It’s a typical hot August day in New Jersey. The tiny (but clean) morning surf has given way to the typical southeasterly winds, and the typical summer traffic rolls down the boulevard.
However, at Farias Surf and Sport in Ship Bottom, the scene is anything but typical. Instead of a handful of surfers coming by the shop on this average weekday to feel rails, do the “under-the-arm test” and maybe buy a board, surfers are coming by to leave a board … to just give their boards away.
San Clemente pro surfer, Tanner Gudauskas is grinning ear to ear, throwing shakas at each local who swings by with an old shred stick, while enjoying his powered jelly donut from Ferrara’s Italian Bakery just across a side street from the surf shop.
“Everybody has an extra board around. And when you’re on a surf trip and you leave a board for a local, that’s super cool. It’s a very individual way to look at it. You stoked out that person,” Tanner tells ASN.
But the Gudauskas brothers are magnifying that gesture.
Tanner is the youngest of the Gudauskas clan. He and his is brothers Patrick and Dane (twins) make up the Positive Vibe Warriors. Charming and scraggly, Dane recently polished off his own donut in the shade of the Vans tent. Pat is busy with some contest in Tahiti. All three did time on the WSL World Tour and all still compete. Pat recently rejoined the ranks of surfing’s most elite on the Championship Tour (he made the semis at the Rip Curl Pro Bells last April.)
But in addition to ripping waves of all kinds in oceans around the world (and surfing for Vans), the Gudauskas trio have become ambassadors of stoke and goodwill. It’s easy to write off their efforts as a marketing gimmick, until you realize the shakas and inclusive front isn’t just a marketing-fabricated act. These are authentically respectful, pleasant people, period.
“About six years ago, we were doing the kids events called Stoke-o-Rama. They were fundraising surf events. We were working with a foundation in our town, giving money to water safety and education programs,” Dane explains to ASN. “But we felt like we wanted to get a little more involved with where the money was going. So we started the foundation. Four years ago, we did a surfboard drive for the kids in Jamaica. That came about really organically because we saw that the kids needed help in getting surfboards down there. So we worked with the Wilmot family and we got almost 300 boards. That really opened the door for us to start upcycling surfboards.”
The Wilmots are a surf family in Jamaica who own and run the surf camp Jamnesia. Patriarch Billy Wilmot (aka Billy Mystic) sang for a seminal reggae group called the Mystic Revealers who first came onto the international reggae scene in the 1980s. The Wilmot kids dominate Jamaican surfing and are becoming well known around the world, as well.
Not everyone in the world has access to the most basic piece of surfing equipment, while surfers in developed nations have garages and sheds with boards that they’ve ridden the life out of. The boards are often beaten, yellowing, dinged and heavy. But that certainly doesn’t matter to an underprivileged kid in a coastal village somewhere.
“It’s a ripple effect we started to play into with all the friends of the Positive Vibe Warriors. The support has been so overwhelming that it’s inspired us to keep going. When you’re done with a board to be able to upcycle it, to pass it to a kid who can learn in a place where they can’t get a board is pretty special,” says Tanner.
Last year, the boys collected boards and delivered them to South Africa where they worked with an organization called Waves for Change. Many South Africans suffer from emotional and psychological stress from constant exposure to violence and other social ills.
“They do a program called ‘surf therapy,’ which is just getting kids to the beach,” explains Tanner.
After repeated surf opportunities, many of the at-risk youth were observed to have improved feelings of belonging, strength, trust and confidence. Boards were distributed across South Africa, Mozambique, Liberia, and Somalia.
This year, Vans stepped up to help with logistics. The boys hit up communities in San Francisco, San Diego, and couple in between. They’d been wanting to come out to the East Coast for a long time and found that every stop from Long Island to their destination, the Vans Pro at the East Coast Surfing Championships in Virginia Beach saw generous foam and glass donations.
“Our first surfboard drive, we thought we’d get 30 boards,” Tanner adds. “We were just going to bring them in surfboard bags. But the support was so great that we had to learn about shipping. We shipped it to Kingston the first time, Cape Town the second time and these are going from Miami to Trinidad.
“They're going to get dewaxed and wrapped up so when someone opens that, it’s just a bunch of new boards for someone. For kids who don’t have an opportunity to have a surfboard, that goes a long way. They’re just vehicles for stoke. Surfers are just so willing to help surfers out. In the long run it brings everyone together and makes you feel like the world is a small place.”
“Every surfer has had that experience where you’re out on a trip and you leave a board behind for someone that can use it,” Dane tells ASN. “And you feel that kind of glow from them. So, to meet people in these communities on a broad level and feel that passion and stoke for surfing and understand that you’re connecting not only ourselves with the boards but all the people that donated them to surfers in need.
“Understanding the broadness of that scale, you get a really strong feeling. There are so many people that could use an opportunity in their life to enjoy the ocean.”
More Surf Content From ASN