The Hype

I try not to buy into hype. And Dane Reynolds’ hype certainly precedes him. But as a fan, and as a Californian, I’ve never been so excited for an upcoming WCT season. Between the rookie Reynolds, the resurgent Reyes, the always-dangerous Martinez, the ageless Knox (in perhaps the best form of his career) and Wardo’s free surfing skills now translating better in competition, Californians actually have a reason to tune into the WCT again. Is there a world champion among them? Maybe, maybe not, but at the very least they’re in the chase. However, make no mistake about it, as 2008 opens on the high stakes, jet-setting circus that is the World Tour there’s no headline drawing more interest than the rookie season of Dane Reynolds. 
There have been very few, if any, debuts in our sport as anticipated, and likely to be as scrutinized, as Dane Reynolds joining the WCT. Blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard it all before, right? Like I said, his hype precedes him. But what he and his seven figure, South African counterpart Jordy Smith represent is change. That’s only if, and it’s a huge if, they perform. And even if they do perform, is the system set up for them to succeed?  
I’m just one conscientious observer, but the ASP has its problems. How is it that with current swell forecasting technology contests still run in the conditions that the Trestles, Mundaka and Pipe events were held in this year?  You can’t force nature’s hand, but these are the world’s best surfers, forced to compete in conditions most of the local surfers at these spots would shake their heads at. I mean, let’s be serious, isn’t that what the WQS is for? The crown jewels of the Dream Tour, even more so than the surfers on it, are the waves where the events are held – the best in the world. So why negate the prospect of the best surfers in the world surfing the world’s best waves by running the events in sub standard conditions? Doesn’t make sense. 
In 2005 the ASP did take a huge step forward though, reformatting its judging criteria to better reflect the progression of surfing. A move Shane Beschen lobbied for back in the 90s. And to think, it only took the ASP 10-plus years to catch on. Glad to see those guys are really taking that “why do today what you can put off until tomorrow” motto to heart. Yet, in spite of the ASP’s flaws, surfing finds itself once again on the cusp of a generational transition. 
The skill set of a Reynolds and Smith, a balanced compliment of on-rail power, aerial creativity and seamless transitions, better arm them for success in the new system than surfers seven to ten years older. That kind of progress, the type that characterizes Dane and Jordy, is only natural. The inevitable turnover it will cause is nothing more than a changing of the guard. In the next five years, the average age on tour will drop significantly and the standard of what it takes to surf on the World Tour will, once again, be challenged. 
Reynolds and Smith, however, have already changed competitive surfing – forced kids to rethink their heat approaches, made judges reconsider the value of a standard three-to-the-beach. Without ever having surfed a heat as a member of the WCT, they’re already affecting the generation who will someday supplant them. It’s not a question of if Dane and Jordy will change surfing. That they’ve done. What we’re all waiting to see is how much they’ll change it. Only time will tell, and the clock starts ticking for both on February 23rd. 

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