Five Miles Up with … Tanner Gudauskas

Bekah Wright
five miles up

To say Tanner Gudauskas is in constant motion would be an understatement. As a professional surfer, he’s always catching waves. Competing on those waves gives his passport a workout of its own. Within the next 30 days alone, Gudauskas will be getting stamps in South Africa, El Salvador, Mexico and California. Monday, he kicked things off with the inaugural, six-star Los Cabos Open of Surf, a competition seeking to become the largest surf and music festival in Mexico. While sizing up the competition from Costa Azul’s famous Zipper’s beach break, what destination will be calling to Gudauskas? The North Pole, naturally.

What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
Books. Right now I’m reading “Inferno by Dan Brown. And my iPod. You have those flights that aren’t guaranteed, and breaking up the time in the airport and on plane is important. It’s the only time you can’t do anything except just sit.

Carry-on or check-in?
Check-in if I can and go minimal carry-on so I feel light.

Window or aisle?

Do you bring food with you on plane?
I have to have Twizzlers, which is probably why I have so many cavities.

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
As a surfer, getting good wind and waves. I’ve had a couple of trips to Tahiti that have been unbelievable.

Tell us about a vacation you’ve taken that’s come close to perfection.
I took one with my brothers, Patrick and Dane, to Nicaragua. The weather and the waves were perfect. We’d wake up and hit Meat Grinders (Beach). You don’t want to be in midday sun, so we’d come back and chill out for a while, then surf again before dark.

What’s the worst vacation you’re taken, or mishap/annoyance while traveling?
The first I time traveled internationally for a surf contest was to England with my brother Dane. Our boards didn’t show up, so we went to figure things out over pizza for dinner. I got food poisoning and was so sick the next day. Because we were too young to rent a car, we’d booked a hotel four miles away from the contest so we could walk. I had to take breaks along the way to throw up. We were able to borrow boards, but didn’t do well in the contest.

Where’s your favorite destination for surfing?
Hawaii on Oahu’s North Shore. We get to spend two months at the end of every year there. It’s a Mecca of surfing, an eight-mile stretch of beach with insane waves and a bunch of breaks.

What's the most decadent souvenir you’ve ever brought back from a trip?
On my last trip to Australia, I bought an 18-inch-tall John Lennon doll that was stylized during his New York years. It’s a priceless object I keep in my room. I paid a premium for it.

Other than that pizza in England, ever try a food you wished you hadn't?
I tend to get into whatever the cultural cuisine is where I’m visiting. I’ve eaten kangaroo, crocodile, snakes ... I like not knowing what you’re getting into. Sometimes you get that rogue card that’s not digestible; it’s all part of the fun.

Favorite accommodations?
The Pelagic in Indonesia. It’s a five-star, charter surfboat, and when you’re on it, you’re right there on the ocean when the surf’s up.

Biggest regret you've ever had while on vacation.
Had an opportunity to go skydiving on Oahu. I’d gone twice before, so passed it up. Being an adrenaline junkie, I really regretted not going.

The one thing you're willing to splurge on when traveling above all else.

Three artists on your travel playlist?
Beastie Boys, throw in a little bit of Lou Reed and Bob Marley.

Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?
A sandwich store called Billy’s Meat-Seafood-Deli in San Clemente, Calif. We’d order the Vegetarian on Squaw with honey mustard, Swiss and avocado along with peanut butter cookies and beer.

You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
The North Pole. I want to meet Santa Claus. I think he’s still up there.