November 10, 2009

What a difference a year makes. This time last year World Qualifying Series (WQS) stalwart Patrick Gudauskas was on the outside looking in, finishing 17th in 2008, barely missing the cut to qualify for the ASP World Championship Tour (WCT). Equally frustrating was the fact Gudauskas led the WQS ratings for the majority of the year, and eventually slid out of the top 15 which qualify for the WCT.

Although he never led the WQS ratings in 2009, Gudauskas has displayed better consistency that has him firmly entrenched in the top five, his fourth year on "The Grind." In fact, he's already qualified for the "Dream Tour" in 2010, solidifying his spot with a second place finish in the Local Motion Guaruja Surf Pro in Brazil in October and a third in the Islas Canarias Santa Pro in the Canary Islands in November/

Chuck Graham caught up with Gudauskas right before the Canary Islands, where he's pumped on his current standing in the ratings and competing on the WCT in 2010.

Chuck Graham: 2009 is turning out quite differently from the disappointment of last year. This year you've been more consistent throughout the entire year and your results reflect that. What have you done this year that was different from 2008?

Pat Gudauskas: I'm really happy the way this season has panned out. In the beginning of the year I had some bad luck in the major prime events, and that fired me up to come back swinging for the second half of the season. I think this year a lot of my good results have come from my mental space. I'm feeling confident in my surfing and I'm focusing on surfing good rather than the points. I think the points and ratings can really do your head in, so I've been focusing on the process rather than the results and it seems to be working well. There's a lot less stress.

I heard at the last event in Hawaii in 2008, you needed like a 5.5 to not only advance but to also qualify for the CT. You came up with a 5.2? How crushing was that to be so close? Any nightmares about not qualifying?

Yeah, that was heavy at Sunset last year! I don't have nightmares about it, nor do I have any regrets. That X factor is part of the reason I love to surf and compete. It was definitely crushing to lose after all that I'd put into last year. I felt I was surfing well at Sunset. In my last heat I caught a wave with a minute or so left that was a good wave but not a great one, and I surfed it the best I could. At the end bowl it just didn't stand up and I couldn't get the score I needed. In that moment, you feel a lot of different emotions; blinding anger and a bit of deflation trying to fathom how a whole year could come down to less than a point on a wave. As cliché as it sounds, I think what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. I learned a lot about myself, and grew a lot because of it. I'm excited to get back to Hawaii this year. It's one of the most enjoyable places we go all year, so I'm stoked!

This is your fourth full year on the WQS. In the beginning did you envision yourself taking four years to qualify for the WCT?

It's crazy to think it's been four years. I was close two of those years to qualifying and that's been a bit frustrating, but I think the experience is sometimes good for you. It builds who you are and how you surf. Before I started the 'QS I had a pretty good idea watching young Americans like Bobby Martinez and Tim Reyes that it could take anywhere from 2 to 5 years or more. I felt if I improved on my weaknesses and progressed, someday it would all come together for me. It's all stepping stones. The journey is just beginning in my eyes, so I'm really enthusiastic about the future.

As far as training and strategy goes will you be implementing anything new into your regiment before you set out on your rookie campaign on the WCT?

I've been watching a lot of CT heats in person and online, and trying to see what different surfer's strategies are and how they attack their man-on-man heats. Luckily this year I've been able to surf a lot of man-on-man heats as practice and I think that helps. On the 'CT it seems to me being on the best waves gives you the best opportunities for big moves.

Nathaniel Curran and Gabe Kling come to mind as two of the most recent Americans to qualify and have found the going tough on the 'CT. Are you mindful of the potential pitfalls that can plague rookies on the 'CT?

It's interesting looking at how everyone goes their rookie year, and how some of my American friends have gone their first year. There's no getting around the fact that the man-on-man format and different wave venues are a challenge for qualifiers off the 'QS. I think for myself I just really want to go to the venues and spend a lot of time before the comps learning the lineups and working on boards. Al (Merrick) has been great to ride for because of his extensive board knowledge for each break. He seems to have a design for every condition. A huge advantage the veterans have under their belts over the rookies is the experience at these places. Guys like Kelly (Slater) have been going to some of these spots for more than a decade, and have lots of knowledge of the lineups. So I'm probably gonna savvy up on the spots and go big or go home. As a rookie I'm just going to hit with a nothing-to-lose attitude.

You and your brothers (Dane and Tanner) are pretty tight. What will it be like to split up now that you've qualified?

I love traveling with the boys. They're absolute legends. But I don't think it's as big a deal as it might seem. Dane and Tanner are really strong on their own, and myself as well. We have a healthy rivalry between the three of us, so I think it will push us individually to really blow up. I'm sure we'll still travel together, just maybe not as much as these past few years.

Are there any events on the WCT you're looking forward to more than others?

Definitely! I can't wait to surf Snapper, Teahupo'o, Lowers and Pipe. All the venues look great. Those events really get me going.

Now that you've qualified, I expect a big bash to follow at the Gudauskas compound.

Yeah, there'll be a HUGE party. We're gonna blow the roof off this place!

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