How A Useless Glass Door In A Mexican Palapa Almost Killed Dane Reynolds - Stab Mag

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How A Useless Glass Door In A Mexican Palapa Almost Killed Dane Reynolds

The harrowing story amidst CH11 TV’s new film, “Out Of The Rafters.”

cinema // Jul 18, 2023
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Few things will lure me from my self-imposed hermitage of surf and tranquility on the Central Coast of California. A Dane Reynolds motion picture premiere is one of them.

Some moons ago, my enviably unemployed friend returned from a month in Barra De La Cruz with tales of well placed sand and… Dane Reynolds wearing a neon swim cap in the tube?

Over the following weeks, photos and poached iPhone clips of the strange headwear began filtering into my DM’s and Slack threads. 

Come mid-June, Dane announced he and the CHAPTER 11 crew would be premiering their new film, titled “Out Of The Rafters”, at their store in downtown Ventura — swim cap footage included.

With a hankering for a new Dane creation, I rolled into the open road and wound south along Hwy 1, full of the inspired curiosity only sealtooth can cultivate. After whistling through the throes of Nipomo agriculture and past advertisements for Buelton’s famous Pea Soup, I burst into the Gaviota coastline. With the sun dousing itself behind Point Conception and the wind whistling, I gunned it into the urban labyrinth.

Arriving in Ventura from the north betrays a much more significant context change than to arrive from LA. As Santa Barbara county fades, so too do the rolling mountains and windswept wildflowers. Greens and yellows transform into the brambly browns of an arid basin. Deep within me, the urge to don a colorful wetsuit and name drop pro-surfers silently grows. Oh, Southern California.

Sauntering along Ventura’s main street, up to the Ch11 store, and around the corner, I was loudly greeted with blonde hair poking out from under carefully placed beanies, free Al Merrick beer, a quiver of sharp and narrow 90’s boards leaning against a wall, and, eventually, a surf film with far more blood than I might’ve expected. 

Wearing a white T-shirt and a familiarly bashful expression, Dane nimbly cruised around the crowd, patiently fielding questions from star-crossed fans and setting up the projector.

A signed T-shirt and a nifty new hat.

The premise of the movie was simple — grab a bunch of old mythical Channel Islands boards, and ride ‘em.

“I’ve been riding for CI since I was 14, and I’ve always looked at their archival reference section,” Dane told me later. “I used to go check out Kelly and Rob’s boards — all the guys I was watching in surf videos at the time — and just trip out on actually feeling them. They’re all boards that have been kept because they were someone’s favorite, or because it went on to become a model. They’ve been scanned and replicated. I’m sure every shaper has their classic boards that they want to hang on to, and CI has so much history. It’s especially nostalgic for me because I remember being 14 and looking at Kelly’s boards and feeling like “Oh my god, this is what Kelly was riding.”

The boards in question lined the cobbled wall adjacent to the store and, in turn, I gave a few of them the reliable underarm test. The Curren board was astonishingly thick — the Kelly board uber-thin.

“They were just sitting there, so I asked if we could ride them,” Dane explained. “I grabbed the ones that are kinda classics, but it’s hard to say what they’re valued. I don’t know if there’s a market for them, or if they’ll ever be used for anything down the line. I guess it’s just historical value.

“I just thought it would be fun to ride them, and it was. It was such a good vibe in the water, everyone was so stoked and trading waves. We didn’t really have much of a goal in mind aside from documenting it. The stuff around CA was cool but there was no exclamation point — it needed real waves and there just aren’t real waves around here. I got a little window and we decided to take them down to Mexico. Then, you saw what happened,” he laughs.

Yellowing, dirty, stomped through, and still as chock full of enchantment as ever.

The incident Dane is referring to is the fulcrum of the film’s storytelling — a bloody, chill-inducing scene which crops up as the narrative heads south of the border. 

“It’s like the widowmaker I never knew existed,” he begins, chuckling. “We were getting boards ready on the morning of the best day of the swell, and there’s a little palapa across the street. We’d been getting food there the whole trip, and actually laughing about this weird door. There’s only open air windows in the place, but they have a sliding glass door. They kept closing it even though it didn’t seal the place at all. We just thought it was funny.

“Then on the morning of the swell, everybody was getting their stuff ready, and I walked across the street to go use the bathroom at the palapa and uh… didn’t see the glass door.”

As you’ll see in the film, Dane shattered the glass door to bits and lacerated himself multiple times in the process.

“It was so strange, it wasn’t even painful. At first I was just embarrassed, and then my forehead started shooting blood. I was just telling my friends to go surf, not knowing how bad it was going to get. They were all saying, “No dude, you’re going to the hospital.” I was so grateful. It’s just something I never thought of that could kill you, but it was really gnarly. The glass cut so sharp and deep, I guess it chopped a nerve, and heads bleed a lot.”

…a lot.

As the bloodfilled scene came on at the premiere, a tangibly horrified air fell over the crowd – not the atmosphere you might expect at a surf film. We all sat silently while Dane hunched on-screen, soaking head-blood through multiple soggy t-shirts while his friends grew more and more worried.

Sincere tension hung in the Ventura evening — had our heavy-footed patron saint been mortally wounded? It sure fucking looked like it.

Then, with neon-swim cap firmly adorned to his dome, there he was — weaving through a doubled-up Barra funnel to some lo-fi tune. The crowd burst into cheers, all anticipation released in one fell swoop.

“I was asking all my friends if they would have stayed if they were in my situation, and everyone was like “well, I don’t think I would, but you should.”” he tells me. “There was no reason I couldn’t surf, it was just a matter of damage control. I figured the worst thing that could happen was an infection, so I was super strategic about keeping it clean. It’s surprisingly difficult to find a swim cap in Mexico. We went to a couple different grocery stores, and the first two were strikeouts. Then when we found them, I bought four, because I didn’t know if I’d be losing them. The first surf, everybody thought I was trying to be silly, and I didn’t want to explain myself, so I just tried to pretend I wasn’t looking super weird.

“That same day, a kid from Kauai got run over in the water, and he had to get stitches in his head. He asked me where I got the swim cap. I told him I had four and gave him one. The next day he’s in a swim cap too, and everyone was just like “What the fuck is going on here?!” In one of the shots I’m riding the Tom Curren board and as it’s panning you can see him in a lime green swim-cap in the foreground. It’s pretty funny.”

Dane and his swim-fast disciple.

Though Dane has never relied on wave quality to create compelling surf cinema, ‘Out Of The Rafters’ gives us a newfound, adrenal dose of dramatic storytelling. 

“I always grapple with what to show in my videos, because I always want to tell a story. Putting in the clips of me all bloody was gnarly, but I had to explain why I was in a swim cap. I guess you should never let a tragedy go to waste,” he laughs. “You can see in the video they film the door I walked through as we drive by it. There were foot-long pieces of glass that could have landed anywhere on my body. Every day I think about how grateful I am that it wasn’t worse. 

“It’s the weirdest thing that I never thought could be a danger in my life. It’s crazy how quickly everything can change, in a fraction of a second. It feels like a slap on the wrist, a reminder to be grateful and hug your kids.”

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