Still waters run deep
“Yoga was the foundation of my development as a surfer,” says Lopez. “I came across it in 1968 when I was in college. I saw a bunch of girls looking at a bulletin board. They asked me if I was going to this yoga class tonight. I said, ‘Yeah I’m going’. I went, hoping to see the girls again, but what I found was something that I needed in my life.”
From the age of 20, Lopez made yoga a part of his daily routine Throughout his competitive career, he prepared for surf competition heats by meditating in full lotus position. By the time he arrived in Indonesia in the mid-1970s, Lopez began living, as he describes, “a surfing monastic existence”. Here, he spent hours moving through sun salutations, eating simple meals and gorging on long rides at the mythical reef break.
“I went, hoping to see the girls again, but what I found was something that I needed in my life”
Lopez explains that there’s a unique crossover between yoga and surfing; both swing between intense activity and stillness. To ride colossal waves – whether its G-Land or Pipeline – it all comes down to the breath. “For your mind to be still, your breath has to be still. Your body has to be still. You have to be at peace with the wave,” says Lopez.
For Peralta, skateboarding had a similarly meditative feeling. “We used to ride clay wheels. They were very loud and you could feel the vibrations of the sidewalk coming up into your feet. When I was seven years-old, I remember rolling down this smooth concrete sidewalk by the drugstore near my house. I’m surrounded by chaos; my brain is going berserk, fearful someone will push a market basket into me or I’ll trip over a rock. But there’s a complete, utter stillness in me. Every time I ride a board, I’m looking for that stillness.”
Like Lopez, Peralta has cultivated his own daily meditation practice. “It’s really important to pay attention. These things inside us that propel the world are our dreams. They’re very quiet. They don’t just come out spontaneously. You can only recognise them if you take the time to be quiet and listen for them.
The future is here
Despite both being over the age of 60, Lopez and Peralta still actively participate in action sports. Lopez moved to Bend, Oregon in the early 1990s; he now spends his time snowboarding and learning foil surfing. Peralta still skates and surfs as much as he can. The question is, where do the pair see their respective sports heading in the future?
“We’re in the future right now,” says Peralta. “Did you see the Olympics? Those unbelievable kids from Japan; they’re so young. For the past 15 years, there’s been a premium on going big. That’s what interested the athletes and the public. Then, every once in a while, a talent comes in and shows us a different way to do something. It’ll change again.”
“We’re in the future right now”
Meanwhile, in surfing, Lopez feels the focus is on artificial waves. “It’s a big part of the future of surfing. You’ve felt the attitude that happens out here in the surf. There’s tension in the lineup because there are people – even though they may know whose turn it is – won’t acknowledge that. However, in a standing wave, everyone knows whose turn it is, which means everyone is going to have a good time.”
Later that evening, I watched the film itself under a star-speckled sky by the beach. It showcased Gerry’s humble character in full technicolour – from the highs of his early career to the lows of watching Lightning Bolt surfboards decline. After the screening, Peralta was asked by the audience, what makes Lopez stand out from other athletes? He noted that people tend to live a three-act life; childhood and adolescence, middle age and old age. Many athletes achieve greatness in the first act and spend the rest of their life clinging onto the past. But Lopez has managed to transition gracefully through all three. You can see it in Lopez’s face; his gentle smile hints at a feeling of contentment that you don’t see in many people. And Peralta? He’s certainly got a few more groundbreaking documentaries to come.
Patagonia are hosting screenings of The Yin & Yang of Gerry Lopez in surf destinations and cities across Europe from 14 July 2022. Watch it online from 22 September.