6 July 2009
Just hours after celebrating both his 21st birthday and American Independence Day, both on 4 July, Tanner Gudauskas celebrated the biggest victory of his professional surfing career by winning the six-star-rated Mr Price Pro Ballito in Ballito, north of Durban, on Sunday.
The American defeated Australian James Taipan Wood in the final to rocket up to number six on the World Qualifying Series (WQS) ratings. He pocketed R159 000 for his win, as well as 2500 Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) WQS ratings points.
“I just can’t believe it. This is a personal best for me,” said Gudauskas.
‘Dreaming about winning’
“Every night this week, I’ve been going to bed dreaming about winning this contest and putting myself up there where Pat (Tanner’s brother and WQS number 10 Patrick Gudauskas) was at, and it came through today, so I’m fired up.”
Attacking the 30-minute final with determination, Gudauskas rode every lump of swell and snatched an early heat lead with a 6.83 (out of 10.00) for some clean backhand turns, as he rode in an explosion of whitewater from his final maneuver.
While his opponent Wood opted to play the patience game, catching his first wave at the 11-minute mark, Gudauskas was fast out of his top turns, maintaining speed and power in the wind affected waves, to score a 6.67 and further extend his lead over the Australian, who was left looking for a 7.67.
“I just got into this mindset that when the surf got worse I was going to get better and, as the tide came up and it got less consistent, I just got more fired up and more pissed off,” said Gudauskas. “It’s crazy because I can hardly remember half of it now, but my priority exchange worked out and it all came together and I’m just super fired up.”
Chaired up the beach
Cloaked in the stars and stripes of the American flag, an emotional Gudauskas was chaired up the beach by his older brother Dane and quarterfinalist Dylan Graves, surrounded by a sea of adoring fans and media crew, all wanting a piece of the newly crowned champ.
“When I came out of the water and saw my brothers and some of my friends all standing on the beach cheering for me I was almost in tears,” related Gudauskas.
“We have a really strong crew from America right now and we’re all pushing as hard as we can to bust down the door and make the ASP World Tour and I think this year could be the year.”
Highest rated American
Guduaskas is now the highest rated American surfer on the WQS tour, surpassing both number seven Brett Simpson and his older brother, number 10 Patrick Gudauskas.
Mr Price Pro Ballito runner-up James Wood, a former under-16 world Champion, who Sunday had yet to make his mark on the WQS circuit, joined Gudauskas in posting his career-best result, taking home R79 000, as well as a serious boost of confidence.
“This second place is amazing. It’s the best I have ever done,” said Wood.
“Obviously my strategy wasn’t the best, but this result is going to help a lot. I didn’t expect to do this well and I just ended up on a good roll, so I’m stoked and just want to keep the momentum going into the next few contests.”
Finishing in equal-third positions were aerial maestros, Australians Wade Goodall and Matt Wilkinson, who kept spectators glued to the action with their radical near perfect nine-point rides in the morning.
Both surfers earned R40 000, as well as 1 625 ratings points; they helped lift Wilkinson to twelfth on the WQS rankings.
After netting good to excellent scores all week, including a near perfect 9.17 in his quarterfinal match-up against Dylan Graves, Wilkinson was relegated into second place by an on-form Wood during their semifinal, with the Australian needing only a 6.61 to advance.
“If I had known I was going to come here and get third I would have been stoked, but to need a six to make a final is incredibly disappointing because I’ve caught a hundred sixes this week,” said Wilkinson. “It’s disappointing but I’m still very happy with this result.”
Wade Goodall suffered a similar semifinal loss. After posting an excellent 9.33 during the quarterfinals against South African Klee Strachan, Goodall lost confidence against Gudauskas in the semis.
After failing to land any of his trademark air reverses, Goodall slipped into a combination situation (needing a combination of two-scoring rides) as Gudauskas racked up scores to advance to the final.
“I’m amped with this result,” said Goodall. “I got really nervous in that heat and my legs kept giving way on many of my airs. I hardly ever actually have to think that I have to make an air going into it, but still I’m stoked with how things went today.”
WQS number one, Daniel Ross of Australia, took home an equal-fifth-place finish, joining fellow quarterfinalists Dylan Graves of Puerto Rico, South Africa’s Klee Strachan, and Australian Nathan Hedge, all of whom earned R23 000 ($2950).
Top South African
Strachan was the top placed local surfer in the event and went on to win the Best Wave award during the Glodina Expression Session, for which he pocketed an extra R5 000 in cash.
“Obviously you want to make it to the final and I was thinking maybe I can do this, and was feeling confident in every heat,” said Strachan. “Unfortunately things didn’t go my way this morning (on Sunday). I didn’t get the waves, but to get a result like this in my first year on the WQS is amazing. It’s the biggest confidence boost of my life.”
Australian Stuart Kennedy took out the Best Maneuver award, while another Aussie Adam Melling won the Best Aerial during the Glodina Expression Session. Both surfers picked up R5 000 for their efforts.
The Gunston 500
Originally known as the Gunston 500, the event took place in Durban from 1969 until 2008. Ballito became the new venue for the competition this year.
South African surfing icon Shaun Tomson owns the biggest winning streak in professional surfing, having won the Gunston 500 six years in succession, from 1973 to 1978. He was crowned world champion in 1977.
Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material