Gerry Lopez recalls watching the first cut of his own movie. “Man, I wanted to run,” he half-laughs. “We did all these interviews with a whole bunch of people then when I first saw the film I went, ‘There’s way too much of me… where’s everybody else?’”
Left: Gerry Lopez first visited the town of Lorne in 1970 as a member of the Hawaiian surf team for the World Titles, staying at the Lorne Hotel. Right: Gerry on stage at the Byron screening. Photos Jarrah Lynch
The film’s director, Stacy Peralta recalls jumping in to remind Gerry of a fundamental aspect of the production. “I said, ‘Well, the movie is about you Gerry.’ People really are interested in Gerry and his story because he’s continued to evolve and move on as a surfer. There are very few surfers who’ve done every type of surfing, and he’s still learning and living his life as a kid and people are fascinated by that.”
The pair has just wrapped up the Australian leg of the movie tour, which saw six sold-out screenings in surf towns between Lorne in the south and Coolangatta in the north. “It’s been better than we could have ever expected,” offers Stacy. “We didn’t expect this many people to show up. And with a film, you can tell if something works by how many people stay to the end for the Q and A. If they don’t like it, they don’t stay, and we’ve been keeping them till the end.”
Gerry chimes in. “A couple of nights ago in Melbourne we were like my god, everyone is still here.”
“This is not what I was expecting from the Australian screenings,” says Stacy, who first toured Australia as a wild-eyed teenage skate prodigy in the ‘70s. “There’s a spiritual element to this film. Gerry does yoga, he’s this incredibly soulful surfer and there’s a spiritual through line to this film. Some people get it, some people don’t, but I’m very proud that it’s in there. But at the first screening in Australia you could just tell so many people brought up that element in the Q and A. It really hit them. And I went, that’s fantastic. That was the case in Australia of all places.”
As he’s done all tour, Gerry is allowing Stacy to do the bulk of the talking, but chimes in with a grain of truth, half tongue-in-cheek. “Australian surfers are a lot more spiritual than they give themselves credit for.”
“What Gerry said,” adds Stacy, “you don’t know what a film is about until you show it to people. Most of the time when people see the film they pick things out and see things that you’re not even aware of. Gerry, as the person in it, and me as the filmmaker will go, I never thought of that. I didn’t see that emotion or I didn’t pick that up, and that’s rewarding to us.”
With the movie tour done, Gerry Lopez has left Australian shores. As much as he’s enjoyed showing the film and reconnecting with a vast surfing land he first visited 50 years ago, he’s also enjoying the idea of life going back to normal. He needs to surf.
“Oh yeah, this tour has really cut into my surfing time. But it's really great to see that people are enjoying the movie and that maybe it's having a little bit of a positive impact on them. The Dalai Lama said that we're only visitors on this planet, we're only here for 80 to 100 years, and we need to do something good, something useful, with our lives. And finding peace within yourself and then sharing that peace with others, when you contribute to other people's happiness is when you learn the true goal, the true meaning of life. And I think that I listened to and looked at that quote for a lot of years, maybe 20 or 25 years, that's about how long ago since I first saw it. And it's really kind of starting to make more sense to me. To contribute to other people's happiness. I think I said something in the movie about, I'm moving into the teacher phase of my life, and I think that's what the Dalai Lama was talking about.”
Watch The Yin and Yang of Gerry Lopez for free here.