No matter how small or crumbly the wave, they would invariably assume that relaxed tuck position and drag their hand along the face. It didn’t matter if they weren’t getting barreled. They wanted to look like Lopez.
There’s a reason he was called “Mr. Pipeline.”
Lopez didn’t just surf the place; he was among those pioneers who learned how to really get barreled here. He shaped boards specifically for Pipe and won the Pipeline Masters in 1972 and ’73. He went on to own the house right in front of the break and shape his famous Lightning Bolts and now Gerry Lopez Surfboards.But 25 years ago, Lopez made a move to Bend, Oregon. There he was able to find the kind of open space that was disappearing in Hawaii. He continued to shape surfboards, mountain bike and, most importantly, snowboard. He’s a Mt. Bachelor guy now. The legend just turned 67, and, as a Patagonia ambassador, he still travels to surf, get lost in the powder, paddle and do yoga.
During a recent conversation, Lopez discussed some of what he has learned about low-pressure systems swinging through the Pacific and what that has meant for his two passions.
“The first years we were in Oregon, there was plenty of snow, but then, after a while, I noticed there would be a lean season without the big or steady snowfall — cold and clear with high pressure inland and not the deep lows and frontal passage pounding the coastline,” he recalls.
“If the Pipeline was good, clean, west to northwest swells, nice easterly trades, then the West Coast was going to suck for snow.”
It’s perfect that Lopez was going back and forth between the volcanic islands of Hawaii and the “stratovolcano” of Mt. Bachelor in the Cascades. Through his relationship with the mountains and sea, Lopez started to learn how important the track of the North Pacific storms are.
“Like last year, Pipe was going off, great December and January; California was getting good surf, but they didn’t get a lick of snow. Even the Pacific Northwest barely got any snow. But there [were] waves, so if you’re a surf/snow person, don’t sweat it, you’re going to get one or the other,” he says. “You just have to stay flexible.”
With El Nino coming online this year, the jet stream’s dip will be farther east in the Pacific. With such a strong phase in place, meteorologists aren’t quite sure what to expect, but whether it’s dumping in the hills or firing on the rock, Lopez will likely be getting the best of it.
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