Bitch, don’t kill my vibe.
Bob Dylan said that. Or it might’ve been Kendrick Lamar. Regardless, one guy whose vibe remains visibly indestructible is San Clemente’s Dane Gudauskas. The dude radiates positivity, as do his two brothers Tanner and Pat. Their stoke is contagious and, lucky for a generation of groms, they’ve created a yearly event devoted to this vibe. It’s called the Stoke-O-Rama and not rules, nor neggy vibes, nor tiger sharks can kill it. Dane explains… –Beau Flemister
SURFING: So Dane, what exactly is the Stoke-O-Rama?
Dane Gudauskas: Stoke-O-Rama is basically a fun, free, community-based surfing event for super young kids, ages 12 and under, 10 and under, and 8 and under.
Oh, wow, youngsters, huh?
Yeah, it’s only for the minis. We wanted to celebrate an entry-level experience for kids in surfing contests. The format is like a non-loser event, so the kids can surf twice regardless of if they lose the first time. Basically, we just wanted to bring people together, have a fun time and celebrate surfing and camaraderie. I think at that age is really where kids are developing and kind of going, ‘Do I love this?’ about surfing. So it’s a positive experience for them as well as the community.
Cool. How long have you been doing these events, and where’ve they been held?
We’ve done them for four years in San Clemente, so this will be our fifth year in San Clemente, then we’ve done one at Makaha Beach on Oahu, and then this will be our first at Huntington Beach. So, I mean, it’s just fun to work in these rad communities and connect with people. For us, it’s a rad learning experience because we get to connect with communities and you’re talking with families, so you’re able to connect with them and have a great experience yourself. Then the kids get something out of it, too, but you’re having just as much fun seeing the kids light up and seeing them come together. [laughs] Like, maybe they go to the same school and they both surf, but maybe they were never cheering for each other or talking, but this event kind of offers a cool platform for kids to be like, “Yeah, I’m stoked on you!” It’s simple, really.
Awesome. And what gave you the idea to put this thing on in the first place?
I think we got pretty inspired growing up, and we were always with each other being three brothers, so we’d be cheering each other on and there was always such a fun camaraderie feeling. And then traveling with pro surfing and connecting with some communities around the world, we saw how there’s some commonalities in all of them, you know? Basically, it doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you’re coming from, that feeling of being in the water with friends or even random strangers is pretty similar. So we were like, ‘How fun would it be to create a rad thing for kids in communities to bring them together and just let them have fun?’
We also started a foundation through it and in each event we raise money through the sponsors to contribute to youth water safety programs in that local community. That’s also always been the goal — to provide a kind of long-term benefit to the community. It’s a 1-2 combination. You have the day at the beach for the Stoke-o-Rama, and then you have the foundation that’s contributing to youth water safety programs.
And for example, what are those youth water safety programs?
That would be junior lifeguard programs in San Clemente. In Makaha we worked with the Na Kama Kai organization and there’s junior lifeguards there as well. And for the Huntington one, it’s also with the junior lifeguards. They’ve got a great program over there in Huntington and the YMCA has raised $10,000 this year to go toward underprivileged kids that can’t afford swim scholarships — which many will now be able to receive through the YMCA programs in Huntington Beach.
So that’s even another thread into the blanket which is all stemming from the same concept — having a great experience at the beach, but in a safe way for people to really enjoy it. Because we’ve been in the water when people have drowned and we’ve seen how it can destroy a family. The last thing you want is kids going out and not being aware of a situation that could’ve been preventable, you know?
You guys draw some stars to these events, too, right?
Yeah, it’s been rad. Kelly’s been an incredible support and has showed up. Sunny Garcia showed up a couple times, and Kolohe comes down so it’s great to have that support. The kids just dig seeing their heroes that close, and with the infrastructure of the events we run, it’s just a couple of easy-up tents [laughs] and Tanner’s been the beach marshall… Nate Fletcher was the beach marshall one year, which was insane. [laughs] It’s like Tanner and Nate Fletcher giving the kids jerseys and pep talks before every heat, for like eight hours on the beach, and everyone’s volunteering their time, so it’s just a really cool experience. It’s continually very grassroots, I would say. And that’s what’s cool with the pros coming down, too, because that connection is very natural to the kids.
Is there a limit on entrants?
Yeah, it’s 100 entrants based on the fact that it’s a one-day event. The San Clemente one is an early morning sign up, so people are lined up waiting at, like, 3:30 in the morning.
Oh my God. And why is that? Are the prizes psycho or something?
There are winners, and yeah the prizes are pretty awesome. The goody bags from the sponsors are great and we have so much gratitude for those guys for making it a rad experience.
Stoke, as displayed in its purest form by the Gudauskas trio.
Give me one of your best Stoke-O-Rama moments from the past.
Well, one of the most special Stoke-O-Ramas ever was at the Makaha event. Right before the event there had been a few tiger sharks in the lineup at Makaha and even a few weeks before that, one of the local kids — a kid named Ray Ray — got bit by a shark in the shorebreak. So Brian Keaulana and the support crew were running Jet Skis all day of the Stoke-O-Rama over there, looking out for everyone and sharks, too and Ray Ray actually went out and rode some waves with his brother! It was just the most crazy feeling like this kid just overcame his fear that many of us will never have to deal with, and he was, like, 8-years-old. Everyone was cheering, “Ray Ray!” and he was the super soul spirit of the event. Everyone was feeling this crazy glow of energy and it was just one of those surreal moments in time where you’re like, “Wow, everyone is so supportive.” So maybe Ray Ray was just feeling like he could get out there and ride that wave and get back on the horse. It was awesome.
*Feel the positive vibes this Saturday at the Huntington Beach Stoke-O-Rama.