Tanner Gudauskas on watermelons, Positive Vibe Warriors and chicken soup for the surfer’s soul

INTERVIEW BY TAYLOR PAUL

THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED IN BIG SUR, CA, WHILE ON THE ROAD FOR TANNER’S PROFILE, MENTAL PARADISE, WHICH YOU’LL FIND IN ITS ENTIRETY ON OUR WEBSITE TOMORROW

SURFING: WE SEE WATERMELONS ON YOUR BOARDS, ON YOUR INSTAGRAM, YOU SPRAY PAINT IT ON WALLS...WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

TANNER: The watermelon comes from a Jams World T-shirt that said, Watermelon Is Happiness. I saw it and thought “this shirt is amazing,” but it was three sizes too small, so I didn’t buy it. But I started doing spray paint art with it and it was super fun and easy. I started putting it on all my boards and I changed it from, Watermelon Is Happiness to just, Happiness, and then just watermelons. It just felt kid-like.

IS “KID-LIKE” A STATE YOU’RE GUNNING FOR?

Absolutely! The more kiddy the better. You can’t take a watermelon too seriously. You just look at the thing and go, “Yeahhhh — you’re kid like!”

DO YOU EVER FEEL BAD WHEN YOU’RE SPRAY-PAINTING THINGS?

I do. I’ve had weird thoughts about that, but I just cope with it and think, “Hey, they now have a watermelon and maybe that will make them feel happy.” I see a lot of scribbles and that seems to fly.

DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR OWN THING MORE BECAUSE YOU’RE PART OF A THREE PACK?

I do. In a really good way. I take pride in the things that I do that Patrick and Dane don’t necessarily do. We each have our own separate tastes.

WHAT DO YOU DO THAT’S UNIQUELY YOURS?

I know the boys like Cali a lot, but doing exactly what we’re doing, right now, traveling the coastline, is what I most identify with. I’m so proud to be Californian, but really I’m proud just to see it and interact with it. At the drop of a hat I love driving up to Santa Cruz to get waves. I like to try and get north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and seeing what’s up there.

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WHAT IS YOUR GOAL WITH THE POSITIVE VIBE WARRIORS (PVW)?

The goal is to effect youth water education and surf communities in a positive way. We’ve been doing the Stoke-O- Ramas and it’s been amazing, a really cool tool to raise money that goes directly back into the community where the event was held. So we gave back to Makaha Jr. Lifeguards, and the San Clemente Junior Lifeguard Association. We’re now working with the Jamaica Surf Association, to help pump up their mentorship for kids, so they can see surfing as a more tangible route in life, and just to have fun and be safe in the water. It’s been amazing. Seriously, every time we do a Stoke-O-Rama it’s the best day of my year.

WHY IS IT SO GOOD?

Because it’s just about celebrating having fun with your friends being on the beach and staying all day. And it’s cool, too, because this is the first contest experience for a lot of these kids, so it’s nice to have it be in a really relaxed environment. Everybody wins. You get a goody bag and it’s Eddie Aikau format, so the kids make heats even if they don’t make heats. You surf twice guaranteed.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE STORY FROM A STOKE-O-RAMA?

During the first one in San Clemente I had a kid that wanted to longboard, but he was embarrassed because all the other kids had shortboards. His dad came up to me and was like, “Hey, my son brought a longboard but he noticed that none of the other kids have longboards. Is it OK if he rides it?” And I was like, “Of course, he can ride whatever he wants.” And the dad went and told his son and came back and was like, “Hey, he’s kinda in tears, I think we’re going to pull out of the contest.” And so I asked him where his son was and went over and talked to him. It was that full kid moment where you’re sooo nervous about something. He was crying and I told him that Joel Tudor is one of the most badass surfers in the world and we talked about how he surfs Pipe and doesn’t give a rip that he’s on a longboard and everyone else is on shortboards. So I was like, “You know, if I were you, I’d feel pretty damn sick that you’re on a longboard. You should get out there and get a couple of waves.” And he didn’t really answer so I was like, “All right, well, if you want to, I’m gonna be over there and have your jersey if you decide you want to do it.” And then he showed up and surfed his heat. He got out there and did it and the whole thing was just so pure. I just had to relate everything to Joeljitzu [laughs].

For the Full Story, See Part Two

Photos by Steve Sherman, Seth De Roulet, Scotty Hammonds, Jimmicane.