Gerry Lopez and Wayne Lynch, Lorne Point, 2012. Photo Ryan Heywood


The Great Ocean Road snakes west from Bells Beach, along some of the most stunning coastline in Australia. Green hills, cold ocean, great surf. It used to be a true escape, a drive back in time where you could find hidden reefs and open beaches and surf them to yourself all day. Today it feels like everyone is trying to escape down there. Cars loaded with surfboards tail tourist buses, stuck behind them on the winding road, unable to overtake, impatient, cursing.


The first time Wayne Lynch, Jack McCoy and Gerry Lopez drove the Great Ocean Road together was during the 1970 World Surfing Titles, hosted in Wayne’s hometown of Lorne. The small town down the coast never knew what hit it. The contest would become a swing point for surfing, which was wrestling with itself at the time, torn between the purist act of surfer against ocean and the growing competitive paradigm of surfer against surfer. It was a pivotal point in the lives of all three young men.


In 1970, Gerry had just helped usher in the shortboard era on Maui with Dick Brewer, but had yet to win at Pipeline, the wave that would come to define him. Wayne was the most radical kid in the world but was soon on the run from both the Vietnam War draft, and his own fame as a surfing prodigy. Jack, who’d grown up with Gerry in Hawaii, had just started to master life behind the lens and would be so spellbound by his trip to Australia that he never got on the plane home to Hawaii.


In the years ahead they would all become surfing icons in their own right. Gerry, the Pipe guru. Wayne the reclusive, social conscience of surf. Jack, the godfather of surf film. But as their personal legends grew and the years rolled on, they drifted apart tectonically and didn’t see much of each other. By the time Gerry finally made it back to Australia in 2012, he hadn’t been here in over three decades. To mark the occasion, he jumped in a car with Jack and headed back down the Great Ocean Road, boards on the roof, driving down the coast to surf with Wayne.


Heading west from Bells, Gerry is quietly taking in rolling countryside that hasn’t changed much since 1970. Jack, as ever, is up for a chat. “The first time we surfed Cactus, remember that, Gerry?”


“I’ve been trying to forget it ever since,” moans Gerry.


The pair start to recount an early ‘70s road trip across the Bight, all the way to Cactus in a souped-up, borrowed ute. “As fast as it will go,” recalls Gerry of his driving. “And he,” pointing at Jack, “talked the whole 20 hours, like he is now. It’s been that way since we were 12 years old.” Jack recounts getting to Cactus and staying with friends in the old-corrugated iron shacks in the Cactus sand dunes. The trip was memorable, but not for the surf.


“Tell ’em about the shark, Gerry.”


“Biggest f****** shark I ever seen,” he replies, dryly.

“I mean, it was as big as our car, and it was coming right at me. I could see his eyes looking right at mine.”

– Gerry Lopez

“I saw that left across the channel. So, I went over there on my own, and it was small, but it was good. I see a set coming and I paddle over the first wave and here comes the second wave, right, and the face of the wave is like a TV screen and in that TV screen there it is, the biggest f****** shark I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, it was as big as our car, and it was coming right at me. I could see his eyes looking right at mine. I’m f****** dead. I turn around, and I’ve never done this since, but I turned around and paddled so hard I caught up to the first wave of the set and caught it. I clawed my way onto it and surfed all the way in until my fin was dragging on the rocks. I looked back and of course the shark was gone, but that was it, man. I didn’t want to surf anymore.”

The car turns off the main road. Gerry asks, “Is this where Wayne lives?”

Jack replies, “This is his driveway.”

The Lynch family property occupies a low aspect hillside, facing out toward the southern horizon. The Lynches have been here for a few generations now, although everything currently standing on the property was rebuilt after the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires tore through and incinerated the place. Wayne walks out the door to meet us. He’s unshaven and a dishevelled.

“How’s my hair, Gerry?”

Gerry replies, “At least you could have had a shave!”

“Geez Gerry, just cause you’re still bloody pre-pubescent and don’t need to!”

Wayne, Gerry, and Jack McCoy. With four decades passed since the trio were down this coastline together, there was plenty of story to talk. Photo Ryan Heywood

We mosey out to Wayne’s shaping shed, a fibro labyrinth hidden in a glade of coastal scrub that all leans backwards, trained by years of onshore ocean wind. Above the door of his shaping bay is a serpentine tongue of aluminium that, prior to Ash Wednesday, had been a 16-foot runabout. Wayne got out that day towing his caravan on its rims, the tyres having melted, just in time to see his parents’ house combust from the heat of the fire front that wasn’t yet over the hill.

Gerry walks around the shaping bay in silence. On the ground is an orange Evolution replica, the board Wayne first took vertical on his backhand in ‘68. Gerry walks around it and picks it up by the tail, surveying the outline. The board has piqued his interest and sparks a conversation between two surfers who played celebrated roles in the genesis of the shortboard… albeit in different oceans with different designs, Wayne his teardrop, Gerry with Brewer’s mini-guns.

“Did you have teardrops over there in Hawaii?” Asks Wayne. “When I was a kid I’d borrow my mate’s board, a balsawood teardrop and every time I got on it, I went, ‘I feel so f****** free!’ So as soon as I started making my own boards I went away from the mal thing and did that instead.”

“We had the reverse teardrop,” offers Gerry. “Because the first mini-guns we had were just the opposite of this board here. Did you come out with those guys on that trip in ‘67?” Gerry is unsure whether Wayne had tagged along with Bob McTavish and Nat Young on that fateful trip to Maui that spawned the shortboard.

“No, I got there a year later, just me and Ted (Spencer).”

“I remember they came and visited Brewer,” recalls Gerry of Bob and Nat. “I’m waiting there for Brewer to shape my board and the Aussies finally left and I went, ‘Okay, I want a 9’6”,’ and he saws off the nose. I said, ‘Dick, I said I want a 9’6”!’ And he saws off the tail! I went, ‘What the f*** are you doing, man?’ ‘Don’t worry,’ he says, ‘I got an idea.’ And that was it, the first mini-gun, an 8’6”, just what you said, the tail was a gun tail and the nose was a hotdog nose, so it was the complete teardrop in reverse.”

Gerry holding one of Wayne’s evolutionary ‘teardrop’ boards. Photo Ryan Heywood

The pair leave the evolutionary musings behind as Wayne drags out a sleek white single-fin with a tiny swallowtail. “That’s a template I kept from 1978 when you last came down here and we surfed together. That’s the board you surfed.”

“I remember,” says Gerry. “We had a ball on that board. Today maybe?”

“I don’t know about this board today, Gerry. You’ve never surfed Lorne Point?”

“I have surfed Lorne Point!”

“Well, looks like you’ll be surfing it again today, just not on this board. This is a board for good waves.”

On the drive down to Lorne, Wayne, Gerry, and Jack reminisce about the 1970 World Titles. “The march with all the flags? No,” says Gerry, “that was the march past for the World Titles, right in front of the hotel in Lorne. I remember Doji Saka – he was the Japanese surf team, all by himself – carrying the Rising Sun. Is the hotel we stayed in still there?”

“The Lorne Hotel? Yeah, it is. We’ll drive past it today,” says Jack.

Gerry exhales. “God, that was a time, wasn’t it? The real classic… well, the guy who owned the hotel was a sweet guy, but the guy who managed the hotel was a jerk. I didn’t know anything but the girls on our team were kinda checking everything out when we got there, and they came to George [Downing, the Hawaiian team manager] and me and said the manager was up to something. The manager hated surfers and he had a hotel full of them. Everyone in the contest was staying there. Then the Drug Squad was hanging around too. They were lurking around, and this was 1970 so everyone was getting loaded.”

The hotel manager, the drug squad and the local constabulary were all making the visiting surfers less than welcome in town. They started raiding rooms. The manager, however, raided the wrong room and got roughed up. The local Lorne policeman was a guy by the name of Ces Scott, who’d been trying to make an example of Wayne and have him sent to Vietnam.

“Ces Scott worked out my date had come up, and he did that all on his own. It wasn’t the government; it was a personal crusade. Because I was a surfer, and I was ‘leading the youth of Australia’. It’s true, that’s what he was saying. They used to have meetings in the Chamber of Commerce: ‘What are we going to do about Lynch?’ But the ****s didn’t get me Gerry!”

“Much to their dismay,” Gerry replies.

We round a bend in the road with a glimpse of the surf. “A Day in The Life, this shot,” offers Jack, who’d shotA Day in the Life of Wayne Lynchalong this coast back in the late ‘70s. “Anyone want a piece of licorice?”

Around these guys you have to fight your natural tendency for reverential awe. You’re in the presence of two of the most important and influential surfers of all-time, but you have to remember to act cool. It’s just Gerry and Wayne. At one point on the drive down Gerry spun around from the passenger seat and looked me square in the eye. He paused and I found myself waiting for him to deliver some pearl of wisdom, or maybe ask me to describe the sound of one hand clapping. He said, simply, “Pass me a banana, will you?” I pondered it for a full five minutes.

Wayne’s famous radical backhand was born on Lorne Point. Photo Ryan Heywood

“This is Lorne Point, the heaviest wave on the coast,” states Wayne, with just the mildest whiff of sarcasm as we pull into the car park. “This is where I grew up…” he says, before quipping, “no, actually, this is where I grew old.”

We’re sitting above the point and the rain sees the car park full of tradie utes, their owners having knocked off for the day. For lunchtime Friday the lineup is busy. “It used to just be the birds chirping here,” says Wayne of the ambience on the point, “now it’s people yelling at each other.” Three days earlier Wayne had surfed a nearby reef to himself, eight foot and square enough to ward off any company. Today the point is only three feet and it’s a day Wayne would happily drive away from, but today he’s here to surf with his old mate.

“What do you reckon, uncle? We out there?” Uncle Gerry doesn’t need to be asked twice.

“I just find other worlds I like, and I lose myself in there for a few years.”

– Gerry Lopez

Gerry takes out his stand-up paddleboard and is on his fourth lap of the point by the time anyone else hits the water. While Gerry has been shaping and riding a lot of short quads back at home, stand-up is his thing right now. Throughout his life, his love of boardriding has shape-shifted and right now it’s all about stand-up paddleboarding.

“I just find other worlds I like, and I lose myself in there for a few years,” he says. “You know, even when I got into windsurfing there were a couple of years there when I didn’t even throw a surfboard in the car. I’d just go down there and windsurf all day and then be so beat I’d just go home. Then the surfboards started coming in again, and all of a sudden, the windsurfer didn’t even go in the car. But you learn things and you bring them back to surfing. When I was windsurfing, I used to watch the flying fish and they’d skim these perfect lines across the ocean swell. And it was like that with snowboarding too; I learned a bunch of things there. But, you know, in the end for me it always comes back to surfing.”

Wayne, by his own admission, is “having a shocker”. He’s seen too much of this coast too good to enjoy the crowded, crumbling runners Lorne Point is offering today. Wayne and I sit in the water and watch a set with a motley assortment of surfers and styles bustling their way down the point. The guy on the last wave surfs aggressively, like he’s in a drunken bar fight. “Some people just don’t look good on a wave, don’t you think?” offers Wayne. “But looking good on a wave isn’t easy with Gerry out here I guess.”

Lorne Point might not be Pipeline, but Gerry still makes surfing look like the easiest thing in the world. Photo Ryan Heywood

Even on a stand-up paddleboard, at 63 years of age, watching Gerry Lopez surf is hypnotic. He still moves like a cat. By now, Wayne and I are sitting up in the car park, drying off. Gerry is still out there, showing no signs of coming in. A rogue set swings wide and catches Gerry inside. He paddles furiously and guns his paddleboard over the wave as it pitches. His board shoots up vertically. He makes it… he doesn’t… the board punches through the lip but the world’s most graceful surfer loses his balance and teeters precariously. His arms start windmilling and he overcorrects his balance three times before landing unceremoniously in the water.

Wayne cackles with laughter. He can barely control his delight. “Ha! You’ve got no idea how much better that makes me feel!”

Gerry Lopez and Wayne Lynch, Lorne Point, 2012. Photo Ryan Heywood