Dane Gudauskas is not among the Cali-4-nians, the Golden States four ASP World Tour rookies set to make their official debut at the Quiksilver Pro this month. Two of them are his brothers, Tanner and Patrick; one is Brett Simpson; one is traveling partner and San Clemente cohort Nate Yeomans. But Dane, who finished 58th on the WQS last year, is the odd man out, facing another season on the qualifying circuit to try and match the success of his twin and younger brother. Fortunately, Dane isn't jealous, or insecure, or uncertain. He is only ready.
SURFING MAGAZINE: Pat and Tanner are about to head to Snapper Rocks as competitors, but you're going just to observe. Is that your goal for this year, to get on tour with them?
That's my number one priority, for sure. I can't let the boys get too far ahead. I've gotta get on there.
Why is the qualifying series so hard, even for especially talented surfers?
When you first get on tour you adjust to so many things: new culture, new language, new people, new food. It's like shock therapy. And then to go and compete against these 30-year-old guys who have done it for so long is a real challenge. But now I've been to all these places before, and I'm a bit more comfortable in my own skin.
What do you think made the difference for your brothers in 2009?
I've watched their progress on tour for years, and it just seemed like last year on the QS they were able to put down some clutch performances in really high-pressure situations. Like, when Patrick stuck that flip in the Maldives it was kind of a momentum changer for the whole year. At that moment, Pat sort of broke a barrier for all of us, and we knew it was possible. We could taste blood, we could smell it. Then when Tanner pulled it out at Sunset Beach, that was amazing as well. It was inspiring stuff.
Do you consider yourself to be on the same level as your brothers, capable of the same things?
As far as surfing talent goes, I really believe in my surfing and I believe in my own spirit. I feel I belong on the World Tour. I think that's where my surfing will come into its own more. Sometimes I struggle with the really small waves because I'm a bit heavier footed, and I think the waves on the World Tour will suit me better. I know I've got it inside me, I just have to let the beast out of the cage.
Anything they can do, you can do.
Yeah, I think that's definitely the motto. When I see them do something, I want to be there as well. Sometimes it gets me pissed off, but it makes me want to blow up and show everyone that I can bag it, too.
But is it hard being the one who's left behind on the WQS while they and Nate [Yeomans] have already moved on?
While I was watching them do well last year, I went through a pretty tough period mentally in the middle part of the season. I didn't know where I was at, my confidence was low. I felt good about my surfing—I surf with my brothers every day, and I feel like I'm on the same level—but then I'd get into a jersey and just sink. I couldn't figure out what was going on. So it was hard, challenging times for me. If I'd lose out early, I wouldn't want to go back down to the beach, but I'd suck it up because I wanted to support the boys. And no doubt there were eggy vibes, but when it got eggy that just inspired me to want to go harder.
What snapped you out of that bad streak?
Sometimes you can get trapped in a bit of a numbers game. On the WQS especially, everything is about points and numbers: You need a six-point ride to win, you have six minutes left in your heat, you have a 1250-point result and that's a keeper or a throwaway, you need a certain big result to get into the Top 16 so basically, its a big math game. I feel like once I sort of released myself from worrying about those numbers, and shut off my mind, I was able to find my rhythm.
Is there pressure from your sponsors to keep up with Pat and Tanner? Like, have they said you have one more year and then maybe you should be a photo guy?
No, there are no weird trips; nobody's judging me because I didn't make it. My dad has a great analogy: Fruits ripen on the vine at different times, you know? When it happens it'll be the right time, and Ill be ready to take on the world.
Also, we just signed with Vans head to toe, for apparel and shoes, about two weeks ago. It's been in the works since the beginning of the year, and we're just thrilled. All three of us ride for them now. They've said, "We support you to follow your passion," and for me this year, that means challenging myself: I want to be on the World Tour in 2011. I want to make a big statement and come out on top.
Your traveling crew from the past is now broken up—who are you going to travel with in 2010?
Well, I think those guys [who qualified] are going to do the WQS 6* Primes as well, so Ill be with them anyway for those. Were also going to be traveling with [Vans teammate] Dylan Graves, and he's one of our best friends, so that's a seamless fit. Then Austin Ware, too. I don't think it'll be a drastic difference; they'll still be around.
And if you don't make it this year, will you reevaluate your goals, or just keep plugging away?
I don't know…once you've got that passion burning inside you, its hard to let it go and right now my passion is to make the World Tour.