INTERVIEW: Tanner Gudasukas' New VHS Project is the Perfect Lockdown Tonic

Jason Lock

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Updated 1072d ago

What surf flick inspired you as a kid? Was there a certain segment or movie that imbued wanderlust? Made you want to travel? Score waves? Or was there an entire grainy VHS showcase that elevated a surfer to hero status in your eyes?

The beauty of our humble community is inspiration is everywhere; we'll stare for hours at lineups, IG feeds of friends getting shacked, or a quiet seascape close to home. But arguably, the most inspiring thing is the movies or clips from the early days of surfing-to-video, when you could only get them in analog format.

Tanner Gudauskas has a vault of VHS and DVD goodness, films like Slater's Black and White are in the mix as well as a few Tanner still watches every day. And while coronavirus is keeping us cooped up, Tanner's been streaming parts of those movies and interviewing the protagonists as part of his series, Paradise Awareness Outreach, a little something he whipped up to keep us connected to our surfing heroes, in a way that's not really been done before. What started as live vids on his IG feed turned into a YouTube channel and more – and it's something we tip our hat to.

So far, Tanner's interviewed; Nathan Fletcher, Damien Hobgood, Lisa Anderson, Taylor Steele, Dane Reynolds and so many more. We decided to check in with Tanner – to talk about the project and how it's helping keep the fire alive.

Hey Tanner, so what's in the name, Paradise Awareness Outreach?
I’ve been thinking about that name for quite a while. I like that it feels pretty nebulous. In this time, it felt super perfect because we’re all just stuck in our homes.

The outreach aspect of it is to connect people through surfing. I can’t even believe how excited a lot of these guys are to do this project. A lot of these guys I’ve never even Facetimed with before. So, the ‘awareness outreach’ is all about hopefully learning something every day. It’s like a surf history class.

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This Thursday. Chris Malloy. Outreach 16/// growing up I idolized the Malloy brothers (still do). It’s an oddity to be three brothers in surfing at the same time. They were the most clear example of how to have family and friendship and surf and have an epic time. So the inspiration goes far beyond these movies for patrick, Dane and I but this Thursday I’ll be talking with Chris about his story telling he passes through these movies, the contributions to the culture that he and his brothers have so brightly left and a million other things because I can guarantee I’ll be FROTHING! Please text a friend who loves surfing and let them know, tomorrow is a day off because next person I FaceTime I’m hoping has an epic beard! thanks for the support with the outreach.

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How do you think it'll help the surfing community?
I didn’t think much of it when I started this. I was just doing it because I liked these videos. But each day it’s grown. I haven’t had the time to reflect on how this could impact the community. I just really want people to see these movies and the interviews. It’s like you get to be a fly on the wall for these conversations.

The other day, with Nathan Fletcher, was one of the coolest phone calls I’ve ever had. He just has so much knowledge. If somebody didn’t know Nate, they just got a really good look at who he is. That is so special to me.

If you could watch one old surf flick for the rest of your days, which would it be?
[Laughs.] That’s almost an unanswerable question. Searching for Tom Curren and The Occumentary feel like they’re a whole different level. If I could only have two, I think those would be a good Simon and Garfunkle type duo.

Why do you think VHS or DVD surf movies are more special in the era of internet clips?
Back in the day, there just wasn’t as many of them. Nathan Fletcher was saying that his dad made one hundred surf films, which is mind-blowing. But nowadays you see something crazy everyday – which is a good thing; I think that’s awesome – but I do think there’s something to be said about experience and storytelling in films.

The thing that’s cool about this project is that it’s super janky, and it feels like you’re there with me watching this surf film.

When did you start becoming a surf flick collector?
My dad was a sales rep basically since we were born. He worked at Local Motion then Rip Curl. He was always on the road at the shops selling t-shirts or whatever.

And he’d always pick us up a video and bring it home. When we were super young, the three of us were so into surfing, and that was something that we could always do with dinner. I vividly remember eating pizza and always asking to watch The Occumentary. My whole family would watch it. The impact of these films has just stuck with me. There’s much more fibre to them than all the surf clips coming out today.

What was the reason for starting the live streams?
It’s been this crazy live experiment. I started it because I was watching these surf videos every day.

Then my brother-in-law sent me a live performance from this DJ. We were dancing and it was so uplifting. I just thought it was such a cool concept – this guy is just in his house and sharing something he’s super into. So, I started trying to figure out how I could do that with the surf videos I was already watching every day anyway.

I didn’t know anything about this stuff. But I got a website, got a YouTube, got an encoder livestream thing. Each day has been this crazy hurdle of learning. Watching the videos was fun, but I had this crazy excuse of knowing the guys who were either in them or made them.

And I thought it would be cool to call the people and get their blessings. The movie almost became just the cherry on top, because these guys have such crazy stories to tell. Surfing is all about telling stories. It’s such a deep cut level, but if you’re into that stuff then it’s perfect for you.

What do you foresee for the future of this project?
I have no idea where this will go. It’s just fun right now. It gives me purpose as we’re going through this thing.

As long as the coronavirus is going around and people want to talk about surf movies, then I’ll keep doing it. But I’ll tell you what, I’m having a really good time doing it and I feel like I’m learning a lot. Who knows what it’ll look like down the road.

A version of this article originally appeared on Surfline