Winner of the 2016 Shoe City Pro, Patrick Gudauskas (USA). WSL/ Baptista Winner of the 2016 Shoe City Pro, Patrick Gudauskas. - WSL / Nilton Baptista

Patrick Gudauskas kicked off his 2016 run at Championship Tour (CT) qualification with a win at the Shoe City Pro in a solid El Niño swell at Huntington Beach. You wouldn't normally catch Pat surfing a 1,000-point Qualifying Series (QS) event. In fact, he didn't compete in an event until May last season. But this year, Gudauskas, who fell off the CT in 2013, is hell bent on rejoining surfing's elite.

Shoe City Pro Highlights
Highlights of 2016 Shoe City Pro in Huntington Beach, CA January 12-14.

That means full focus on the Qualifying Series. No passion projects, no TV shows with his brothers. He even pulled out of Sunday's Todos Santos Challenge. Considering he's a member of the BWT Top 10, and he participated in last month's Pe'ahi Challenge, his decision to give everything else a back seat is revealing.

"Right now I feel like I have a lot to offer the CT," he said. "At the end of last year I decided this year is a full blown focus on that."

To that end, one reason Guduaskas did compete in Pe'ahi, he says, is because he didn't want to take a break. He's always had the froth and the stoke but his real training comes from doing events.

"I wouldn't have a lot of reason to do a [QS1,000]," he said. "But for me this year is about practicing and surfing as many heats as I can. I want to surf A-plus heats every heat no matter if it's a QS1,000 or a Prime."

Taking down Nathan Yeomans (USA) in the Final after a dramatic Semifinal with Chris Waring (USA), Pat Gudauskas (USA) emerged victorious at the Shoe City Pro. Patrick Gudauskas attacks the lip at the 2016 Shoe City Pro in Huntington Beach. - WSL / Nilton Baptista

Last year Gudauskas missed the cut after finishing No. 29 on the QS. "At the end of the year I realized I kind of took the first half off," he said. "I got really close and I didn't think I gave it 100 percent effort. And that really lit a fire under my ass. I felt like I'd refined a really good program that I wanted to bring to every heat and it was starting to show."

With a few more positive results in 2016, Gudauskas could find himself in the qualification picture come Hawaii. A win in Shoe City, though small, is a great step in building confidence for the long season ahead.

World Surf League
Download it for free on the App store. Download it for free on Google Play.