Pat Gudauskas changed everything. In case you missed it, Pat Gudauskas, a standout WQS surfer from San Clemente and a young man scratching at the door of the WCT, completed a Rodeo Clown aerial. Others have nailed this maneuver (most notably Jordy Smith at Macaronis just last month) but nobody, not even Kelly Slater, has pulled one off during a competition. Actually, Pat pulled it off in the heat of competition.
Mark my words, this was a major, groundbreaking event. It is on the same paradigm shifting level as Nat Young carving turns in San Diego circa ‘66, Shaun Tomson spinning a web through barrels at Off the Wall, MR’s blistering performances from ‘79 – ’83 (pick one), Christian Fletcher at Lowers in ‘89, Laird Hamilton at Teahupoo in 2001. Gudauskas’ move cemented an ‘Oh my God…” moment. Surfing, both of the competitive nature and the ‘free’ version, will never be the same.
Now granted, it wasn’t the biggest Rodeo Clown ever performed. Jordy and Jamie O have flown higher. It wasn’t necessarily the cleanest punt. Kelly Slater and others have nailed big ones. It wasn’t really at the most critical juncture of the wave, either, Gudauskas throwing it up at the end of the ride. But none of that matters. What matters is that he did it with a contest jersey on. Something no other surfer has ever done.
This maneuver, the Rodeo Clown, is ridiculously difficult. It’s a 9, out of a possible 10 on the difficulty scale. Now, thanks to Gudauskas, the act of doing a simple, straightforward, no hands aerial has lost its cache. Ho hum. Just another aerial, whatever bro. Pat G throws Rodeos. In heats! Everything else seems rather blas.
Thanks to Pat G., the Rodeo Clown is the new benchmark. Like turning off the tail, changing lines in the tube, stylishly transitioning through a set of turns, busting front-side airs at will, or towing into the unthinkable, soon most every young surfer will be dreaming of it at night and attempting it in the day. Many will begin nailing it, but whether they do or don’t make it does not matter. What matters is that they are trying. That’s what Pat Gudauskas has changed this week—the mindset of a surfing world. And that, in my opinion, is the power of competitive surfing. With Jordy and Jamie O, the average surfer sort of shrugged it off, ‘Oh, well those guys are freaks.” Now, with a completed Rodeo Clown aerial within the context of a competition, this preposterous maneuver with a preposterous name, the Rodeo Clown aerial, seems like a reachable goal.
Now, please excuse me, I must go, I don’t want to keep my trampoline coach waiting.