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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Decoding Dane Speak

Dane Reynolds, the center of attention ... again.

"so here I am. 26. officially off tour. wasted talent. blown potential. refusing responsibility. 'all he wants to do is sit at home and play with crayons and ride f---ed up boards.' but wait! but wait! that's not true!"

So says Dane Reynolds. The enigmatic former world tour star released a 1,500-word message today on his blog, and as the Twitterverse digests it, it's proving to be nothing short of revealing. It is also the first time Reynolds has made a statement about what inspired -- or uninspired, as the case may be -- his recent fall from ASP grace.

"i wanna learn, i wanna make things, things of purpose, be productive. travel. new experiences. new sensations. and most importantly explore the outer limits of performance surfing. i'll still compete. but its not going to consume me," continues Reynolds.

Make things of purpose? Like what, birdhouses? What does that even mean?

From the onset of the 2011 ASP World Tour season, when Reynolds was forced to come clean about a knee injury he'd suffered the winter prior in Hawaii, he has been dogged by speculation and criticism about the direction of his career. Badgered by, as he puts it, "crowds, twitter impostors, eggy locals, eggy surf bloggers, overzealous surf photographers, chris mauro and rip curl contests, just to name a few," Reynolds now sets forth on the next chapter of his journey. And for as articulate as his post is, what's next very much remains a mystery -- unless you consider the video clip that accompanies the post, in which Reynolds proves yet again that he's a talented freak of nature.

It's easy to be critical of somebody like Reynolds: big paycheck, no work ethic. And there's enough quality surf within a 30-mile radius of his house in Ventura, Calif., that unless he gets tired of cold water, he never has to leave, which doesn't help get him out of his self-imposed bubble. In September I guiltily and begrudgingly fell into the category of "eggy surf blogger" (but only after repeated interview requests were denied), when I wrote, "It'd be nice to see something more than just passing interest from Reynolds. Where's the validation? Where's the appreciation? We support you, but some engagement in return would be solid."

It's airs like this that have made Reynolds one of the highest paid surfers on the planet.

The point being, these are rough economic times for a lot of people. There are a lot of hard working humans out there struggling just to put a Christmas dinner on the table for their family. And when somebody signs what's alleged to be one of the biggest contracts in the sport, then seemingly doesn't uphold their end of the deal (with no explanation), it's easy to see how that might be construed as somewhat insulting, or at the very least a little disingenuous -- especially when they're paid to travel the world and surf while said sponsor is forced to eliminate some of its workforce and cancel successful events. But people have continued to shell out money they don't have for $70 signature boardshorts or his $800 Channel Islands model. Reynolds even climbed to number two on the Surfer magazine readers' poll. All the while Reynolds has remained relatively silent ... until now.

But with his recent blog, which very much feels like a heartfelt confession, he acknowledges his transgressions, ultimately taking the time to thank fans and sponsors alike. But it's his perspective about the professional side of the sport that might be most telling: "surfing isn't just about joy. it's also a sport. an industry. and we must not mix business with pleasure. by accepting endorsements i assume a certain responsibility. some think that responsibility is to compete. to put on a jersey and crush my opponent. despite a flimsy one dimensional criteria and an inconsistent playing field that causes the end result to rarely come down to performance alone. maybe that's the fun of it. i don't know. i do enjoy it. but do i believe in it? enough to dedicate the better part of my life to it? or is that irrelevant because it's my responsibility?"

Some say the ASP World Tour needs Reynolds more than he needs the tour. That's debatable. To some extent they probably both need each other. If we learned anything from the Reynolds/Jamie O'Brien heat at the Pipe Masters this year (or his no-show at the monumental Billabong Pro Tahiti in August) it's that for all his accolades as the "best surfer in the world," when it comes to waves of consequence Reynolds isn't even in the conversation. And as for the tour, there's a whole slew of teenagers emerging on tour right now that will serve the entertainment factor well. Just wait until John Florence and Gabe Medina are done with puberty. Reynolds was supposed to be California's greatest hope for a world title -- the heir to Tom Curren's late '80s early '90s soul reign -- but Kolohe Andino's come of age quicker than any of us guessed, so maybe he'll carry the torch instead. He certainly doesn't seem to be as confused.

As for what's next for Reynolds, he wants to live the life of a free surfer? If "surfing is my passion in life" as he says, I propose spending 2012 paying for every surfboard, wetsuit, airline ticket, crayon, etc, from money earned through actual gainful employment. Maybe find a job at a coffee shop since that's where hipsters hang out. Bus a few tables, wash a few dishes, pour a couple lattes. Or maybe try something outdoors, like cleaning pools or banging nails (I see a lot of surfers doing that.) Or pester Bob McKnight for a box packing job at Quiksilver, they haven't had to fire all their employees yet. But whatever you do, stop trying to make us feel sorry for you.