“Winning’s cool, but that’s not the point, just like in life… When you can come and have a good time and leave with a smile on your face even when you didn’t win, then that’s a good event.” – Gerry Lopez
Gerry Lopez is visibly tired. But I think it’s the good kind of tired. It’s Sunday afternoon, and snow is falling heavily outside Mt Bachelor, OR’s West Village Lodge. It’s been a crazy weekend when it comes to the weather—snow, sun, repeat. Frenetic spring storms reminiscent of Hokkaido, just a little warmer.
The Hokkaido snowsurfers are here—the Gentemstick folks including Taro Tamai, Om Okada, Rip Zinger and more, and the downchillers of Niseko. They must feel right at home. They’re part of a 300-deep gathering to celebrate downhill transitional flow: The Gerry Lopez Big Wave Challenge.
Gerry’s been doing this for five years now. He must really believe in it. It takes a big effort: planning for the 2017 Big Wave Challenge starts next week. This year, they moved a lot of snow—a whole run of pipe-dragon-groomed features flow beneath the beginner-friendly Sunshine Accelerator, sporting names from big wave spots around the world: Pipeline, Cortes Bank, and so on. Curved transitions with multiple line choices that require precise edge control and intuitive flow. A momentum driven snake line that stands 20-feet tall in places. It’s fun to ride. The groms can attest to that. So can the adults, and the pro surfers in attendance.
And that’s kind of the point: fun. There were winners—more on that later—but it’s hard to say winning was at the forefront of anyone’s mind this weekend. Case in point? The last rider on course. Gerry’s son Alex Lopez, to be exact. He led a dozen riders downslope, flowing from bank to bank, slashing together. A party wave to close things out. Just like the party trains during Friday’s practice, the contest runs that took creative lines, which both stayed on the ground and took to the air, it looked like a lot of fun. Yeah, it can be that simple.