Vans signs Dane Reynolds

Dane Reynolds just signed to Vans. What are they expecting from him? Joli

26-year-old Dane Reynolds from Ventura, Calif., signed to Vans shoes this week. With Reynolds locked into lucrative contracts with Quiksilver and Channel Islands, the fact that an A-list surfed decided to switch his kicks from DC to Vans wouldn't normally be a big deal. However, considering Reynolds considerable influence on -- and indifference toward -- the ASP World Tour, as well as his curious forays into more creative expression -- it does beg the question: which Dane is Vans getting? Is it the one who could win a world title but doesn't appear to want it, or the one who doodles on his shoes?

"Whether Dane decides to compete or doesn't decide to compete, he's going to have full support of the Vans team," said Vans Vice President of Marketing, Doug Palladini.

This announcement comes after a period when Reynolds has been very quiet. He injured his knee surfing in Hawaii last December. Surgery and a long recovery period would follow, but before that, Reynolds cemented his position as one of the most exciting surfers in the world with a semifinal finish at the Billabong Pipeline Masters.

Reynolds had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus on January 17 of this year. He pulled out of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. His much-anticipated return to competition came at the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro in May. And while he electrified the crowd with a frontside inverted slob air-reverse in round one, he exited in round two with a 2.70 heat total. Later, his manager revealed he worked the knee too hard before and during the contest, forcing Reynolds to pull out of the Billabong Pro Rio.

Reynolds, never one to show much excitement for anything industry-related, does seem genuinely positive about the partnership with Vans.

"I really dig the team and have pretty much been wearing the shoes anyway (despite obligations) my whole life," he said, "I was really into skateboarding when I was young. Skateboarding seems to be more influenced by culture. It seems like there are a lot more interesting characters in skateboarding. It's cool how (skate companies) build their teams off characters. Vans has got, in my opinion, a cool vibe going on with their team."

According to Palladini, the traditional formula for a pro surfer is an athlete focused on winning a world title. But that is not a prerequisite for the Van's surf team. He points to their longtime team riders, Joel Tudor and Nathan Fletcher, as individuals in the surfing world.

"Dane is the exact embodiment of that ethos. You have to have your own view of what surfing should be. When he's not on a surfboard, he's a pretty darn creative guy. We embrace art, music, and street culture and we have a history in and passion for action sport."

There's also a bottom line to think about. Palladini notes that there aren't a lot of surfers who move the dial on product sales like Reynolds. The Dumpster Diver, Reynolds' signature model, accounted for 20 percent of all boards sold at Channel Islands in 2010. Vans has been a major player in skateboarding since the 1970s, and Palladini hopes this move elevates their surf brand a similar direction.

Vans is the sponsor of the Triple Crown of Surfing. In the past several years, the company has made a push to build a more high profile surf team that includes Tanner, Dane, and Patrick Gudauskas, as well as Dylan Graves and John John Florence.

Reynolds is in the water and looking back to his old form. The knee has now had over five months to heal. The next ASP World Tour event is the Billabong Pro South Africa July 14-24. In 2009, Reynolds took third here, but also admitted he considered riding a fish in his heat.

Let the doodling begin.