The Ocean Elders
Gerry Lopez was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He frequented the semi-secret reefs in and around Aina Haina as well as better known surf spots in Metro-Honolulu. Lopez became the Hawaii State Champ in surfing at age 14, and he and friend Reno Abellira began surfing Ala Moana Bowls frequently. It is here that Lopez began honing his casual style and masterful tube riding skills.
He is widely recognized as the best tuberider in the world, and won the Pipeline Masters competition in 1972 and 1973, which has since been named the Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters. In 1999, he was selected as “Waterman of the Year” by the Surf Industries Manufacturing Association.
Lopez played an important role in the industry of commercial surfboard manufacturing. While in Hawaii, and together with other shapers, Lopez started the Lightning Bolt Surfboards brand of high performance shortboards. Lopez created the simple but eyecatching Lightning Bolt jag; every surfer in the ’70s wanted one. This brand was the first one to sponsor team riders with free boards, partially because many of the riders didn’t have the money to buy them.
Lopez and friend Rory Russell were credited with exposing and validating Indonesia and nearby areas as a comprehensive surf destination. Starting with the long, ultra shallowreef tubes at Uluwatu in Bali, Lopez and crew explored the immense surf potential of the ancient island archipelago. The undisputed crown jewel of their discovery was a long, peeling, and dangerous left-hand pointbreak located in the Indonesian natural reserve of Plengkung, on the southeastern tip of Java. The nearest town is called Grajagan. The surfspot they discovered is known today among surfers as G-Land.
Lopez has also worked as an actor, appearing mostly in films by fellow ex-surfer John Milius. Lopez is also an ambassador for Patagonia clothing company and has written at least one essay for their catalogs. He also appears frequently in ads and catalogs for Rainbow Sandals, and is a friend of the founder of the company and fellow surfer, Jay Longley.
In 2008, Lopez authored a book called Surf Is Where You Find It. He and good friend Jock Sutherland also appear on YouTube in the Patagonia sponsored “Talkin’ Pipe” series, where they describe their harrowing and sometimes humorous early experiences at the Pipeline.
Since about the early 1990s, Lopez has lived in Bend, Oregon, with his wife Toni and their son, Alex. Snowboarding has become a passion for both father and son, and Gerry is now applying his talents as a craftsman to making snowboards. His surfboards also remain in high demand.
“Whether any surfer wants to admit it or not, I think we’ve all had moments like looking at nice waves coming through the lineup maybe, only for a moment, feeling that we are in the presence of something holy. There is a spiritual-ness when you actually get in harmony with something as natural as the waves and the ocean, and yeah, it is definitely a religious experience.” -Gerry Lopez