So, the “year” of surfing just ended. Surfer Poll handed out its awards, Dane Reynolds gave a very disappointing speech, Ke11y happened, so did Gabe Medina, John John literally lived up to the O’neill adverts, another 12 year old made the WT, and back to Dane – he’s over it.
I could honestly care less about Surfer Poll. Who votes for it? Who runs the show? Where was it? None of it matters. It’s just another useless way for surfing to try and be something that it’s not, and an opportunity for Mick Fanning to get out of his Under Armor and into some more formal attire. So maybe Dane’s speech was actually perfectly terrible, it was a direct representation of the award he was receiving – meaningless.
I think I’ve compartmentalized my surfing mind. There’s Kelly Slater, and then there’s the rest of surfing. Dane Reynolds has probably officially created his own compartment too, and there’s this psychotic grom group who are doing the same, but regardless it’s still Kelly and then the rest of surfing. I think that’s really the only way to respect him. I fully support and fight the argument that Kelly Slater is of the greatest ever athletes. I don’t like calling a surfer an athlete, or I didn’t like calling a surfer an athlete until I listened to Mickey Munoz story time at an event hosted by Patagonia’s GPIW store last week. He put the athlete part in perspective, but that’s an entire topic in itself. Athlete or surfer, Kelly slater is the greatest, he was already greatest, what, 6 world titles ago? The quality of progression and adaptation of his surfing over the last three decades has to be beyond anything any athlete has ever done. I really think the only other competitive interest that can compare is golf, but pros golfing at a high level age 39 are standard, 39 might actually be young, so it really doesn’t relate. With personal bias, I put Slater at the top, there are so many great names he’s trumping, so it’s a kind of idiotic bias, but I think if you were to ratio out the greatness of what he’s accomplished in his respective sport, his ratio would be higher than any other legendary sportsman. Congratulations to Kelly for further humbling the future of surfing.
Without Kelly Slater, the ASP, WT, contest, competitive, professional surfing might not exist. Without Andy Irons, the ASP, WT, contest, competitive, professional surfing wouldn’t exist. That’s why the ASP now needs to get a well written thank you letter on its way down to São Paulo, Brazil praising Gabriel Medina’s mother for enduring his birth. They could probably send one to Pipe thanking John John’s mother, maybe another to T-Street thanking Brother’s mother, and I guess shoot one over to the Sunny Coast thanking Julian Wilson’s mum for making him those awesome necklaces, but all of those should be less extensive than the maiden to brazo-land. I boldly predict Gabriel has 4 titles under his belt by the end of the decade. He has a mean carve, can lose the fins wherever he pleases, gets upside down like Kerr, and flies farther, higher, and just as technical as anyone else. Oh, he can also get barreled. All you really need to do is watch ANY of the last 5 WT events and you’ll understand, if you don’t, I hope you’re not any kind of influence to the ASP, because they need people that understand. Gabriel’s first event win gave the ASP 5 more years, his second event win gave it 20. He’s 2/6 this year, (of 6 because he surfed as a wildcard at Bells). He’s 17 years old. In 6 events, Gabriel won as many times as #2 Joel Parkinson, #3 Owen Wright, and #4 Taj Burrow combined (2 wins) in 33 total attempts. That’s absolutely absurd, absolutely -midway through the year Owen Wright was the next Andy Irons, and Joel Parkinson, alongside Taj Burrow, are the two best World Tour surfers who will never win a world title. Gabriel Medina is the most valuable asset to competitive surfing, and therefore the ASP, since Kelly Slater erupted in 1992. Combine that with John John Florence’s Triple Crown, Julian Wilson’s finals birth in France (against Medina) + 9th overall WT finish, and the entrance of Kolohe Andino to next year’s 32 man list, and I’d say the ASP has finally found itself a future beyond the 11x world champ.
Dane Reynolds has forever changed surfing. It’s really obvious, in the modern era he’s the first guy to never win a contest, refuse to surf on tour, but still be called the best surfer on the planet. Nobody is as fun to watch as Dane, nobody. Not Slater’s gumby act, not Jordy’s rodeo, not Parko’s cruise mode, not Taj’s fire-hack, not Dorian’s monster barrels, not any groms air reverse, maaaaybe John John’s tube elegance, but nothing really comes close to the excitement Dane Reynolds brings to riding a wave. He does everything, he does everything the best. He has style dripping out of his poors, and he isn’t afraid to shape his own bar of shit and open up a can of whoopee cushion on Rincon. His blog has to be the most avidly viewed of any, and his weirdness trumps even that of Sterling Spencer. Shitty haircuts, terrible photos, ugly surfboards, ear grounding music, anti-twitter, and all the other fantastically original bull-poop that kid puts together is gold. And what’s even better is he surfs for, and is supported by . . . the establishment. By the mainstream, by the man, by the disgustingly superficial, solely image driven, quality lost, market-battered surf industry. He found – IT. And I guess it wasn’t really that hard for him, because here’s the thing – Dane could be wearing Express for men, Hollister, Old Navy, Champion, Old Guys Rule, Tommy Hilfiger, True Religion, whatever he ever wanted, and still be the best surfer in the world, because it’s his surfing abilities that set him apart at the bottom line. To so brilliantly also be weird, awkward, funky, partially together, and driven by this alternative, authenticity-is-everything mantra, he’s made himself the most marketable and perfect PR diamond surfing has ever come across. It’s beautiful. And whether or not it’s all for real or someone is chirping in his ear, puppeteering this fascinating image, it doesn’t matter, because it works.
I guess everything is gravy – the ASP is thriving, Kelly is still the man, the generation next is present, Kieren Perrow and all the other nobody’s have a chance and place, and Dane Reynolds will continue his awesomeness without restriction. Next year is set up to be a wonderfully amusing period of surfing. I see the opportunity for a lot of quality history to be compiled.