By Cash Lambert
Gerry Lopez is a man who needs no introduction, yet deserves one anyway. The Honolulu native spent the 1970s surfing the most dangerous wave – Pipeline – with casual and fearless grace, earning the iconic nickname Mr. Pipeline. Lopez, who also pioneered surf locales like Uluwatu and G-Land in Indonesia, is also known as a yoga guru, having spent much of his life dedicated to practicing and teaching yoga. We sat down with the 69-year-old to trace his yoga roots, discuss his yoga regimen, and why a journey to Wanderlust – a 4 day yoga festival taking place March 1st – 4th at the North Shore’s Turtle Bay Resort – “will further anyone’s yoga practice.”
Freesurf: When did you begin practicing yoga, Gerry?
Gerry Lopez: Yoga began for me in early 1968. I was going to the University of Hawaii and saw some girls gathered around a bulletin board. They were looking at a notice of a yoga class that night in the empty lot across from Varsity theater. I went to the class hoping to see the girls again but instead, I found a path that I’ve been on ever since.
How has your practice evolved throughout the years?
Yoga comes in phases or degrees, and it has been a lifetime process for me. Each phase leads into the next and I’m always advancing my practice and understanding.
What does your daily practice look like?
My personal daily practice these days, depending on how my day ahead looks, runs from 2 to 4 hours starting at 5am. I find myself instructing more Yin style yoga simply because Yang yoga seems to be what most people are looking for. Balance in life, health and harmony are when Yin and Yang are in balance, but today’s world seems to lean towards the Yang. Yoga is all about bringing balance to one’s body and mind but there has been an affectation in this latest Westernization of yoga to fitting it into our fast paced, modern society. There is nothing wrong, it’s still yoga, except many yoga practices become less balanced than they are supposed to be.
How has your yoga practice had an effect on your surfing?
I thought it would be something that would make my surfing improve and I’m pretty sure it did.
Has yoga itself changed since you began practicing it?
When I began to practice, yoga was presented as a complete lifestyle directed towards a realization of our God self. Today, yoga is most often practiced as a form of exercise separated from its traditional spiritual roots. So I find my own practice to actually leaning towards more Yin, which is about gently holding the asanas/poses for a long time, finding stillness and focusing on the breathing.
In what ways has yoga benefited your health?
Yoga comes to a person when it is the right time in their lives. Sometimes that takes a few go-arounds. At some point, when it’s supposed to, yoga will be right. Understand that it is ultimately a spiritual path, but embrace yoga however it comes to you. Physical and mental health are not to be taken for granted. Like a car, the body and mind don’t run well for the long term unless proper maintenance is performed along the way: proper exercise, proper breathing, proper diet, proper relaxation and proper thinking and meditation. Surfing is a similar path and when practiced together with yoga, it can bring great, long term benefits. Keep paddling, breathing through your nose and living with the Aloha spirit.
What makes Wanderlust – taking place March 1st-4th at Turtle Bay Resort – special to you?
Wanderlust is a modern day Woodstock of yoga. It’s a soulful gathering of yoga instructors and music. A journey to Wanderlust will further anyone’s yoga practice. This is a good thing for us, for humanity. We need to save ourselves before we can be truly effective in saving anything else.
For more information and tickets for this year’s Wanderlust, visit Wanderlust.com.