Dane: “The best boards are enablers!”

The one-time fourth-highest rated surfer in the world on what works, what don't… 

A brief exploration of Dane Reynolds’ thoughts as they pertain to surfboard and surfboard design. Helpful, perhaps, as Christmas comes closer and gifts must be suggested and sought.

DR: I know you know boards. So tell me about the board you’re riding at the moment. Who shaped it, dimensions, volume, rail shape, rocker, bottom curve etc. What characteristics do you like, and do you not like, about this board?
Dane: It’s a Channel Islands Black and White shaped by Britt Merrick. The dimensions are, 6’0″ by 19 1/8″ by 2 7/16″. It was a really good board. I’ve had a couple other memorable clips on it. Pretty much most of the footage I’ve shot in the past three years was on four boards, all Black and Whites. Somehow I’ve had really good luck with them. I probably get quarter of the boards I used to but have a way higher ratio of good ones. They’re pretty basic boards: low entry, actually mellow overall rocker, hips, good foil, nothing fancy but just feel like they’re enablers. They get you there. Good balance of drive, rail-to-rail transition, pick up, hold, just neutral and familiar feeling.

You’ve always been hands on with Al and Britt. What gives you a kick about making boards?
Dane: Riding them! Making boards that allow you to surf the way you want to ride a wave.

dane-reynolds-shaping
“Drawing out the outline is fun, trying to blend curves and stuff. Then I grab the saw and all of that’s pretty much out the door, as I’m really shit at sawing. I find that to be the hardest part of the whole process. Then I hack at it with a planer, which I’m also shit at, then try and pick up the pieces after that.” Photo: Morgan Maassen.

What’s the first thing you do when you get a blank and you chuck it on the shaping stand?
Dane: Me personally? Drawing out the outline is fun, trying to blend curves and stuff. Then I grab the saw and all of that’s pretty much out the door, as I’m really shit at sawing. I find that to be the hardest part of the whole process. Then I hack at it with a planer, which I’m also shit at, then try and pick up the pieces after that and see where you’re at and reassess the situation.

 

They’re pretty basic boards: low entry, actually mellow overall rocker, hips, good foil, nothing fancy but just feel like they’re enablers. They get you there. Good balance of drive, rail-to-rail transition, pick up, hold, just neutral and familiar feeling.

 

What blanks do you use, which particular models?
Dane: If I’m making a normal shortboard for myself, the 6’4″ EA from US Blanks.

How often do you ride boards you’ve shaped?
Dane: Not so much. I was making a lot more boards before I had a kid and started a company.

Describe the best board you’ve shaped.
Dane: I have one from 2014 I still ride a lot. I’d say it’s the best board I’ve ever shaped. Just a really good shortboard.

Describe the worst board you’ve shaped.
Dane: I’ve made lot’s of shitty boards. When I first started I thought it was so cool to shape ’em without templates or dimensions or plans, just kinda hack away. I was, like, “Look at my foot! It’s not symmetrical! Look at the way i stand on a board! It’s not symmetrical! Why do I need symmetry!” Some of them were really good boards, though. I’d say the worst is when you try to make a high-performance shortboard and get it wrong. There’s a narrow margin for error on a high-performance board and if you get it wrong it’s really shit.

What do you like about riding your own boards?
Dane: It’s a fun process, building it and then trying it.

What don’t you like?
Dane: When they go shit.

What’s your level of sensitivity in regards to riding boards? Can you feel single design elements in your boards? Can you feel a slightly deeper concave or a touch more rocker in the tail?
Dane: I’d say I’m pretty sensitive to the way a board rides but can’t really attribute it to one design quality. Like, two boards that look identical, pretty much never ride the same And it could be anything, the foam, glassing, sanding, stringer, twist in the blank, slight differences in edge, tuck, concave, who knows. It’s better not to analyse too much and move on.

In the sixties and seventies there were a ton of surfer, shapers: MP, Simon, MR etc. Not so much now. You got a theory why?
Dane: Because it’s hard! And time consuming. Back then, those dudes would probably make a few boards a year for themselves and they weren’t exactly fine tuned. There was a way bigger margin for error, they weren’t very refined. Now guys are getting 26 boards before a contest and picking the top six and the guys shaping for ’em are so good! Of course, computers help with replication. It was just a different time, too many reasons to name, really. When you shape a board it gives you a lot of respect for the guys who do it well. It’s not easy to make a good shortboard and, especially, to do it consistently.

You can only pick one element of board design, (ie rocker, planshape, concaves, rails, tail etc) which is the most critical?
Dane: Material.

Have you delved much into much retro or experimental boards? (ie singles/ twins, asymmetrical.) Do these sorts of designs excite you or do you find them limiting?
Dane: When I first started, most of the boards I’d make were, I wouldn’t say retro or experimental, but more like fun shapes. They’re really a lot more fun to shape and ride because pretty much whatever you do they’re still fun to ride, where as a shortboard, like I said, if you get it slightly wrong it’s not a fun ride.

How have you boards changed from what you ride today, from when you were on the Tour?
Dane: When I was on tour it was mostly Rookies and Protons which are really curvy. My shortboards are quite a bit mellower rocker-wise these days.

I have dreams where I’m trying to make it to my heat and I’m stuck in traffic or people keep stalling me out or keeping me places while I know my heat’s coming up. Or I’m in a heat and my legs won’t move and I need a score or I’m getting chased by a shark and also trying to surf a heat.

What do most average surfers get wrong with their boards?
Dane: Shit no idea. Most people I know or see at the beach take what they can get.

What is more likely to keep you awake at night, thoughts about shaping or surfing?
Dane: I still have dreams where I’m trying to make it to my heat and I’m stuck in traffic or people keep stalling me out or keeping me places while I know my heat’s coming up. Or I’m in a heat and can’t surf, like my legs won’t move and I need a score or I’m getting chased by a shark and also trying to surf a heat.

There’s the old Terry Fitz piece of advice that until you’re a a very good surfer, you should build your style around your boards, not your boards around your style. Should an average cat worry about his boards or just get something that sorta fits and work it?
Dane: I’d say, consider the waves you surf when choosing a board. Point breaks you want something that glides. If you live in Hawaii you want something that harnesses speed. If you live in Florida you want something that generates speed. Then have your friend or girlfriend film you and if it’s shocking or embarrassing, reassess your equipment and approach. Ha!

(Editor’s note: A longer version of this story first appeared in Surfing Life‘s surfboard issue, number 338. Buy it or subscribe here.)


Fashion: “I like women’s butts too!”

"I’m a feminist, bisexual, hippy, traveler."

This is the giving season and ain’t that grand? One moment of the year when we think of our loved ones before we think of ourselves. And what did you buy for your loved one? Some jewels? Chocolate? Did you ever think about buying her a bikini that promises not to come off in heavy water? I stumbled across the Surf Worthy campaign a month ago now and it make me click because the company promised a revolution in the surf bikini. Then I emailed owner George Pixie (who is a woman) because I was curious.

And you may think this is outside of BeachGrit‘s typical piece but wait until you get to the end and George thanks God for BeachGrit. Then you’ll feel all anti-depressive and buy a bikini. Win-win!

What is wrong with women’s swimsuits?

I fully got into my surfing when I lived in Indo for 7 years, working as a Dive Instructor. The challenge of the Indo waves really pushed me to be a better surfer. But back in 2004, even with all the major surf brands in Bali, the only bikini I could find for surfing was an itty-bitty string pieces of cloth, that ripped off your boobs or exposed your arse on the first duck dive or wipe out.

Here I was trying to face big, heavy waves as a new surfer, I had enough challenges without needing to fu*king re-dress myself every 5 minutes. It was enough frustration to make me source out a factory and give them patterns for my idea of the best stay-on bikini. 

What did you do right?

After wearing this sample my first surf session it was a total game changer. I no longer had to think about what I was wearing and could just concentrate on the waves. Then to wear it on the live-aboard diving boats under my wetsuit, I would dive 4 times a day, ripping off the suit every time I got back on the boat. Mine was the only bikini staying in place. It made changing and drying and much quicker experience, as well as the comfort of it not shifting under my suit. Then I realized it was an all seasons bikini.

I was receiving as much attention from women dive colleagues and guests, as I was from women surfers. They wanted to know where they could buy the stay put bikini I was wearing! It was this point that I thought, OK there is a real need for this, maybe I should make a business.

Unfortunately, money wise, I hadn’t a pot to piss in at this point, and it took me 7 years work and travel to raise enough funds to make my first collection.

In those years, a lot of new women’s brands hit the scene with more durable surf bikinis, but still none as good as ours. Our tops have thicker straps and a wide under-breast support band, they are still the sleekest and most secure I have ever seen. We recently had our design tested by big wave surfer, Brittany Gomulka in Waimea Bay, who said our bikini “stayed on like no other”.
And no-one is producing anything as secure as our bikini shorts, that tie tightly, fully around the waist, and have a proper crotch lining that doesn’t reveal the anatomy of your vagina to the world, ( no camel toe).

Maybe I’m getting old, but a lot of our loyal ambassadors and customers around the world are the kind of women who surf every day, or as much as they can. When you’re surfing that much, you want to feel comfy and have flexibility with your clothing to move. Not every woman wants to wear a g-string bikini pant.

It’s hard enough as a woman to be taken seriously out in the line-up, I paddle out on the defensive sometimes feeling a need to prove myself, especially in crowds. So in that frame of mind, I don’t want to be feeling that way with half my ass in a dude’s face. But these are 90% of the pictures you see on social media, surf women’s butts. It’s fine, I like looking at women’s butts too. Those bikinis are just not my style. Plus – butt cheek board rash? No thanks.

I’m not a prude, I love surfing naked when I get the rare opportunity, (and not at risk from being arrested). But that’s the difference between naturism and voyeurism. I’m more naturist.

How tough is it to be in the women’s surf business? To deal with the hideous surf media?

If I was a guy launching this new cut of boardies for men to wear, maybe we would have seen my design on Magic Seaweed by now, or someone would have picked up on it. (We wrote to everyone including MSW.)

But that’s the challenge, the surf media is still very much run by men who want to write about men.

It has been hard enough to get our company off the ground with virtually no cash. Then you’re bringing out a bikini not deemed as sexy as others, because we won’t compromise over functionality. So I think even women surfers can be hesitant as image consciousness is such a big deal. But they are flattering, and just the best feeling to surf in. The problem is getting women in them in the first place, to see how good they feel. And that means publicity.

I thought, OK, we have a collection of earth-conscious, sustainable bikinis, featuring art by women surf artists in our community. And a new design of boardies never-seen-before. We’re trying some new stuff, we’re taking it back to grassroots, our designs are made durable to last 1000s of bashings and not fall apart after one season, the designs are rad. Getting a few women’s surf mags to write about them would be the easy bit! Hahahahahaha.

Absolutely no solidarity coming from the women surf magazine world. I’ve become bitter about it. As every one of them has just ignored us. Not even a reply e-mail saying, “no, sorry, it’s not really our thing”, just nothing!

Are we that much of a threat to the advertising sponsorship they get from the big brands?! Is it because we talk publicly about fair wages? Fuck knows, they won’t tell us.

Maybe soul surfers are a dying breed? Maybe surfers today no longer fit my ideal, that we are – separating ourselves from the bullshit big corps and dumb patriots that fuck the world up.

It’s getting harder to see this kind of human out in the line-up.

For me, surfing is about respecting other people out there, a tribe of non-conformists who want to feel the power of mother-nature, as raw, spiritual energy. It’s no boarders.

I look at surfing as an artform. I’m inspired to create something worthy of real female surfers, something they can be proud of wearing, and that works properly to rip it up in the waves. That’s why we’re Surf Worthy.

But I’m not seeing any of that in the women’s surf media world. Surf media seems to be driven by world ranking numbers and sponsorship deals. Not real life surfers.
I look at a recent women’s surf magazine online, one of the big ones, I find a feature.. “how to make a sea shell mirror”.

I’m a feminist, bisexual, hippy, traveler who’s hustled my way around the world doing every immigrant, badly paid job going, anything I could find to keep surfing. Pot-washing in France, farm work in Oz, cleaning houses in Cali, anything to keep travelling and surfing. What the fuck do I want to do with a seashell mirror?

I’m lucky enough to have had a mattress to sleep on the last 15 years!

Not to mention that taking shells from the beach is ruining coastlines, and fucking up the status quo of the food chain in the ocean. It’s like they are trying to pretend they are still a bit hippy, but they haven’t got a fu*king clue.

So yes, the surf media doesn’t appear to relate to all kinds of surfers, especially non-wealthy ones. If they can’t see what we’re trying to do for the world and for women surfers, is worth a few measly lines, then fine! Fuck them. At least BeachGrit gave us a chance, thank God you guys are alternative.

Thank God is right. Wanna buy for a loved one? Link here!


WSL ambassador of stoke and leisure seen lounging not on the North Shore.

Missing: WSL ambassador of S & L!

These are dangerous political times.

We live in the most fraught political times with coups and rumors of coups reverberating around the globe. Prime ministers issues veiled disappointment missives to presidents. Supreme leaders building intercontinental ballistic missiles. Ambassadors stabbing in the back and getting stabbed in the back. Ambassadors getting disappeared.

And you recall when the World Surf League scoured the United States, western Europe and Australia for their ambassadorship just a few months ago. A man by the name of Zach Brown rose to the top of a unicolored field and was declared victor. He would be flown to Hawaii and become a bridge, if you will, between the powers and the people. Our ambassador of stoke and leisure.

Except it appears he has gone missing.

The World Surf League website has no stories from him and he appears nowhere as if scrubbed by Stalin’s archivists. The World Surf League instagram account has videos from Renato H. and Kolohe A. but nothing but nothing from their ambassador and not even anything from their lieutenant ambassador. The World Surf League broadcast has been taken off air the last four days.

And I am now worried for Zach Brown. Oahu’s North Shore is a violent, mad place where asymmetrical retaliation is the only rule. Could Zach have not removed slippahs prior to entry to the Oakley House? Might he now be pushing up pineapples, as they say?

Or maybe Zach returned a shaka with a shaka when he should have used a diminutive open-handed wave while keeping his eyes down instead? Could he now be wearing coral boots, as they say?

I don’t know. I just don’t know. Zach? If you are reading this please let us all know in the comments.

I’m worried.


My life? It isn’t easy to explain. It has not been the rip-roaring spectacular I fancied it would be, but neither have I burrowed around with the sand crabs.

“My life resembles an off-the-rack Tomo!”

Wild fluctuations, more ups than downs, gradually trending toward a major crash at some point… 

The sun has come up and I am sitting by a beach that is foggy with the breath of a life gone by. I’m a sight this morning: an Independent Surf Co. wetsuit pulled down to my waist, an old cable knit Etro sweater that I’m dreading to take off. It still amazes me that I haven’t been warm since George W. Bush was president. I wonder if this is how it is for everyone my age.

A Mayhem Short Round 5’9” 20” x 2.38 carrying some 30.71 liters rests at my feet.

My life? It isn’t easy to explain.

It has not been the rip-roaring spectacular I fancied it would be, but neither have I burrowed around with the sand crabs. I suppose it has most resembled a brand new off the rack Tomo: wild fluctuations, more ups than downs, and gradually trending toward a major crash at some point sooner than later. A risky buy, a potentially disastrous buy, and I’ve learned that not everyone can say this about his life. But I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.

The romantics would call this a love story, the cynics would call it a tragedy. In my mind it’s a little bit of both, and no matter how you choose to view it in the end, it does not change the fact that it involves a great deal of my life and the path I’ve chosen to follow. I have no complaints about my path and the places it has taken me; enough complaints to fill a circus tent about other things, maybe, but the path I’ve chosen has always been the right one, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Love. 

I was ten when the emotion climbed through my window and made a birdhouse in my soul. Sleeping on the floor in my cousin’s San Diego home wrapped tight in a blanket, the morning light had started to shine and fell upon a rocket ship propped in the corner.

A rainbow thruster with the words Hawaiian Island Creations written in a bubbly font down the centre. Two fins on the bottom. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. It was magnificent.

I have no complaints about my path and the places it has taken me; enough complaints to fill a circus tent about other things, maybe, but the path I’ve chosen has always been the right one, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Later that day we went to the beach and Hawaiian Island Creations came with us, its round rail bumping my shoulder when we went around corners. My cousin asked if I wanted to try it and I did very much. I picked it up gently and carried it toward the whitewash. I can’t recall much about the actual surf experience but I remember carrying the board with all clarity. It made me someone and I would need one for the rest of my life.

Since I lived in coastal Oregon, I realised the odds, and science, were against me. There was so surf shop in my hometown. No surfer that I was aware of. But science is not the total answer; this I know, this I have learned in my lifetime. And that leaves me with the belief that miracles, no matter how inexplicable or unbelievable, are real and can occur without regard to the natural order of things.

My cousin gave me Hawaiian Island Creation when we left because it was my birthday and I couldn’t not believe it. The greatest gift of my entire life. I was a surfer but more importantly I had a surfboard.

I cherished it for three years, carefully taking the wax off with some citrus scented spray and reapplying in slow circles until I started to read surf magazines as well and recognised that my Hawaiian Island Creation came from the early 1980s and it was now the early 1990s. Kelly Slater and his Momentum crew were the happening thing and their rocket ships looked different than mine. Pure white, as thin as a razor and with enough rocker to make them appear like Oriental shoes.

At night I would dream of nothing else and then my birthday found me, once again, in San Diego and I was gifted a 6’4″, 17” pure white Nev with a nose pointed toward the sun and a tail that did too. I wanted to hug it except pressure dings were a real and present danger so I wrapped it in a blanket for the ride back to coastal Oregon and made sure my aggressively clumsy older sister and vicious younger brother not so much as looked at it. It was exactly perfect. It gave my heart momentum and while utterly impractical for the freezing cold, dumpy coastal Oregon surf I did not care. How could I care? Is love ever practical? No. Never. That is one of its true beauties and so I would bob in the freezing cold dumps on my potato chip and waste precious time not learning to surf well so I could feel inspired.

Time yellows all things and I moved from Nev to some retro single fin, quite by accident, to college in Southern California and a custom shaped, epoxy Rockin Fig from Huntington Beach, California.

Is love ever practical? No. Never. That is one of its true beauties and so I would bob in the freezing cold dumps on my potato chip and waste precious time not learning to surf well so I could feel inspired.

There I stood in the office explaining to the shaper what I wanted, which was again very thin and very pointy. A thruster because quads were not a thing yet. With epoxy because it could be even thinner and pointer that way. I wanted it as thin and pointy and light as possible and I’m sure the shaper looked at me confused but I was paying for it, full price, and I am certain he could tell that subtle mistakes would not be noticed.

I waited patiently for a month, two even. Counting the hours. Counting the minutes. Until one day my phone rang and the words carried me straight to Mount Olympus.

“It’s ready.”

Begging a ride down to Huntington Beach, I strode breathless into the shop and there it was. Waiting. Made by the hand of God for me and me alone. With me in mind. My specifications. There was none like it on the face of the earth and the handpicked Rockin Fig logo, an angry pirate skull with crossed sabres underneath and mine alone. I picked it up. It was as thin as a Pringle and as light as canned air.

Oh how I thrilled and surfed every moment that I could, cutting class, coming back late, going at the crack of dawn. Me n Rockin Fig together forever. Oh sure the board hampered my learning even more than Nev had but what did I care? Epoxy was the future and I was riding it like a carpet. Or at least riding it like a carpet when I could muscle the canned air over the falls and into a wave.

It was a beautiful board. A work of art and I would have it to this day except I don’t. It became a relic somewhere along the way and I began traveling the world. Not for surf but for adventure. First a semester in Egypt, then a return trip which was supposed to take me and two wonderful friends from Egypt to Jordan to Syria to Jordan to Israel to Jordan to Egypt since crossing into Israel from any country other than Jordan was not possible in those days.

Except I fell ill in Aqaba, Jordan, the town taken from the rear by the great Lawrence of Arabia, and spent the week hooked up to an IV in a very white hospital. White like Nev and like Rockin Fig and I began to lust for surf once again.

Soon after graduation the twin towers in New York City fell it was time to put everything together. My friends and I devised a plan to surf where no one had ever surfed before. Yemen. Where Osama Bin Laden had devised a plan to fall the twin towers in New York City. We planned and planned and a few noble souls even stepped up in order to provide tools for our trip, among them the great John Carper. He gifted each of us two boards and I couldn’t begin to believe it. I was sponsored! A sponsored surfer!

We went to his Costa Mesa warehouse and I picked my two off the rack. One flatter, wider and shorter than anything I had ever ridden. The other traditionally me. 6’2” 18.5” x 2.35”. I spent the night before we left carefully affixing a giant Che Guevara sticker near its nose.

And we traversed every inch of Yemen over three long months. The boards were, of course, admired everywhere we went. No white people had ever dawned certain of the country’s most remote corners much less surfboards and the fishermen ooh’d and ahh’d at their potential.

The trip changed my life and now I am a professional surf journalist and now I have many surfboards but walking into a warehouse with blanks stacked up to the sky and getting to pull and new board off a rack has never lost its charm. I am foolish, an old man in love, a dreamer who dreams of nothing but holding surfboards whenever I can. I am a sinner with many faults and a man who believes in magic, but I am too old to change and too old to care.


Reckoning: “You’re all fucktards!”

Will the cultural reckoning ever reach surf?

I wanted to write about Pipeline this morning but it didn’t run again which left me perusing the news whilst nibbling a piece of avocado toast. I read about documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock outing himself as a possible rapist and philanderer. I read how Texan Republican representative Blake Farenthold abused his staff by calling them “fucktards.” He will now have to step down and probably enter some sort of program.

And I wondered if any actors, politicians, musicians, public personalities quietly frequent surf comment forums?

Like, “fucktard” doesn’t even get you in most doors. Maybe at The Inertia if anyone commented there but nowhere else. And I continued to wonder if the current cultural reckoning will ever come to surf or do you think it will run out of steam at, say, the National Hockey League?

Is our little world too nasty, too corrupt, to rude, demeaning, ugly for anyone to even start #metoo-ing? The fact that The Inertia hasn’t written a major expose on surf complicity is just shocking. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe they are also complicit. I couldn’t tell because when I tried to visit that website just now it wouldn’t load.

So long net neutrality!

(I read about that too and know lots of people are crying about it but can’t get out of my heat that if it’s bad for The Inertia then it’s good for me!)