Dane Gudang, Raw, Unfiltered And In Real Light
Behind the frothy exterior.
Forget what you think you know about Dane Gudauskas. There’s considerably more to the ever-stoked, ever-smiling vanilla gorilla than the frothed out character we’ve grown accustomed to in Vans ads.
On the eve of the Gudauskas brothers’ Stoke-A-Rama grom comp in Huntington Beach over the weekend, Dane and I had a quick chat. Admittedly, I’m a fan of what the boys are doing with their Positive Vibe Warrior Foundation, but after a heartfelt discussion about their motivations and inspirations, it’s clear that the world—and not just the small sandbox of the surfing world—could benefit from what Dane’s laying down.
“It’s foolish to be elitist. We want to be inclusive,” says Dane. “We want to be a unifying force.”
In a time when, as Dane puts it, “there’s so much funky stuff happening out there in our world,” the ability and desire to bring people together is more vital than ever. The concept of the Positive Vibe Warriors was originally to help support ocean safety and education, but it’s grown into much more than that. It’s rallying cry or a better, more decent way to live.
“One of us wrote ‘Positive Vibe Warrior’ on one of our boards before a contest awhile ago. Our rallying cry later evolved into what it is today. With the Positive Vibe Warriors we hope that people can see that we’re all pretty similar and that it doesn’t matter where you come from,” says Dane. “We all come from different places, have different make-ups, different financial situations, but when you come together to celebrate a common enjoyment like the ocean it’s the perfect way to get everything else to just fall away. It’s rad to see people get stoked, coming together and having fun in a simple way. That’s the Positive Vibe Warriors in a nutshell.”
“So many of these kids we work with are at an impressionable age, they’re able to receive positive messages and have it influence them. It’s cool to see them grow up and follow their passions, whatever they are. It’s all part of the tribe experience,” adds Dane.
A couple months back Dane and the boys held a surfboard drive for their friends down in Jamaica. Its success was both unexpected and overwhelming–proof the boys practice what they preach.
“A couple years ago we went to Jamaica and we had a blast,” continues Dane. “We had so much fun, but we learned that there was a really strong need for surfboards in the community.”
“So we had this idea, in the same spirit of sharing that positive feeling, we decided to see if we could do a surfboard drive. We had no idea what we were getting into or what the response would be, but it totally evolved into its own thing. Communities up and down the coast, and all across the country actually, were excited to help out this community that’s super small and isolated in Jamaica. It was like, ‘Whoa, the brotherhood’s a real thing!’ It was people looking out for each other in a very real way.”
They ended up raising over 200 surfboards, loading them into a shipping container and delivering to the iconic Wilmott family and their Jamnesia surf crew.
“For something that started out as just a contest for the groms in San Clemente, it’s surprising how much this has grown,” says Dane. “To have the opportunity to serve communities in Jamaica, Hawaii, San Clemente and Huntington Beach this year is amazing. It’s been a really cool look at how diverse the youth is and what it means to celebrate the ocean and this lifestyle. It’s such a pure joy.”
But that doesn’t mean the boys are about to let philanthropy overshadow their dreams, they’ve still got a lot of waves to ride. These days Dane’s head-over-heels in love with the South Pacific, while Tanner and Patrick have designs on qualifying (again) for the tour.
“I fell in love with the South Pacific the last couple of years and told myself this summer I was going to make a point of spending time in Fiji and Tahiti,” explains Dane. “I really want to learn as much as I can and get better out there. It’s a constant learning process. The swells, the reefs, it takes time to figure all of that out. I’ve been fortunate to be at Cloudbreak for a couple good days, just like pinch myself kind of days, but then when you come back you think of things that you could improve on or take in a different direction.”
“When you’re in the water with Jon Roseman, or Slater, or some of those local dudes, or boatmen you’re learning the whole time. For me it’s a constant learning experience. Hopefully I can get down to Tahiti and get deep on a couple bombs and learn it the old-fashioned way with sweat equity. You have to pay to play and I’ve lost a lot of skin on a lot of reefs. It’s kind of satisfying.”
While Dane’s gone the way of the nomadic freesurf, his brothers are hard at work on the grind.
“Pat and Tanner are doing the primes and already have a couple good results,” smiles Dane. “Tanner just won the Hurley Pro trials, so we’re psyched on that. If they can get a few more results on the Primes hopefully they can requalify. I think they’re both really inspired. They both surf so well in quality waves, it’s just so exciting. Their inspiration level is so high you can’t help but get excited.”
At the end of the day Dane and his brothers are so infectiously likable because they’re real and their hearts are in the right place. When asked if he sees the Positive Vibe Warriors’ Stoke-A-Rama becoming a bigger institution for spreading their unique brand of gospel Dane is cautiously optimistic. He would hate to ruin a good thing—something the surf industry has become quite proficient at over the years.
“We want the Stoke-A-Rama to be really authentic and grassroots. We want to connect with the kids on a super rad, personal level because we’re all just groms at heart,” says Dane. “We don’t want to be separated from the kids by some huge scaffolding where we’re sitting way up high and just watching them. It’s awesome to have somebody like Nate Fletcher working as the beach marshal. It’s the raddest connection for the kids, you know. We’re all one tribe. There shouldn’t be any barriers. For us that’s a really important message.”
“When I was out at Cloudbreak watching how effective Greg Long, Mark Healey and those guys were with saving Aaron Gold’s life, it’s an amazing testament to this brotherhood we’re all a part of. And if we can help further that in some way and pay it forward, that’s the greatest honor ever,” says Dane.
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