“Surfing is a matter of the heart. »
Special Envoy to Ericera (Portugal)
At over 70, the man has had several lives. Surfer, actor notably in Conan the Barbarian and finally Master Yogi. All that was missing was to make a film worthy of his work. It’s done with « The yin and the Yang of Gerry Lopez » directed by filmmaker Stacy Peralta. He will pass through Paris during the Surf ans skate Festival in Paris from September 22 to 25?
What does it mean to you to be a surfer. Is it a way of living, a way of thinking about life?
You want to be like the ocean, to become one with it. By dint of being in the water, you think a little more every day about these waves that you want to tame. This is where you start to wonder about the purpose of it all. Do I understand everything that’s going on here? What is happening in me, for me? Surfing brings you all that over the years. When I think back to my practice, I tell myself that the first 20 years were the obligatory and initiatory passage necessary to understand, to understand myself. All these years were necessary for me to know if I really liked it. When I got past that, that’s when I started to understand the lessons that surfing had taught me. This lesson learned in the water is so much more valuable than if I had stayed on the beach watching. Surfing more than the physical or mental side is a matter of the heart.
You are also a master yogi. What has yoga brought you in your sports practice?
For me, at this point in my life I don’t know yet if it really helped me to be a better surfer, but it allowed me to ask myself questions about what life is in general. I understood over time that yoga has the answers to all the big questions that we can ask ourselves about our existence. It is a very ancient practice that is filled with millennial experience, so it teaches you many truths acquired over time.
Everyone says you’re the man who radically changed the way surfing was done in the early seventies. What do you think ?
Oh please (looks down), this is an exaggeration. I became a surfer when everything changed. The material, with the creation of smaller, more aggressive, lighter and more manageable boards, has made it possible to surf waves that we could not take before and in particular Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore (North Shore) of Oahu ( Hawaii). The new materials used have changed everything too. The hardware as a whole has changed. Before that, surfing was reserved for a very small category of individuals. The boards were wooden, very heavy, difficult to move in the water. In fact, no one was interested in this sport. With this lightness found in the materials and these more adapted board shapes, many more people have gotten into it, especially women. Suddenly surfing became very popular. There were magazines, films, a whole industry was created around it. In fact, all this to say that I was the right person in the right place at the right time. For Pipeline, I made my boards myself according to this wave that was so destructive and where there was sometimes a question of survival. Very quickly everyone wanted to have the same board as mine (laughs).
What are the best and worst memories you have of all this period?
Beyond surfing, it’s first of all the people I was able to meet at that time and with whom I have remained friends since then. As for the worst, I don’t have any, except that today, at over 70, I can no longer do what I used to do. I am no longer at the same level. But as we say in French: « C’est la vie! » « . We always have the feeling that it will happen later, but it comes much faster than we think.
How do you view the practice of surfing today, which is more and more radical and is inspired by other sliding disciplines such as skateboarding?
Tour changes and that’s normal, that’s life, right? Skateboarding, windsurfing, stand up paddle, foil all these disciplines are very interesting and I have them or I practice them. But we must not forget one thing, they all come from the same sport: surfing. He is the mother of it all. These sports today have their own history and young people can grow up with these many choices. It’s better this way.
You now live in Oregon in the mountains where you practice snowboarding. Mountain or sea, which do you think is the more dangerous of the two?
Definitely the mountain. Everyone thinks the ocean is dangerous and it can be, but can we see it coming? In the mountains anything can happen even though you think it’s a beautiful day. You have to know it very well to be able to practice it. That’s probably why today I go back to the ocean more often to surf.