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Star Struck

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Like a lot of groms from my era, I idolized many of the great surfers from the seventies, especially the guys from Hawaii. I loved Larry Bertlemen’s cut back and rubberman style, Button’s incredible creativity and playfulness, and most of all Gerry Lopez’s style and grace. Even more though was Gerry’s persona and the way he carried himself with such subtle casual confidence, that it seemed so genuine, he innately didn’t need to over play his personalty. The way Gerry came flying out of the barrel at Pipeline, with his red board and yellow lighting bolt logo, made me pretend that I was him when I kicked out of my mushy little California beach break waves. I also loved the way Dane Kealoha absolutely crushed the wave with his speed and power. So when I started riding waves, probably more than anybody else, those two people, Gerry and Dane, influenced my surfing the most. Because of my similar body type to Dane I skewed more towards Dane’s power style yet always had an appreciation for Gerry’s watery charisma. Even in my windsurfing days I always envisioned how they might ride a wave and I would try to emulate that picture in my mind.

Back in 85′ when I moved to Maui, Gerry was still very much my surfing idol, along with just about every other surfer in the world. When I arrived on Maui with the help of my adopted uncle Pete. I spent a lot of time at his house, right on the beach, cutting my teeth in the windsurfing world. To afraid at the time to go up to Hookipa where the real guys went, I spent most of my time down at Sprecks and thus didn’t see many of the big name guys. So one afternoon, after a great day of windsurfing, my uncle said he invited a few friends over for a BBQ and that I was welcome to stay. Having very little money for food then I always welcomed a free meal, and said I would be thankful to join him. Sitting on his front deck, over looking the ocean, I was enjoying the afternoon’s mellow color changes and soaking in the days adrenaline hangover from all the fun. So I figured it was time to go grab a cold beer and take this beautiful afternoon to the next level. As I walked through the living room towards the kitchen my eyes hadn’t adjusted to the inside light yet so when I turned the corner into the kitchen, and it’s bright lights, I wasn’t sure I could trust my eyes when I saw Gerry Lopez standing right in front of me. My uncle Pete introduced us and I shook his hand in complete awe. It took every ounce of cool I had to just get a” hello” and “really nice to meet you” out, without tripping over my own tongue. I couldn’t believe my childhood hero was standing in front of me giving me his attention for a moment. I honestly can’t remembered what I said or what he asked me because I was so overwhelmed by the experience. Like a car accident where every thing slows down and you remember some of the most minuet details, I actually remember seeing individual whiskers on his classic Gerry beard at the time and wondering what it would be like to see some of his best memories of Pipe, from his eyes. I do recall him being very gracious and patient with me trying not to gawk at him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make an ass out of myself that evening because he invited me to join him and his brother to do a coast run, from Hookipa to Sprecks, with them the next day. Over the next few months I actually got to know Gerry pretty well and he even sponsored me with his custom made windsurf boards. As time went by and I got to know Gerry even better, especially when we started tow surfing, he almost took on this Obe wan kanobi Jedi master type role within the tow group. His experience and advise was considered very valuable within our small brotherhood. For everything from board design to mental preparation for the big days.

Unfortunately I don’t get to see Gerry much these days, but we’ll run into each other here or there on occasion, and my first impulse, like I’m sure almost all of his friends have, is to think ” wow it’s Gerry Lopez”. Fortunately Gerry’s demeanor is so cool and friendly that any nervousness instantly seems pointless and like any soul that evolved, he exudes a calmness that permeates all that are around him. Occasionally, throughout life you get to meet your heroes. Sometimes it’s a great experience and at times it can be very disappointing. Not only did I get to meet one of my heroes, he ended up being a good friend. I’m very lucky to have a friend like that.