Stab Magazine | How The Gudauskas Brothers Are Making Our Local Lineups Significantly Safer
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How The Gudauskas Brothers Are Making Our Local Lineups Significantly Safer

“At this point in our careers, we just want to give back.”

style // Nov 2, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 10 minutes

It’s been an interesting year for the Gudauskas brothers.

Patrick is a new dad. Tanner’s decided to hang up the jersey. And Dane—he just seems to have more and more fun.

This year the brothers hosted four Stoke-O-Rama contests—free surf events for kids—and as a result, through their Positive Vibe Warrior Foundation, were able to donate thousands of dollars to youth water safety programs in California, New Jersey, and Hawaii. They’ve also been supporting the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) with scholarships to aspiring chargers. 

They G-boys are coming off a special event at Makaha, where they not only hosted a Stoke-O-Rama for the Westside groms but also helped initiate a day at Makaha Elementary School in which they gave every student—all 500 of them—a new backpack and school supplies. And now, with the heavy lifting done for 2019, it’s time to settle into the North Shore and bask in all the positive vibe equity they’ve accrued this year. Stab caught up with them to discuss, well, just about everything.

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Stab: So you guys are all in Hawaii at the moment, what’s cooking?

Tanner: We came over early because of the Stoke-O-Rama on the Westside, then we’re going to head home for a couple weeks, then head back over for the Triple Crown. For me, I’m not going to be competing. I didn’t make the cut this year, but I might get a wildcard from Vans. But if not, this is the time of year that I look forward to just being over here. I really enjoy it. You surf like three times a day, it’s so good. 

I’m stoked because I feel like this year I unlocked a bunch of new surfboards with C.I. They’re boards I wouldn’t normally ride, so even in that sense being over here is great because I can test all these designs.

Dane: But your goals are different for next year, right?

Tanner: Yeah, I’m going to basically stop competing at the end of this year and just open up the next chapter of making videos and trying to just go for it in a free surfing mentality, airshows, whatever I can get involved with. That’s been a transition that’s been going on over this whole year, and I feel really empowered by it. Surfing, and the freedom of it, it’s really exciting. And the North Shore is almost like the ultimate dojo for it because there’s amazing surfing happening every day and you just get to push yourself. 

Photo: Nick Green

Stab: How did you make that decision to finally hang up the jersey?

Tanner: I think it was just a matter of time. I’ve been on the QS foa while, and now, with the time I have, I want to contribute back to surfing. For me, the contests had become something that I wasn’t finding as much success in and I didn’t find it as invigorating—like I wasn’t learning as much. That’s what I had to wrap my head around, and looking back on it, I’m super thankful. I look at my time on tour as getting a degree, and I had a blast with it, and now I’m more excited for what’s coming than restudying the papers to get the test scores up…I guess. Freestyle, baby!

Stab: And what about you Dane-O, what’s your story?

Dane: The Stoke-O-Rama at Makaha came on the heels of the one in San Clemente the week before, so we came right from there, flew over and hung out with the crew on the Westside—Kimo, Duane DeSoto—and had a great time. We got everything prepared for the day at Makaha Elementary School, which was a blast. The whole Vans crew came over and we had a really great time. Then the Stoke-O-Rama was the next day. 

After that, we headed over to the North Shore to watch Pat compete. Tanner and I ripped the bandaid off at Pipe, which was super fun and scary. We got a great workout with how many wipeouts we took. It was good. It was a great way to recalibrate and say, ‘Hey, this is what the rest of the winter looks like. Let’s get in great shape and get ready for it so we can handle some really big swells.’ 

Stab: How hard is it to make that transition from a small summer to big swells?

Dane: Coming into summer was a really special time for us because of Vans and the Positive Vibe Warriors. We took the time basically from the U.S. Open all the way through the summer to reinvigorate the Stoke-O-Rama programs. Starting in Huntington Beach, we went back to New Jersey and then came back to San Clemente, then Makaha event. So really dedicating the time and energy to those events and building them out from the ground up. The crew at Vans and the sponsors helps make the events really special. I wasn’t dedicating as much time and focus chasing swells during that period. Now that the events are finished for the rest of the year, it’s all about looking forward to the next two months and pushing my surfing and my physical ability and get in a good space to get some great rides.

Photo: Nick Green

Stab: So, with every Stoke-O-Rama the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation donates money to local water safety and junior lifeguard programs. You guys have donated thousands of dollars. And you provide scholarships to the BWRAG training for aspiring surfers. What’s the origin of that, or why is it important for you to support these groups?

Patrick: It’s kind of like what Tanner was saying earlier. Last year I was on the road all year, I think I was home for like two weeks, so this year we were finally able to get together and talk about what we were hoping to achieve with the Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation. I think what Tanner was saying before, one main thing that we kept coming back to was giving back to surfing. So we started to think about what kind of impact we could have and how to use the platform that we’ve built over the last 10 or 15 years of working hard and surfing hard. It’s a really unique opportunity to be at a level where you can have an impact. So, I think we’ve been really fortunate in that sense, but we also feel that responsibility and how we pass the cool things about surfing and our culture on to that next generation. That’s a really important thing in our eyes.

That’s how the BWRAG thing came to the foreground. These guys are amazing—Danilo Couto, Kohl Christensen, Greg Long and the crew that originated that after Sion Milosky passed away. He was a huge influence to that whole generation of big-wave surfers, and a big influence on us. Luckily, Nate Fletcher took us under his wing and brought us into heavy-water lineups. He made it really fun with the camaraderie. As kids from California, we always wanted to prove ourselves on a global stage. And part of that is your waterman abilities and being able to take 500-foot waves on the head. So it’s been a really rad evolution to see those guys develop a program to celebrate Sion Milosky’s life, and in their essence, giving back lifesaving techniques to the next generation, which is us, which then transcends into our scholarship program, which are the next generation of ocean people that are then able to enter the water and have that knowledge.

When we first started surfing Mavericks, or outer reefs in Hawaii, or Todos Santos with Nate Fletcher, there was no flotation. We had a really limited knowledge on CPR, we were good water people, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes. And what’s cool now is that it’s taken off to not just being about big waves, but any surf. You know, your wife, your son, or uncle or aunty may be the ones to pull you out of the water after a random headbutt on a two-foot wave. And you may pull out somebody you don’t even know—or somebody you love. So helping develop those skill sets, that’s really important to us. 

Photo: Nick Green

Dane: It’s just about empowering the communities and providing them with the skillset to further enjoy and respect the ocean. I was in Fiji in 2016, where I witnessed Aaron Gold be resuscitated by Greg Long, and Billy Kemper, and Mark Healey and those guys on the boat. I’d never been that close to a rescue procedure before, and having been in the lineup, everything was so incredible how they went through the procedure and handled some serious business right there. This was somebody we know and is in our community, and that’s where the light switched on and I thought, we need to support these kind of programs as much as possible and engage our own knowledge, and always be students of ocean safety, and learn from the best, like Brian Keaulana and all of these guys who are putting their lives’ work into big wave risk assessment. To support that group and help the next generation, anything that we can do, it is a real pleasure. 

Pat: And everyone in our circle has had experiences with it since taking those classes. It’s crazy to think that in just a few years time it’s had a huge impact. Dylan Graves and Nate Florence, I believe, were in Barbados and attempted to rescue Zander (Venezia). He was a good friend and we’d surfed with him just before. Everyone has this connectivity, and I think it really shows in the ocean. The BWRAG guys are like and extension of the lifeguards in Hawaii, or lifeguards anywhere, they’re always eyes on. They’re always ready at any moment. 

We were talking to Keoni Keaulana last night and he was telling us stories of rescuing people on the Westside, and he goes, “Hey, if your back is to the ocean, you better trust that the guys you’re looking have their eyes on the ocean at all times.” That’s something they’ve been instilled with all their lives.

Dane: And that goes too with the junior lifeguard programs that we’re supporting. We’re supporting water safety programs and BWRAG through scholarships for the youth as much as we can. So, it’s exciting, man.

Pat: It’s an honor just to be a part of it. Those guys are the real heroes. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet them all, keep connecting, and help out in our small way. 

Photo: Nick Green

Stab: And the event you just ran in Makaha was unique in the sense that it put a lot of those different pieces together in one place at one time.

Tanner: The Leong family has become really special friends for us over the last couple of years. We were staying in a house on the North Shore a few years ago and they were working security for the event. Those guys are such classics and they’re so fun to hang with. They opened up what Hawaii’s aloha spirit is really all about for us. They’ve taken us under their wings to teach us that.

When we told them that we were thinking of bringing a kids’ event back, Kimo was really fired up and emphasized that we should be helping the Makaha Elementary School out. It’s a really impoverished setup where kids are having problems even showing up to school because they can’t afford school supplies. So really, that day happened all because of Kimo. He coordinated so many key players from that community and had them come to the school and talk to the kids. It was insane. 

There were probably 500 kids in the auditorium, and Uncle Rusty Keaulana, Uncle Buffalo, Sheldon, Zeke Lau, Keanu Asing, and all of them offered individual perspectives of why school is important, but also to chase your passions, chase your dreams, it was crazy to be a part of it. You were seeing the community kind of heal itself in a way as the kids were attaching themselves to what was being said. Hopefully that will drive forward. We came in on that one just to help with the supplies and be there. Kimo was the major player in making that all happen.

Then, the next day was with the Nā Kama Kai Foundation and Duane De Soto. They’re super synced up with the Positive Vibe Warriors, in terms of ocean education, but more specific to Hawaiian culture and traditions–teaching the kids to respect the land and celebrate who they are as people. So, Duane really helped run the Stoke-O-Rama event.

Families came down and hung. It was like a full beach day. The Puu clan was there. The Keaulanas were there. The De Sotos were all there. It was only for the kids from the Makaha area, so it was roots. It really felt like it was just kids hanging out and having a killer beach day. 

Photo: Nick Green

Dane: And the goal with those events is engaging kids that wouldn’t generally have the opportunity to compete in other events or don’t have the resources to travel to other parts of the island. We want to create a first opportunity for kids to be a part of an event, and have it be a real positive experience and a real local one where the kids can feel empowered. That’s what shined that day. The kids had a blast. They got to surf in jerseys. Their families and friends were there cheering them on. There was a DJ, a bubble guy. They were just losing it and it was awesome. It was such a pure celebration of community and surfing. It really embodied the whole goal of why we put these events on.

Stab: Back to surfing, Tanner, you mentioned you were trying different boards. You guys all seem to have your own signature boards with C.I., what’s under your feet these days?

Pat: I guess mine is more straight forward. Right now I’ve been really stoked on high performance surfing. It’s not only in a jersey. I just like seeing what I am capable of doing as a surfer. I’ve been really focused on refining that. In terms of what I’ve been riding, the Fever is still my favorite board ever and I’ve been having fun tweaking that a bunch. And I’ve been working on a new one called the Burner, which is still in its R & D phase, it’s more of a small-wave performance board. It’s cool. I really like drawing different inspirations from different designs at Channel Islands and then bringing them all into one board. Having a consistent medium like that always me to explore different maneuvers from there. It keeps me really inspired to surf everyday. 

Tanner: The thing that’s so great about C.I. is that you only have to order a couple of shortboards and you can trust that they’re going to be really great shorties. So making sure you have those in the bag for those mandatory shred sessions is key, but allows you to mix it up a lot. I’ve been riding a lot of those two-plus-one boards and experimenting with tail blocks on those. This trip I have a 6’8” twin-fin that looks really fun.

For me, I’m really inspired on feeling the unknown of a shape and feeding off that excitement level. It really opens up the mind on how much fun you can have on different boards. It’s been really fun, but I think over in Hawaii is such a cool place to be because it’s a great place to test equipment in waves that are really pushing the boards. To be determined in how they will work, but that’s the fun of it.

Pat: Tanner’s 6’8” twinnie is a beast. 

Photo: Nick Green

Dane: We’ve been really fortunate riding for Vans all these years because there are all these influences and mentors. From Nathan Fletcher to Joel Tudor, having constant exposure to those guys and hearing the way that they would break down their boards and equipment—whether it was Joel’s eggs or longboard or Nate’s got the crazy boards from Stretch, they look like space vehicles. It allowed us to draw inspiration from what’s been ridden in the past and put that into boards for the future. I’ve got a 10’2” big-wave board all the way down to a 4’2” fish and everything in between. My whole goal is to surf every single day and find joy and open-mindedness in riding waves. Whatever equipment you can put under your feet to feel that freedom is the ultimate goal. 

Tanner: And make it fun.

Dane: It’s all about fun.

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