50 fascinating facts about Mr. Pipeline

Known for exploring and riding deep in the tube, Gerry Lopez is surfing’s very own Yoda. Here are some fascinating life and career facts about Mr. Pipeline.

He’s a Zen-like character admired by many and whose reflections inspire surfers to change the world, one day at a time.

Gerry Lopez is the ultimate soul surfer.

His trademark barrel riding technique involved taking off vertically down the wave face, turning and positioning quickly beneath the curl.

Lopez would only make fine adjustments throughout the ride before adopting a relaxed body posture inside the tube with knees slightly bent and arms and hands lowered.

Gerry also shines on the steep, powder-white mountains with a snowboard under his feet.

Gerry Lopez: one of the greatest tube riders of all time | Photo: Nolan/Cariuma

The Coolest Surfer on Earth

But Lopez has always been more than just a prolific Pipeline surfer, master tube rider, and adventurous slope rider.

He’s a free thinker who incorporates Eastern principles and philosophy into his daily life.

For many, the dark-haired surfer is the coolest surfer that has ever lived, even when exiting a hollow, spray-spitting barrel.

“Where everybody else used the wave as a platform upon which to perform, his idea was to literally disappear into the wave,” underlines Matt Warshaw in “The History of Surfing.”

“He made the most difficult thing in the sport appear not just easy but meditative. Nobody had better timing than Gerry Lopez.”

North Shore of Oahu’s 1970’s chameleon always knew to morph and adapt his personality to the environment, whether by standing alone on the beach like a modern-day Gandhi or traveling to Australia, Peru, and California to compete as just another pro surfer.

Quiet, serene, slender, watchful, and often secluded into his personal world, Lopez inaugurated a new type of surfing personality that would pave the way to many other similar 21st-century surfers.

Here’s everything you should know about Gerry Lopez, a charming, warm, polite, and modest man who has always put surfing first.

Gerry Lopez: one of the coolest surfers in the history of the sport | Photo: Jeff Divine

The Life and Career of Gerry Lopez

1. Gerald Ken Lopez was born on November 7, 1948, in Honolulu, Hawaii;

2. He is of Japanese, German and Spanish descent – the son of a high school teacher mother and newspaperman father;

3. The Hawaiian started surfing at the age of nine at Waikiki but only really took it seriously while attending Punahou School;

4. Lopez earliest influence was Paul Strauch, an elegant Hawaiian regular-footer;

5. Gerry competed regularly as a teenager, won the 1966 Hawaiian Junior Surfing Championships, was a three-time finalist in the state titles (1968, 1969, and 1972), and a finalist in the US Surfing Championships in 1969 and 1970;

6. The youngster started developing his tube riding technique while surfing Ala Moana Bowls with his friend Reno Abellira;

7. Gerry Lopez was one of the first surfers of his generation to incorporate yoga into his life and career;

8. Lopez had his inaugural contact with Hinduism in 1969 when Swami Vishnudevananda, founder of the Sivananda School of Yoga, came to the University of Hawaii to lecture. He has been a follower of the Swami’s teachings ever since;

9. The Hawaiian goofy-footer once revealed that in the late 1960s, early 1970s, Lopez was “a surfer-hippy looking for a path to some sort of enlightenment. Yoga fitted in perfectly with my lifestyle”;

10. Gerry said that his “practicing of Yoga has enabled my surfing to stay at a level that would have been impossible without it”;

Gerry, RB and Reno Abellira, 1969: incorporating meditation and yoga into surfing | Photo: David Garling

11. He also took his diet seriously with steamed veggies and brown rice as a structural foundation of his food intake;

12. Lopez learned the art of shaping perfect surfboards with Dick Brewer;

13. At 20, he competed and finished fifth at the 1969 US Surfing Championships in Huntington Beach. Before the finals, Gerry sat next to the pilings in a full lotus position, with his eyes closed, and cut himself off from the crowd on the beach;

14. Between the summer of 1969 and the spring of 1971, the Hawaiian wrote around 50 columns for The Honolulu Advertiser. His columnist signature was “Gerry Ken Lopez, Advertiser Surfing Writer”;

15. In the summer of 1970, the legendary surfer launched Lightning Bolt, one of the most iconic surfboard manufacturers in the history of the sport;

16. Lopez teamed up with surf contest judge Jack Shipley to market the timeless and highly successful red and yellow board model and brand;

17. The duo had worked together at a Honolulu shop called Surf Line Hawaii;

18. The iconic letter-free, never-trademarked, flash logo was on the stringer near the nose of the board in every craft shaped by Lightning Bolt;

19. Gerry Lopez was always more concerned with the prestige and reputation of his brand than with profit and sales. As a result, the company never sold more than 2,500 a year;

20. Lopez and Shipley later hired Hugh Boyd, founder of Hang Ten, to transform Lightning Bolt into a multinational corporation that also sold t-shirts, sunglasses, backpacks, bodyboards, towels, etc.;

Lightning Bolt: the iconic and prestigious surfboard company founded by Gerry Lopez

21. Gerry Lopez won the prestigious Pipeline Masters in 1972 and 1973;

22. From the moment the Hawaiian won his second title at the infamous North Shore of Oahu surf break onward, the event was informally named the Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters. The honorific denomination only changed after the passing of Andy Irons in 2010;

23. For obvious and multiple reasons, Lopez’s most famous nickname is Mr. Pipeline;

24. On January 17, 1972, during “Huge Monday,” Gerry wiped out at Pipeline and left the lineup with blood running down the face and a few loose teeth;

25. In 1974, while describing the mechanics of riding the tube at Pipeline for a journalist, Lopez put it simply: “It’s a cakewalk”;

26. In 1978, Gerry Lopez played himself in John Milius’s surf movie “Big Wednesday“;

27. In the 1970s, nearly all surf movies with Pipeline sequences featured the spot’s influential character – “Morning of the Earth,” “Five Summer Stories,” “Going Surfin,'” “Super Session,” “Tales from the Tube,” and “In Search of Tubular Swells”;

28. The more Lopez got into yoga, the more he put competition aside. “Surfing’s like a dance, and when you’re trying to squash your opponents, it kind of takes away from that whole experience,” he stated;

29. In 1980, Lopez sold his interest in Lightning Bolt and worked for three years as vice president of marketing for a Hawaiian surfwear company;

30. At the time, Gerry teamed with partner John Porter to buy a property in front of Banzai Pipeline from his friend Paul Peterson;

Gerry Lopez: he fell in love with snowboarding when he visited Bend, Oregon, in 1992 | Photo: Lopez Archive

31. Lopez and Porter built a three-story house with a sole goal – to be able to see the Pipeline wave from every room;

32. “Lopez State Park,” “Pipeline Hilton,” or “The Pipe House,” as it was called, eventually became too busy for Gerry, and the surfer sold it. In 2007, it became the Volcom Pipe House;

33. Throughout the 1980s, Gerry traveled to Indonesia and discovered a wave that he thought was better than Pipeline – Java’s G-Land, on the Grajagan Bay;

34. In 1987, Lopez married Toni. Their son, Alex, was born in 1989;

35. In the 1990s, the Honolulu native moved to Maui and started a new business venture, Gerry Lopez Surfboards;

36. The first big wave surfers to get towed into Jaws/Peahi, including Laird Hamilton and Darrick Doerner, rode Lopez’s signature boards;

37. In 1992, Mr. Pipeline fell in love with snowboarding after a trip to Bend, Oregon, and started a snowboard company with his wife;

38. Lopez once said that “snowboarding made me appreciate the surf even more than I did already. Snow and waves are two of the most unbelievable wonders of nature with deep and hidden meanings just waiting to be discovered by true believers”;

39. Pipeline expert Rory Russell was able to describe Gerry Lopez’s talent and charisma in a few yet meaningful words: “What he does is poetry. For sheer beauty, no one else even comes close”;

40. The tube riding specialist is 5’8” and weighs around 140 pounds;

Mr. Pipeline: Gerry Lopez, master of style | Photo: Jeff Divine

41. What’s Gerry’s secret for becoming a tube-riding master? “Choosing the right waves, focus, and concentration”;

42. In 1999, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) handed Lopez the “Waterman of the Year” award;

43. The Hawaiian was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 2000;

44. Surfing Magazine named Gerry Lopez “Shaper of the Year 2002”;

45. A performer in the waves, the tube riding master was also an actor in Hollywood movies. Mr. Pipeline co-starred and had cameo roles in “Conan the Barbarian,” “North Shore,” “Farewell to the King,” and “Baywatch”;

46. Gerry Lopez always supported the inclusion of surfing in the Olympic Games;

47. Mr. Pipeline has already ridden other types of waves, including artificial waves at the Surf Ranch and river waves at the Bend Whitewater Park in Oregon;

48. Gerry chose Oregon to live and work in because of the “great people and the frozen waves. So, Mount Bachelor is one hell of a surf spot”;

49. The Hawaiian yogi landed the cover of Surfer Magazine at least four times in 1971, 1972, 1972, and 1979;

50. Gerry Lopez is on Instagram (@gerrylopezsurfboards);

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