Some artists will tell you that inspiration comes in waves. For the surfer, this truth is both literal and figurative: smaller waves are rough drafts, sketches, unreleased demos. The fabled “perfect wave” is not an Everest awaiting a flag, but a high — a tip-of-the-tongue, wordless inspiration, sublimity in the raw, clay in the sculptor’s hands.
But ask anyone outside of the surf world about surfing, and most will associate it with the X Games, Billabong, and maybe the Beach Boys. There’s a clear split, both here and within the surf world itself; to many surfers, going pro and entering the competitive circuit is as contentious as an indie musician signing to a major label. And conversely, so is leaving it.
Dane Reynolds, the subject of Desillusion Magazine‘s short film, sparked controversy in 2012 when he dropped out of competitive surfing. Detractors claimed that he had wasted the opportunity the surf industry had given him. This Is Dane Reynolds follows Reynolds as he retreats from the image-driven world of pro surfing and seeks to rediscover his inspiration. The term “free surfer” refers to a surfer who works outside of the competitive circuit; watching Dane ride a wave in silhouette, amid a dozen other anonymous paddlers, it takes on a new meaning.