From Pipeline To Powder
Words by: Lauren Dake
It only took one trip to the high desert and Gerry Lopez—a world renowned surfer—was hooked. It wasn’t long before the man nicknamed Mr. Pipeline (due to his skills riding the famous and dangerous surf breakin Hawaii) permanently traded wet waves for snowy peaks of the Cascades. For more than a decade now, Central Oregon has been Lopez’s home. The published author, Patagonia ambassador and man who took Arnold Schwarzenegger surfing, isn’t stopping. This Saturday, May 12, Gerry will be at Mt. Bachelor hosting his new snowboard contest concept, the second annual Big Wave Challenge.
What can riders expect as far as features go for the “Big Wave Challenge” event held at Mt. Bachelor?
This year we have a lot of leeway in creating the course. Last year’s course was pretty fun, but this year is going to be a 100-percent improvement. I guarantee everyone that takes a run down is going to be pretty happy. It’s going to offer a bunch of different features and you’ll have a lot of different ways to ride it. There’s not going to be just one way to hit any feature, it’s creative. That’s one of the things we judge and stress in the rider’s meeting is for these guys to get really creative with their lines. Once people see it they will go, ‘OK, I think I know what I want to do.’ And I think everybody will really enjoy themselves on it. People will be judged on creativity, style, speed, maneuvers, overall poise and finesse that they hit the features with.
How about the build?
We’re going to use machines to push the snow up and rough-shape the features. Most will be finished off by hand though. It will take a lot of work. We are hoping to make this an ongoing annual event that ends the season at Mt. Bachelor on a real high note, so people get stoked for the next season.
How big will the waves be?
Big. It’s the Big Wave Challenge. They will be big enough. Definitely overhead.
Anything else important to mention about The Challenge?
Sign up and enter online. We can expect to have a lot of people interested because the week before the event is Superpark and the hotshot Superpark riders from all over the country are coming here. They will see our course; a lot of them will ride it, too. We’re going to have to have a cut off point on the field though. I’m not sure how many riders total but if too many guys sign up we’ll have to put a ceiling on entries. Otherwise we won’t have enough time. Last year, over 100 people participated. It was a big event.
You started out as a surfer, your a famous shaper, a snowboarder and have been credited with helping the standup paddling industry takeoff inland. Are there still items left on your bucket list?
I still have to learn to kite. I haven’t learned that yet.
A lot of people look up to you in the boardsports industry, who influenced you and your riding?
I started surfing so long ago that all the guys who influenced me nobody remembers anymore. So as far as snowboarding, I had the honor and privilege to snowboard with Craig Kelley a number of times. A lot of people really look to his style of riding as being a real benchmark as far as snowboarding style. I would say he was a huge influence on me. There are a lot of local riders here that I love to ride with and love to watch them ride and I learn a lot by watching them, James Jackson, Allister Schultz , Josh Dirksen are all really world-class terrific riders. They are also great, beautiful people, too.
A lot of people have described you as calm and Zen. Do you agree? What do you credit that to?
I think because I’ve been surfing so long and thought about it a lot. I realized surfing, and snowboarding in a way, too, has a lot of lessons to teach you that you learn while you’re doing either sport. These lessons actually have a lot more to do with life after you get out of the water, or off the hill, even though that’s where you learn them. So in a way, they become a good metaphor for life. You can apply a lot of the stuff you learn out on the waves or up in the snow to living your life back in civilization. Generally speaking, they teach you to live a life in harmony with nature, which is a very useful skill to have and a skill that’s not very easy to learn in an urban society. You spend a lot of time indoors and dealing with electronic devices. It’s really healthy, not only physically but mentally and spiritually healthy, to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Is there anything about your life you would change?
No, nothing that I can think of. I wish the days were longer.
If you had to pick between snow or surf, which would you choose?
Tell me about your experience filming Conan the Barbarian. Did you hang with Arnold?
Quite a bit. I thought he was a wonderful person. I would have voted for him as governor any day and had he been able to run for president, I would have voted for him, too. We became friends during the filming of Conan. We spent a lot of time together and we still are friends. I took him surfing one time. There wasn’t anyone there, it was one of my secret spots. I was surprised he got on the board and paddled out. When we got back, he got off the board and shoved it in the beach and said, ‘Yeah, that’s enough for me’ (impersonates Arnold’s voice). He only tried it once.
Where is one place you have yet to ride your snowboard or surfboard that you haven’t had the chance?
I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are a lot of places I think about going, but on the other hand it’s pretty nice to stay at home, too. Usually I go someplace for work. I’m going to Hawaii next week for a stand up paddle event. I still build surfboards. I’m an ambassador for Patagonia and Rainbow sandals and Maui Jim sunglasses. I write quite a bit too … I also have a stand up paddle and yoga camp that my friend Dennis and my wife and I do down in Mexico, three or four times a year. It’s the Lopez lifestyle standup paddle and yoga camp. It’s really fun.
You’ve had a life full of adventures and one that most people would envy, to what do you credit your success?
Never giving up. Keep trying. No matter how many times you fall down, get back up and go again and again and again. Nothing really came that easy for me. So you know, anything I learned how to do I had to work really hard at it. I guess I figured out at some point, that I had to keep trying. I couldn’t let the frustration of failure defeat me. You have to allow yourself the freedom to fail.