Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When the final heats of last November’s Islas Canarias Santa Pro 2009 (the Lanzarote leg of the World Qualifying Series) moved from St Juan to La Santa, the action was propelled into a whole new league. A huge swell saw waves hitting “La Izquierda” erratically, making an already dangerous spot considerably more so, even by the most experienced surfers’  standards. whilst Drew Courtney went on to win the overall event, it was the runner up, Patrick Gudauskas, who won over the crowd. I caught up with him in his newly established position on the ASP World Championship Tour.

A Californian hailing from San Clemente, Patrick is one of three brothers, all of whom surf professionally. Having just missed out on qualifying for the WCT ‘Dream Tour’ in 2009, his performance here in Lanzarote last year (where he placed third) was one of a series of events that secured his place in the top 15, who automatically qualify for the CT. But for anyone who was part of the crowd  watching from the rocks there was a sense of awe at the seemingly relaxed ease with which he surfed the waves in such challenging conditions. ‘I really enjoy surfing waves like the slab there.  They challenge your ability as a surfer and pump adrenaline into you with every wave you take.  I think that day was part frustration for loosing to Bernardo (Miranda) in the semi-finals and part me just being excited.  I really wanted to win that event, I love the place and the waves and the people. So I just wanted to put on a good show for them after loosing!’

It’s not the first time Patrick has put on a show for the crowds, and his surfing has long been characterized by its progressive style. This paid off in June of last year when Gudauskas surfed an unprecedented finals heat against the Aussie Owen Wright in the Maldives. Pulling a trick known as a ‘Rodeo Clown’ in the final, he was awarded 18.94 points out of a possible 20. To award such a high score for one single move was unparalleled, but it also highlighted Gudauskas’ propensity to take a risk when it’s most likely to pay off.

Gudauskas’ credits his progression onto the WCT last year, following four years on the WQS, to a positive mental attitude. This also comes across in his ability to light up a wave when he is riding it, and woo his audience: ‘I think a lot of competing has to do with your mental state.  For myself I’m just a positive person.  I love traveling and surfing with my friends, so I really have no reason to not love it.  The passion exudes naturally... I've worked on the mental side of surfing heats, but it's not hard to be happy in a place like that!’

And what about Lanzarote? It may be considered the Hawaii of Europe, but  hailing from California, having spent over four years on tour, Gudauskas has the pick of countries, and yet when both him and his brothers have had time off, they’ve chosen Lanzarote: ‘Yeah my brothers and I have been a few times. We are thankful to the locals for welcoming us into their surf when we come.  We love the place, and especially surfing waves of heavy consequence.  It’s great training for places like Hawaii, with the power and the reefs.  Also the local surfers like Goma, Manuel and Jose Maria surf the waves so well that it pushes us, and helps us to learn the lineups and wave style’.

The bond between the Gudauskas brothers is clear – it’s apparent in Patrick’s confidence and comfort in who he is and what he does, and as such it is no surprise that he cites his family as his strongest inspiration ‘My parents and brothers are a huge part of who I am. They are rad! I appreciate their perspectives’.

For someone who spends his life traveling, Gudauskas takes enjoyment from every aspect of the experience, not just the surfing. ‘I love it when a place has great food, and friendly people.  It's cool to see when a culture has pride in itself, and exudes that in their people and place’.

Hosting the WQS continues to be a flagship event for the island, bringing some of the world’s top athletes to Lanzarote, and acting as an inspiration for young surfers, hopefully inspiring the next generation of Canarian rippers. 

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