Gerry Lopez, On The Mt. Bachelor Big-Wave Challenge

A personal history of Gerry's premier Oregon boardriding event

The Mt. Bachelor Big Wave Challenge finished a few weeks ago, and I say that with a great deal of relief, not only for myself, but also for all the people involved who worked their tails off to make it happen. What began as a small, local mountain event that was entirely unique in nature has…well, it has grown. Seven events in seven years, and each, in my opinion, better that its predecessor and still entirely unique. Better in terms of coming together, in organization, in community and rider participation, in running, and most of all, in the Big Wave course we create new each time.

Chris Christenson, styling an arm drag at Pipeline en route to 1st place in the Surfer Division. Photo: Zinger

What the Big Wave Challenge brings together is snowboarding with surfing, the sport it spawned from. Surfers brought surfing to the snow, and since the late 1970s, snowboarding has become a popular sport with performance levels and equipment improvements continually evolving. While talking one day with Andy Goggins, then the Marketing Director at Mt. Bachelor, about how I had named a number of the naturally created snow features our mountain enjoys with each new snowfall after favorite surf spots, he had an epiphany. Why not create an event for snowboarding that utilizes these features? Logistically, it was unrealistic, but snow features could be built, and we brainstormed putting an event together. The idea was to make waves out of snow and judge it like a surf contest.

Joe Curren, looking right at home on a Rincon-like wall. Photo: Murray

This year, thanks in great part to Kris Jamison – pro-snowboarder, one of Mt. Bachelor’s ambassadors and all-around good guy – making a timely and splendid suggestion, the event got better. I grew up surfing and have always felt that surf contests were stifling simply because contestants would hold back their best because falling would take away from their score. In 1970, there was a new type of event created called the Expression Session where no one was judged, but invited surfers were paid up front to show up and surf their best. The venue was the Pipeline, a not particularly popular surf break that, back then, with equipment limitations of the time, stifled some performances. But the concept was sound, and the event, in the small scheme of things of that period in surfing history, was a success.

Today, skateboarding events use a jam format in some of their more progressive competitions. Jaymo suggested we switch from our usual and traditional surf contest judging where riders are judged on only two runs to a jam format where each rider could take as many runs as they wanted or were able to in the allotted time. This freed up everyone’s attitudes and the performances went through the ceiling. From a spectator’s standpoint, it was spectacular with never a dull moment. Falling on a run wasn’t an issue, and six runs or more were possible if the rider didn’t waste time getting on the lift and back to the course. Surfing and snowboarding are all about fun. It’s the reason we love it and do it as much as we do. Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, things get in the way and we forget this basic truth. When we clear away all “the other stuff,” what is really true is always there. This is what the Mt. Bachelor Big-Wave Challenge is all about, and the best part about this year was that other stuff got cleared out and big fun was what it was all about.

Max Warbington, winner of the Men’s Division. Photo: Murray

Thanks to Mt. Bachelor, John McLeod, Tom Lomax, Drew Jackson, Stirling Cobb, Thomas Carpenter, the events staff, and the terrain parks crew, especially Alex and Dustin. To Patagonia, for their continued and superb support as the Presenting Sponsor. To Andy Goggins, for so much of everything. To Jaymo, for a great idea. To all our judges and scorers for a lot of hard work. To our many Sponsors: Rainbow Sandals, Hydroflask, DaKine, LibTech, Maui Jim, Naish, Giro, Wend Waxworks, Nixon, Volcom, Quiksilver, Kialoa, Kind, Kona Brewing, Gentemstick, Frequency, the Snowboarder’s Journal, Blackstrap, Sun Country Tours, and especially SnoPlanks, for the beautiful trophies. Most of all, thanks to all the riders who came to ride, as well as all the spectators who came to watch. And a very special thanks to Pat Malendoski, who is a great inspiration of all of us and to this event.

Dane Gudauskas, Winner of the “Plumber’s Crack” Award. Photo: Murray

[Featured Image – Gerry Lopez, Photo by Hallman]