dance" for Aussie shredder Craig Anderson. So far that's entailed some silly hats on his dogs and a bunch of impossible backside no-handed 3s -- basically being Dane Reynolds.
The Vans U.S. Open starts July 22, at Huntington Beach. Should you fear that Dane won't show, his shoe sponsor (the one who gives him free reign to do whatever he wants) is paying for said event. And they would like to see him there. From there, Reynolds will go to Europe and Japan to tour with "Slow Dance." For the Trestles Pro, Sept 15-21, Hurley has opened one wildcard slot to a very 2013-style video submission process wherein any American surfer over the age of 13 can submit eight waves for perusal. The top picks go to public vote. Reynolds confirmed that he will be submitting. His filmer friend, Jason "Mini" Blanchard, could probably pocket dial enough videos off his iPhone to Pat O'Connell to get Dane a slot. Next up would be the Quiksilver Pro France. Reynolds took the Quik wildcard into this event last year and went to the final in absolutely mental surf, finally falling to Kelly Slater in a battle for the ages. He says he's looking forward to that again. So are we. In 2012, he also turned up in Hawaii for the first two events Vans Triple Crown at Haleiwa and Sunset. There's no saying if he has any desire to hit The Rock again this winter, but he might. But let's look at the next few events.
"At any event for Dane, the attention focuses squarely on his actions in and around the water. That's not what any surfer craves twelve months of the year," says his friend, Vans teammate and former World Tour surfer, Shea Lopez. "For a man that grew up surfing and competing most of his days though, when he does come back from time to time, you can clearly see how Dane finds moments of joy when decimating the poor, unfortunate waves he stumbles upon while wearing a jersey."
But compared to 2010 when surf fans would plan their workday and surf session around Dane's heats on the webcast, we haven't seen much of the lanky regularfoot this year. But have no fear: this is the start of "Dane Season."
"It's super fun to surf with Dane in a heat because you never know what he's going to do," says current World Tour surfer, Pat Guduaskas, of San Clemente. "He's one of the most creative surfers and I think the whole surfing world loves watching him on the webcasts or in person simply to understand just how good he is -- and how he can make even a bad wave look incredibly fun. He inspires me and many others to go big and surf freely, even with a jersey on."
Absence apparently makes the heart grow fonder.
Or does it?
"Retirement cuts both ways. Mixing it up with the world's best on a consistent basis, as is the case for the ASP Top 34, significantly raises one's talent ability throughout the course of a season," continues Prodan, "In an 'iron sharpening iron' exercise, life on tour for surfers consists of non-stop improvement and the level of performance and excellence that the Top 34 exhibit day in and day out, in any and all conditions, is pretty staggering."
That's a fair case, considering every month we see the world title front runner change hands and another Brazilian hailed as the next elite tour competitor win a qualifying event.
But the point is that after seeing minimal Dane for the first seven months of the year, his followers will be treated to that haymaker right hook he throws ahead of his air reverses, scribbled graphics on his board, irreverent webcast interviews, and likely a few bummed out Top 34 who will drop a spot or two in the ratings thanks to all of the above.
"It will be a real treat to watch him paddle into multiple right bowls and ramp peaks mixed with some big left walls into the pilings on his way to winning the final against John John Florence," adds Lopez in a fairly bold claim, "Pretty sure we would all enjoy that."
And what did Dane have to say when we finally were able to track him down?
"Yeah, I'm excited to compete again. It's been a while and I think it will be fun."
Make no mistake. It will be.