The rain falls, creating ripples in the puddles in the dirt driveway. The winds have blown the surf ragged. It’s a sublimely stormy day on the North Shore of Oahu. A few hundred yards east of Sunset Point, the Gudauskas brothers (Pat, Dane and Tanner) are at their rented abode, as busy as worker bees.
It’s mid-December and the six-week Vans Triple Crown season is winding down. Pat still has to surf the Pipe Masters, but for Dane and Tanner, it’s time to start thinking about home in San Clemente.
Currently, they’re more focused on making a run to their storage space over by the airport in Honolulu. The house is full of Channel Islands surfboards and they’re trying to figure out which boards to put on ice and which boards to keep in the rotation and bring back home to California. (Dane laughs and hands me his 10-foot gun.) “Check out this bad boy,” he smiles.
It’s a beautiful big-wave gun with a tranquil, cosmic blue airbrush. The board is thick, and heavy, and it scares me. It scares me because I like Dane and I know what can happen to a person when they ride a board like this. Boards like this are meant for life-threatening waves. And as adept as Dane and the boys have become on the outer reefs, it’s still serious.
“What about the 6’8″?” shouts Tanner from a far corner of the house.
“Ooo, maybe. I don’t know,” answers Dane.
At the dining room table, Pat sits and talks with his dad, Tom. They’re chatting about the upcoming opening round of the Pipe Masters: what boards he's thinking of riding, what the conditions may be like. Per usual, the conversation is framed in a positive light.
Looking back, it’s been a remarkable year for the Gudauskas brothers. To be frank, nobody in surfing has done what they’ve done. Ever. That's a bold statement, I know, but I believe it to be true.
At the start of 2018, Dane, Pat and Tanner delivered over 700 surfboards to South Africa. Their mission was simple and pure. Through a surfboard drive run through their Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation, they inspired surf communities on the east and west coasts of the U.S. to donate old boards. People turned out en masse. The response surprised even the brothers.
After gathering and organizing all 700-something boards, they put them in a shipping container and sent them from Southern California to Cape Town. In January 2018, the boards arrived in port. The boys made the trip halfway around the world to put their plan into action.
Teaming up with two non-profit organizations, Surfers Not Street Children and Waves For Change, they were able to distribute the boards to communities in need not only throughout South Africa, but in other regions in Africa as well, including a program in Mozambique which even received a blessing from Pope Francis.
With a film crew in tow, 10 months later, Vans, who sponsors all three Gudauskas brothers, released “Can’t Steal Our Vibe,” a documentary about the project on iTunes. It was subsequently nominated for a Surfer Poll Award.
After Africa, Pat rejoined the WSL Championship Tour, Tanner launched “The Paradise Projects” video endeavor, and Dane went stalking beasts at Cloudbreak in Fiji. Pat enjoyed a career moment at Bells, where he made the semifinals and got to surf against three-time world champ Mick Fanning in one of his last heats. The Paradise Projects was a sneaky success, and also nominated for a Surfer Poll Award. Meanwhile, Dane's Fiji footage was compiled into a beautiful, throwback cinematic creation called “Blue Intensity.”
But it's not just all chasing waves for Dane, Pat and Tanner. They hosted a number of their classic Stoke-O-Rama contests, bringing one to the East Coast for the first time ever. A free contest for kids, the whole objective is to have fun and come away from the day with a positive, stoke-filled experience. And when Dane and Tanner take the mic, of course the good times can't be far away. The contests have been going on for years now and have provided a platform for hundreds of kids to get fired up on their first surf contest experience.
Somehow, they also managed to find time to run another surfboard drive. This time they raised over 300 surfboards for disenfranchised youth in Trinidad and Tobago.
“I hope they don’t think I was crazy, but I had a notebook with every kid’s name, age, height and weight and what surfboard they were going to get,” said Chris Dennis, who was the point of contact in Trinidad. “I knew exactly who was getting what board and why they deserved to get their very own board.”
“This is our third board drive, and each one is special, but this was really unique because this area gets so little attention. It’s forgotten about,” said Dane. “We were told that this was the biggest donation of sporting equipment in the country’s history.”
All this in only 12 months, and at the moment, the biggest problem they have is how to fit the 10-foot gun in the minivan.
As for what’s to come when the winter winds down and they settle back in San Clemente? There’s no shortage of ideas. Of course, they’ll chase swells and work on new boards with Channel Islands, but their boundless creativity and passion is hard to pin down.
The overarching objective is figuring out how to keep pushing the positivity. From their board drives to their grom contests, they’re a force for good in surfing unlike any other. Just think if every pro surfer took the time to pay it forward like they do? The world would be a much more stoked place, that’s for sure.
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