Interview by Alexei Obolensky | Lifestyle photography by Andrew Schoener | Surf photography by Nate Lawrence
This interview was originally published in Volume IX, July 2021.
If you are anything like us, you will have grown up on a heavy diet of Dane. First Chapter. Marine Layer. Modern Collective. Young Guns 2. Jesus, even Young Guns 3.
Wanna go more niche? Tomorrow Today, Days of the Strange! Dane’s surfing set to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was the psyche up of our collective adolescence and if it wasn’t yours too, well, we’re not sure we can help you. Sorry.
Dane’s easygoing demeanour and regular guy vibe captured the heart of surfing and had us eating whatever Ventura’s finest was cooking. Remember the red and blue striped Quik boardshorts? Those straight airs in Mexico on the Dumpster Diver? The brief but glorious CT foray? An anecdote. France, 2012 is still seared in my mind, as I, a severely hungover intern clutching two warm (red label) Kronenbourgs watched Dane thread nasty looking La Graviere before last light to the tune of a perfect 10. Now I would never dream of drinking warm red label Kronenbourg.
Oh, the boards alone! Protons that looked a little too long, user-friendly Dumpster Divers and chopped down Neckbeards. Dane made it all look effortless and by god did we, the surfing masses, gobble it down with an insatiable appetite, only stopping to wipe our mouths with a Summer Teeth t-shirt to ask, “What’s next?”
Well, as it turns out, plenty. A very public split from long-time sponsor and the ensuing video, Chapter 11, where Dane gave his two cents on just about everything, and the surfing community watched with jaws ajar. He was only getting started. Then came the launch of Former with friends Craig, Austyn and Dylan, representing a paradigm shift in surfing apparel. Now with Former, Chapter 11 TV championing the best of Ventura’s upcoming and a young family at home, it’s safe to say Mr Reynolds has found his place and his purpose. And yet the surfing world still gathers for more crumbs off the table. We have a feeling he ain’t done just yet…
Now, there’s nothing we value more than strength in alliance and with a little something in the works for this summer with WT and Former, as well as a spicy little CI launch, we thought there was no better time to jump on a call from the balcony during a lazy afternoon at Stab High up to Ventura with the man himself and get the full shimmy.
Dane! What’s happening!
What’s happening! Just running some errands and stuff, getting ready to head to Costa Rica tomorrow. Bummed to have missed you guys. You had a good trip? I remember Hermosa gets pretty good but you need the sand to align for it and it fires!
It’s been fun! Guys have been throwing it down and out here with Eithan (Osborne) and Micky (Clarke) flying the flag from Ventura and with Kaito (Ohashi) now on Former it’s a tight little crew!
You boys have lucked out! That’s epic. I’m stoked to get down there. Sadly I’m only going for a week or so to Playa Negra. I’m a little hesitant about Costa Rica as I’ve had ok waves there before but nothing crazy. But as Kaito is already there I’m excited to link up with him and get some footage.
Have you been on a trip with him before?
He’s the best guy going! A total lord.
That’s all I’ve heard. Everyone says the same. Sick.
So what have you been up to the past few months?
Oh man. Fossilising. The surf here in California has been so bleak; I’m so excited to get back on the road. I still surf at home pretty much every day but just an hour in the afternoon, and it doesn’t feel like it’s really cutting it. I’m just jumping at any opportunity to get on the road now.
Walk us through your day to day in Ventura.
If the surf isn’t good, which is most of the time, then I’ll wake up around 6.30 / 7, maybe watch some cartoons with the kids, drink coffee and get my eldest to kindergarten by 8. Then I’ll either go into Ventura to surf, or if it’s flat or better in the afternoon, I’ll just work on surf video stuff. I have like a gamut of shit that I put off when there’s good waves and then I’ll try and tap into it when it’s flat. There’s so much Former stuff going on, as well as Chapter 11, plus Vans projects. My wife works from home as well so I can watch the girls if she has more on than I do—it depends whose list is longer… Then I’ll typically surf in the afternoon, chill with the kids in the evening, and that’s me!
I mean with everything that you have going on with Former and having a family, was it nice to be at home for a bit and reset?
I would say under other circumstances, yes. I do enjoy being at home with the family and the lifestyle in California is great but I just love surfing too much. I go a little crazy if I don’t surf. If the waves are good in California which is feeling like it’s exceedingly rare, I make that my single priority to surf but for weeks on end it’s just little grovels every afternoon. It’s not inspiring, it doesn’t cut it for me. It’s just exercise to keep it all moving. It gets a little bleak…
Surfing for me is my favourite activity. It’s my creative outlet. It keeps your body moving, and you get to chill in nature. It keeps me feeling good but I’m in a bit of a rut now. I went to Mexico a few weeks back on a Stab trip which was really cool. It was a nice change of pace.
Where are the places you are most amped to go to now the world is slowly opening up again?
I feel this urgency to get to Indo. From what it sounds like, most of the world can’t travel there but there’s a few loopholes to get in from the US. Supposedly it’s pretty empty in most zones there right now although Eithan just went to Bali and said it was pretty blown out… Other than that, all the usual—I have a list of my favourite spots to go: Puerto Rico, South Africa, Portugal, Japan. I would love to make it back to Japan for Typhoon season. Especially now with Kaito onboard with Former, it makes total sense.
“I know I have to do it but I really hate the pressure of social media to promote myself—I prefer the old system. I’m glad that I grew up in the era I did. I would be very confused now as a young adult as to how to navigate that.”
So bringing this back home, talk us through the scene in Ventura right now with Micky and Eithan coming up in the ranks, I guess you could say under your wings?
I just trip out that my predecessors in the Ventura surf scene were able to make a decent career from surfing and there was this whole system that worked, with magazines and sponsors and then that system just evaporated. It seems like now there’s only support for the top tier guys; by the time you’re 22 you are either John John or Noa or you’re nowhere. There’s only two routes to go with surfing and it’s either Youtube vlog kinda stuff, or it’s contests, and it just feels like there’s not much other support out there for the upcoming generation.
Enter Chapter 11 TV?
I started Chapter 11 TV to create, I guess, a platform that in some way supports surfers that I like to surf with. I feel that it’s all about context, talent will only go so far so it’s important to find your place in surfing, your purpose. I like surfing with Micky and Eithan, I like telling stories with them and finding the ironies of day to day life with them.
Former is such a small company. My dream is to sponsor people but for right now it makes more sense to give these guys a platform in the hope that other sponsors will see the value of that, whilst Former bubbles away in the background. Making surf videos and storytelling is my favourite outlet of surfing, the best thing I can create, so if that also gives these younger guys a platform then I’m stoked.
Would you say you feel a sense of responsibility there for das Ventura youth?
No, not really. I was the one hiring filmers anyway for me, so surfing with them more and more, it really happened naturally. My goal was just to build something cool enough that everyone that I’m surfing with wants to be involved. I don’t really feel any responsibility—I just wanted to do a cool project.
We’re out here in Costa Rica right now with Micky Clark and he said that he had never done a magazine trip before which really spun me out as he is that good at surfing. I was baffled.
That’s exactly to my point, I miss the magazine trip days! It’s rad that Stab are doing that and had Micky along. Damn, I hope he takes that thing out!
Do you feel surfing is in a good place right now?
Ahhhhhhhh. No, no it’s not. The industry is changing so much. I feel it’s moving away from surf stores and what’s core and the whole system is just upside down. Maybe I don’t pay attention to the right stuff but there is so much kooky shit out there. I miss the days where Taylor Steele put together trips and the magazines financed them and then you would come home and two months later, your photos would be in the magazine, you would have exposure and purpose and then your sponsors would be happy. I feel it was a much more tangible system. I know I have to do it but I really hate the pressure of social media to promote myself—I prefer the old system. I’m glad that I grew up in the era I did. I would be very confused now as a young adult as to how to navigate that.
Do you think the industry being like it is creates more opportunity? Say, under the old system would there even be a Former?
I mean, I don’t think there would be a Former in that case but I feel that as the bigger brands move away from core surf stores and extinguish their surf teams, there is opportunity for us to grow in that space and have marketing budgets, support surfers and skaters that we back and all that stuff.
It’s nice now we have the team and the support to grow and it’s not just Craig, Austyn and myself running everything as that’s pretty loose! Oddly, with Covid there are a few industry veterans that have seen the opportunity for Former and are helping us out. It’s nice to work with people that think rationally and logically, unlike us. We were running the whole thing pretty rogue.
What’s the most rewarding part of running Former?
Learning. Learning for sure. Also, working with my friends every day. Now it feels amazing as well seeing strategy and structure being implemented and where that will take us in the future. But actually, the coolest part is seeing kids wearing it; that gets me really hyped.
How is it being the co-owner of a skate brand as well, as there’s two very core facets operating simultaneously?
When we started as a group of friends with Austyn and Dylan having so much cultural cache in skate and Craig and I on the surf side, we thought we had it pretty covered. But at the beginning, we had skate shops that would say, “We don’t stock surf brands” and Surf shops that would say, “We don’t stock skate brands” so the two would kinda cancel each other out, because you had to identify as either a surf or a skate brand. It takes time for people to get used to things, but they wrap their head around it eventually.
How would you describe your exact role in the business?
Mainly working on big picture stuff with Austyn and our team. We have a couple of graphic designers that we work with, getting ahead on stuff and the look and feel of future ranges. I mean, I ran it out of my garage for 18 months, then Austyn ran it out of his garage for 18 months, so now with a team it’s getting a lot easier. Myself, Austyn and Craig are getting out of the day to day customer service and shipping and going to focus on what we are good at: surfing, skating and I guess guiding the brand along to be what we want it to be.
What’s your vision for the surf side of it?
I just want to keep making films and grow it to be point where we can sponsor kids that we see potential in and sort of guide the future generation through taking them on trips and all that stuff. I see so many good surfers and skaters out there now. I’m working with this really good surfer and skater at the moment, so I’d love to see surf and skate coming closer together. Blend them together. I like the fraternity of the two cultures. Culture will always guide the scenes better than industry.
We know you’re an avid watcher of surf films, what have you seen recently that impressed you?
I really appreciate storytelling. I feel surf videos have kind of turned into promo pieces. But sometimes I guess good surfing and good music is hard to beat. I like Jay’s film as he surfs amazing. Wade’s film Pentacoastal was insane. Mikey’s Sonic Souvenirs was amazing, his surfing is unreal and the whole thing had a great feel to it, the whole second aspect of the music was super interesting.
How’s your relationship with M Feb?
I knew him for ages through Vans stuff but only recently went on a trip with him to Mexico. He’s a super nice guy and an amazing surfer. On a thruster he surfs sick but seeing him on those C.I twin pins it seems really suited to his surfing. He’s part of that incredible breed of gentle South Africans, like Brendon Gibbens. The nicest dudes ever.
Talk us through this C.I board then? Looks pretty spicy…
So last year we did this square nose board and we both agreed it was horrific-looking but the rocker outline was amazing. So we ended up redoing the nose and I had this idea of doing a twin but with baby trailer fins so it’s kind of in between a quad and a twin fin. It’s got a pretty curvy rocker and a pretty straight rail line. It’s been going pretty sick!
You seem like a person that’s very involved with their surfboards…
For sure, I mean, I guess it’s a constant and natural progression. I don’t really release models all that often so it’s mainly when I get something in my head and usually then it fails or it’s bad so then we try and make it good! When you surf a lot you start looking for a different feeling every once in while; you get on a different tangent and end up with different boards. That’s usually where it starts.
“Oh dude, I have no advice because I’m struggling with it. I’m so disorganised. I’ll have 10 things I need to do with different levels of urgency the entire time. Former need IG content, Chapter 11 needs a new edit, CI need direction and art for the new Former board. I’ll chip away at one, then change to the other and go nowhere. All those open tabs and half-written emails.
I need advice, I can’t give advice!”
What do you think about surfers like Droid, shaping and riding their own boards?
It’s cool, I mean Droid has hand-shaped over1000 boards which is insane. I keep trying to get him to get scan in his favourites so he doesn’t have to hand shape them the whole time but he’s so good with the tools I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s cool, it’s fun to get in the shaping room and get your hands dirty. You learn a lot about boards too.
Do you find the balance hard juggling being a full time dad, a surfer, running a brand and a platform?
Yes, I do. It’s really hard man. All I really want to do is surf all day!
Oh dude, I have no advice because I’m struggling with it. I’m so disorganised. I’ll have 10 things I need to do with different levels of urgency the entire time. Former need IG content, Chapter 11 needs a new edit, CI need direction and art for the new Former board. I’ll chip away at one, then change to the other and go nowhere. All those open tabs and half-written emails.
I need advice, I can’t give advice!