In case you didn’t know, Dane Gudauskas is what you might call an excitable guy. Watch him surf a 3-footer on a chunky twin-fin, and the look on his face upon kick out might convince you it was the ride of his life. So then imagine the electrified state he was in after riding what might actually be the best wave of his life—a ferocious, house-sized left that he paddled into on his own steam during last weekend’s XXL Cloudbreak swell. I rang Gudauskas after he had just gotten home from Fiji to talk about the swell, his wild ride and his current mental state.

So are you on the ultimate adrenaline comedown right now?

I am, actually! Ever since that day, things in my body have been progressively getting more sore. Today, I was like, “Whoa, did I actually hurt this part of my body? That’s weird, I didn’t even feel that for days.” You’re totally working backwards from the pain source, like, “How did I do that, exactly?” But I literally was so cracked out with adrenaline after the wave that it felt like I got hit by lightning. It felt so incredibly wild.

What made you decide to pull the trigger on this swell? I know a lot of people were watching the weather and decided to give it a pass.

You know, looking at the charts beforehand, the weather was definitely always going to be a factor. But those big Fiji swells are just so rare and special—each one is very unique in the way things shake out. I had to pay respect to the wave and just go see it with my own eyes. That’s the best surf report you can get, just looking right at it. But, for sure, there were windows when the wind was really bad, and there were also windows where it was manageable—but it was always super challenging. So yeah, the reports didn’t lie.

I heard that there were hours where everyone would just be waiting on the boats because the winds were ripping it up.

Yeah, the wind was serious, and it was kind of rainy and dark and didn’t have that inviting look that you usually hope for. And at that size, it’s all pretty overwhelming. The photos actually make it look a lot easier to surf than it was.

Obviously some guys were towing, but you paddled into your crazy wave. What was the vibe like in the water in terms of whether to paddle or tow, and when did you decide it was the right window to paddle out and snag that one?

When we arrived, there were probably about 30 boats in the water, and they kept accumulating, but everyone was super excited. It was stormy from the very beginning, so everyone was just trying to watch it for a while and try to understand the conditions. There were a couple different reports that around 2 or 3 o’clock it would peak, and that maybe the winds would lie down a little bit later in the afternoon. So I think a lot of guys were pacing themselves, just getting their bearings and figuring out how they wanted to manage their time and energy. Because at that size, you really do have to manage your energy. You can’t take too many beatings and keep going.

So we were all watching it, and Shaun Lopez started towing in to see how big it was, and once we saw him towing in, we were like, “Oh. My. God. It is so big right now.” I was baffled. It was certainly bigger Cloudbreak than I’d ever seen before, or even imagined. But I was feeling like, “You know, there’s no one out right now. So if a good one comes to me, I’ll be able to catch it.” I was just thinking it would be sick to kind of help kick off the party and hopefully get everyone psyched for an awesome day, if I could, because those guys in the boats are the gnarliest guys in the world, and I’d just be stoked if I could do that.

I’m sitting in the boat, and I told Tanner [Gudauskas, Dane’s brother] “I’m kind of feeling it right now, I think it’s on.” And he helped me get my suit on and I was just super nervous. I jumped off the boat and paddled out, and Jarrod White and Shaun were towing at the time, so I kind of had a bearing on the lineup. But the mainland was covered with rain so it was hard to see where you were on the reef. I really, really didn’t want to get caught inside by a set.

I paddled for three waves, and the third one was pretty significant and started to barrel underneath me. I just thought, “Oh my god, if I take off on this thing there’s going to be a very low percentage chance I make it.” So I just kind of scurried off the side, just so weirded out and completely adrenalized. I was thinking I was going to get caught inside by the next one, but I ended up being right in the spot, so I just put my head down and paddled and caught it. I was sooo nervous.

This isn’t your first XXL rodeo out at Cloudbreak. How does this one compare to your wave out there from 2016?

It felt like there was just so much more energy in the ocean. There was an undertow of power that’s hard to even describe. Everything was moving so incredibly fast. It felt like the wave I caught two years ago, but if you just injected a shit-ton of steroids into that thing.

It was on the juice.

One hundred percent. I thought I was making it the whole time and was riding past the boats, and then all of the sudden it started to breath and pull me into it, then spun my around and the foamball came under me and I got really, really wiped out. I ended up breaking my board. I was pretty gassed, and kind of in shock, really.


What kind of board were you riding?

It was actually the same board as two years ago—Patrick [Gudauskas, Dane’s twin brother]’s 8’6″ Channel Islands. We had this special set of quad fins that created kind of the magic scenario. Tanner was riding an 8’10”, and after I broke the 8’6″ I switched to the 8’10” backup. But I was feeling undergunned. I would have preferred to be on something above 9 feet, looking back at it.

That sounds like a potato chip for those waves.

Yeah, just the speed and the wind and the positioning you had to do to actually catch a wave—it was really difficult to manage all that and a bit more board probably would have helped [laughs.] The juice was just flowing, and everyone was in this electrified state, feeling this crazy rush. It’s really hard to describe, but it was something else. Guys were going mental, charging so hard. I still can’t believe we were there to witness that.

Was that the most intense surf experience you’ve ever had?

Oh, absolutely. There have been some really big waves ridden during previous swells, and I don’t know how this swell would compare to those. But I think it’s pretty unique every time, and the difference with this swell, to me, was that it was as unruly, wild and raw as you could imagine. The whole day was unbridled psycho-ness. There was nothing tame about any part of that experience. And you’ve gotta give so much credit to the water safety guys. The crews at Tavarua, Namotu and the mainland all came together to really make sure it was as safe as possible, so huge kudos to all of those guys.

So what do you do now? Collapse into the fetal position and sleep for two days?

I might just go longboard at San O [laughs.] I don’t know what else there is to do than just go enjoy surfing. It’s pretty much the perfect comedown.

Dane Gudauskas, electrified in the channel after his bomb. Photo: Joli