A Return To Grajagan

When it comes to the Indian Ocean's premier racetrack, some things never change

Gerry Lopez’s impossibly casual poise at G-Land has long been the benchmark for approaching fearsome waves with style and grace. This past summer, after a 20-year absence, Lopez returned to the wave he first surfed four decades ago. Much has changed in Indonesia since, but Lopez’s legendary ability to take life as it comes has not.

In life, one must have rules, and I have a few about G-Land. One of the main considerations of going there is that one should never, ever go unless in tip-top surfing shape. Now in 2015, I had not been there for about 20 years, and not a year had gone by when I didn’t fantasize about the splendid waves. But when a Bali trip presented itself, suddenly, and without a lot of forethought, I was going back to G-Land.

With the rise in surf camps, G-Land and other once-remote Indonesian surf spots have transformed dramatically over the past  20 years, but Lopez has a knack for taking change in stride. Photos: Childs
With the rise in surf camps, G-Land and other once-remote Indonesian surf spots have transformed dramatically over the past 20 years, but Lopez has a knack for taking change in stride. Photo: Childs

As important as surfing has been throughout my life, the actual doing-it part, in a literal sense, has taken a backseat over the past 20 years. I live in Central Oregon, 200 miles from the ocean, and while I like to think I’m on it, I’m lucky to catch an occasional day of surfing in the Pacific Northwest. The trip to Bali was set in stone and I found myself, with hardly enough conditioning or training, swept along by the current of circumstance to whatever fate had in store for me.

I did get to surf a bit at Ulus the week before, and after that I felt OK about going back to what has always been my favorite wave on the planet. We arrived at G-Land to an appealingly small swell, but the forecast called for an increase the next day. I stayed at Bobby’s Camp, which has come a long way since the early treehouse days. In most regards, the level of comfort is outstanding and in sharp contrast to what one might find out in the surf. The next day, the 6- to 8-foot waves were there, as predicted, and with more than a little trepidation, I paddled out.

Although he now resides in Bend, Oregon, over a hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean, Lopez still exudes his classic style whenever he enters the water.
Although he now resides in Bend, Oregon, over a hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean, Lopez still exudes his classic style whenever he enters the water.
Photo: Childs

In our lifetime, when we pay attention, we can’t help but notice how things change, often as a function of social progress. Bali, G-Land, and much of Indonesia have become the world’s premier surfing destinations. All of that came about in the period since my first journey to Bali in 1974. Kuta Beach has experienced astronomical growth. Bobby’s Surf Camp has visitors who have no intention of ever paddling out, but nevertheless have an enjoyable stay. I thought of this as, for the first time, I noticed at least 80 surfers clustered in the lineup. Until I actually saw the crowding, I could not imagine it. Before this trip, many friends had stated how shocked I would be by all the change. The world of surf has grown far beyond anything I ever imagined. But surfing is my life, this is the world I live in, and I must take it as it is. Yang is about changing the world; yin is accepting it as I find it. Respectfully, I follow the yin.

Then the first set came in and something magical happened. The waves were as awesomely magnificent as ever. Here was something that had not changed one iota, and everything else simply faded by the wayside. This was a total validation, a complete reassurance that my faith, my foundation of surfing, was still rock solid. Whether or not I got a set wave was irrelevant; I was there and any wave was fine. Life was good.

Photo: Childs
Photo: Childs