"He's the face of a new era," surfer Kelly Slater opines of fellow tube-rider Dane Reynolds. "He thinks outside of the box and has a unique approach where he sees the wave differently." One of the ways to understand just how differently the 23-year-old Reynolds sees waves-and the act of riding them-is to consider the fact that for a guy who makes his living on the water, he spends a lot of time in the air. His athletic, acrobatic free-surf style is punctuated by unearthly aerial maneuvers and cartoonish twists and turns, running counter to the straight-ahead, power mode that seems to dominate the professional circuit today. That and the fact that, for an athlete who could revolutionize his sport, he hasn't won all that many competitions. But in Reynolds's view, it really isn't whether you win or lose, but rather what you do when you're confronted with a break. Early on, he demonstrated an affinity for surfers who don't just ride waves, but instead treat them like temperamental dance partners, reacting to their every movement with strength and grace, choreographing a kind of board-bound aquatic ballet on the fly. "I think competitive surfing is totally boring," says Reynolds, a Ventura, California, native who grew up negotiating the point breaks around Santa Barbara. "I would watch surf videos all day, and I had these favorites that I would try to emulate," he explains, rattling off a list of past and current surf greats that includes Tom Curren, Taylor Knox, Taj Burrow, Bruce Irons, and Ozzie Wright (his nominator, Slater, makes it in there, too). "They all would fall a lot and derail occasionally, but I thought what they did was sort of interesting, because you never knew what was going to happen. They could get 10-foot air, or they could just bog around. I just liked the surprise factor."
Last year, Reynolds's first on the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Tour, he earned rookie-of-the-year honors. He even got to surf in Iceland. "The trip was kind of crazy because, well, it wasn't a blizzard, but there was sort of a snowstorm," Reynolds says. "But we rode some waves that I don't think anybody's surfed before, and that was cool. Throwing on a wet suit in the snow is quite an experience."
Above | Dane Reynolds in Ventura, California, February 2009. All clothing: Quiksilver. Fragrance: QuikSilver. | Styling: Lysa Cooper/Brydges Mackinney.