Growing up in the extraordinary place that was Hawai'i in the 1950s and 1960s. Playing a part in the shortboard revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Living the dream in the Country before it was ever called the North Shore. Experiencing the awe, fear and ultimate satisfaction of finding the tube in the early days at the Pipeline. Traveling for surf throughout the world: to the original surf camp at G-Land, the exotic islands off Sumatra and especially to the magic island of Bali, Indonesia - before it became a popular surf destination. Experiencing the beginnings of windsurfing on Maui, the early years of snowboarding and tow-in surfing at Jaws.
But it is the people that surfing molds into truly unique individuals, each with his own special story, that stand out. Many of these surfers who helped create the surfing world of today are unknown for their contributions, or are already forgotten.
Oahu was the island of my birth and where I grew up. I was there during a wonderful time in the history of the Sport of Kings that, for obvious reasons, also became my chosen lifestyle. Of all the islands of Hawaii, I’ve always thought Oahu was the best one for the waves. I started surfing in Waikiki and to this day, am still able to easily find the magic that made it such a special place in spite of all the changes and development that’s occurred since I was 10 years old. All my schooling and early years were in Honolulu and the memories of growing older alongside the growth of this bustling and lively place as it went from a sleepy town to a colorful city, are splendid.
As my surfing skills improved, during the winter season, I would spend my time on North or West shores for the big waves found there. There were times when we would drive around the entire island several times in a day looking for surf but that was when gas cost $.25/ per gallon and between Kaneohe and Haleiwa, one might see less than a handful of cars coming the other way. In surfing, I found a life I wouldn’t trade for any other and I also found a livelihood that sustained me through today.
The profound simplicity of the expression has helped me many times over the years in situations other than just surfing. Somehow we all discover that surfing lessons often have a lot more to do with life than they do with surfing. When your're wondering about that step your're about to take but haven't yet, remember...
It's hard to remember anything from that long ago. Backtracking through the haze of memories is like looking for footprints in a swamp. Surfing was an easy hookup, even before I got my own surfboard. It was undeniable. Just watching it, I could see surfers were having a great time.
Maui no ka oi means Maui is the best. And in 1973, it was pretty special. Honolua Bay, Mala Wharf and Maalaea were the surf spots that brought me over there early on and were a big part in my decision to relocate. Honolulu had become busier but looking back from even today, I realize that it was just the nature of Honolulu. I’m sure Honolulu has always been and will continue to be a busier city forever…people come there, fall in love with something or maybe everything about it and never leave. I’m still glad I went to Maui because I got to experience a time in Maui that will never be again. In 1973, the population of Maui County was 50,000 and the County included the islands of Molokai and Lanai. I lived in Olinda, what they call Upcountry Maui.
At first, coming from the great and consistent surf on Oahu, I found Hookipa, with windy side shore trades, a disappointment. But Maui grows on a person and I soon became accustomed to its subtle nuances, appreciating them completely. With the variable wind and swell directions, it took a while to figure where the combinations were best and only then, did I understand the No Ka Oi of Maui. It was from Maui that I staged all my visits to Indonesia. I discovered new things there like a taste for riding big waves. I found my wife while we both were learning to windsurf and eventually our son, Alex came along. I found paddleboarding and tow-surfing. I delved deeply into dirt biking. Mountain biking started and Maui was a prime spot for it. It was from Maui that I came to find snowboarding and the next phase of life.
Jeff and I would go out there four or five days in a row until its intensity just wore us out, then we would stay in Kuta for a few days surfing a much tamer Kuta Reef. A day or two of that and we would long for the power, the size and the sheer magnitude of Ulu. We got a little motorbike; I would drive while Jeff held both boards behind me. Often we would be the only ones there.
Feeling pretty cocky I took my time as I pulled my bottom turn around, trying to stall closer to the barrel than I had on the previous rides. This was easy. With all the speed and extra time to choose positioning, there was nothing to it. Standing tall and casual at the bottom, secure in my line, I turned to look back at the curl behind me. That was almost my undoing.
Yeah, it can go from good to bad in a hurry here, this is a seriously heavy wave.
- Lopez Rule #1
Snowboarding was my 1st real experience with snow and I guess it was destined to become a big part of my life. Our son, Alex was 4 years old when we first came to Central Oregon and it was a place that appealed to something deep inside both Toni and I. It was the space…the wide-open space that attracted us to begin with, or maybe the forests of Pine trees, the clean air, the high desert, it was probably all of it. For me, first with Oahu and then for both Toni and I with Maui, rapid growth and development drove us to find someplace with more empty space. Bend seemed perfect especially after a snowboard trip during the week between Christmas and New Year’s in 1993. That was the biggest snow year in the past 20 years since we came and never left. But every year has been extra special and over time, all of us, Alex included, realized this was a place to put down roots. People used to often ask us, why we would leave Maui and we would look at them and think they probably had not been to Bend or if they had, then they hadn’t been to Maui recently. It isn’t that one was bad but more a matter of what a person was looking for in life or, simply, in a lifestyle. I guess Bend was what we found.