Sign-ups for the 2017 Stoke-O-Rama will take place at 8 a.m. on Sept. 16 at Jack’s Surf Shop in San Clemente, located at 176 Avenida Del Mar, and you must be a San Clemente resident to enter. The contest will run on Oct. 8.
By Jake Howard
The Hurley Pro and Swatch Pro will crown champions by week’s end. But that’s not really the big surf news this week. The big news is that the Positive Vibe Warrior’s Stoke-O-Rama is once again coming to town.
“This is our sixth year doing it and we couldn’t be more fired up,” said Dane Gudauskas, who along with brothers Pat and Tanner founded the Positive Vibe Warrior Foundation.
The brothers’ initial goal for the Stoke-O-Rama was to give the South Orange County community something fun and free that celebrated the spirit of surfing and gave all the local kids a chance to compete without a ton of pressure. The program was an immediate success and has since grown to surf contests in other beach towns, including Huntington Beach and Makaha in Hawaii. But here’s the catch: space is limited for the one-day event and, due to its success, entry into the contest isn’t a given.
This year, the Stoke-O-Rama will run on Oct. 8, but sign-ups kick off early at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, at Jack’s Surf Shop on Avenida Del Mar in San Clemente. In the past, lines have started forming well before dawn, so it goes without saying that getting their early is key. The Stoke-O-Rama is open exclusively to San Clemente residents.
“It’s gotten kind of crazy with the sign-ups. It’s first come, first serve. Unfortunately, we only have so much space and time to run the contest, so we’ve had to put a cap on it,” Dane said. “We’ll be down there early Saturday morning firing up the stoke and getting everything dialed in.”
More than just another kids’ surf contest, the Stoke-O-Rama is a full-on experience the whole family can dig on. In the past, luminary surfers like world champion Kelly Slater and Sunny Garcia have shown up to support the cause, as have local pros like Kolohe Andino and Nate Yeomans. There are some epic prizes for the winners, and the goody bags that each competitor gets is stuffed with loot from all of the event’s sponsors. There are also a bunch of “extracurricular” activities on the beach, including games of flags and Gudauskas’s favorite, “corn dogging,” which is basically just rolling around in the sand.
“There are a lot of contest options for kids out there, but we wanted to have something that was fun and there wasn’t any pressure, we wanted it to be a positive experience for everyone,” Gudauskas continued. “When we were young, our little crew was always cheering for each other and having fun at the contests; then, when we went on tour, we had a similar thing where we had a little crew that was really supportive. We wanted to bring a little of that flavor to the next generation and share the stoke.”
Another key aspect of the Stoke-O-Rama is that all proceeds go to the San Clemente Junior Lifeguard program. While the contest is free, there are opportunities to buy T-shirts and other merchandise to support the cause.
“The Junior Lifeguard Program does so much for the kids in town, and we’re blessed to be able to do our little part to help out,” Dane said. “I believe last year we were able to make a $10,000 donation to the junior lifeguards. That all goes back into the community with kids learning more about ocean safety and environmental issues.”
No matter your age or where you grew up, we all started surfing for one reason—because it’s fun. Of course, riding waves is fun, but so is floating around in the ocean with your friends. Long days on the sand, picnic lunches, sunny skies, the smell of low tide, it’s all part of the experience. And when everybody comes together on the beach, it’s bound to turn into one big party. The Stoke-O-Rama celebrates all of this.
“Everything around the Stoke-O-Rama has been done to ensure that everyone has a great time and leaves the beach stoked at the end of the day,” Dane said.