Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez Single Fin

Greetings, Shredderz! Today we have for you a very cool example of perhaps the single most coveted surfboard of all time: a Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez single fin, most likely shaped by the master himself.

First, a little bit of background: Lightning Bolt might have been the single biggest surfboard brand of the Seventies, but tracking down authentic Bolts can be a bit of a headache. For starters, Bolt’s logo was copied off endlessly, and it appeared on numerous surfboards that had absolutely nothing to do with the Hawaiian label.

Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez Single Fin via UsedSurf.jp
Here’s a clean example of a Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez single fin; to be honest, though, I’m not sure if it’s hand shaped by Lopez himself. I mostly posted it because I love the color combination. The board was for sale on UsedSurf.jp, which has a killer selection of vintage sticks.

But even when dealing with genuine Lightning Bolt surfboards, it’s not always clear which ones were shaped by Lopez. I wrote an earlier post on the subject of Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez boards that featured some so-called “California Bolts”: genuine Lightning Bolts bearing signatures with Gerry’s name, but produced in California and shaped by Terry Martin and Mickey Munoz. (I also covered the topic in another blog post, which you can find here.)

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw an intriguing little Lightning Bolt board pop up for sale on Craigslist in Hawaii. The board is no longer listed for sale, but I saved the photos, which you can see here.

First, as you can see in the photos, the Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez board is far from mint condition. But it does have a number of unusual touches, starting from the circle around the famous Bolt logo laminate.

It also has a pretty upright glass on fin, which you can see in the photos above. I also can’t help but notice the diamond tail. Most of the Lightning Bolt Seventies single fins I have seen have pintails, with the occasional swallow tail mixed in. I have seen a few examples of Lightning Bolt single fins with diamond tails, but they are much narrower than the Craigslist board pictured above.

The outline on the Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez board featured here is reminiscent of the boards Lopez produced with Hansen during the Transition Era of the late Sixties. All of the factors above lead me to believe that the Craigslist Bolt was shaped in the early part of the Seventies.

Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez Single Fin Signature .jpg
Close up of the diamond tail and the clear Gerry Lopez signature.

What really struck me about the board, though, was the presence of an obvious Gerry Lopez signature. As I mentioned in my previous post about the California Bolts, hand shaped Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez boards are signed on the blank beneath the glass. Moreover, I have noticed that Lopez’s signature is often written in all caps, instead of the script you’ll see on California Bolts and newer repros. (Many thanks to Randy Rarick, who first passed on this tip.)

To no one’s surprise, Buggs Arico‘s Surfboard Line site has a few excellent examples of hand-signed Lightning Bolt Gerry Lopez boards. I have reproduced the signatures here, which originally appeared on Surfboardline.com. Please check out Buggs’ site if you haven’t already!

You’ll notice the red and yellow boards have very similar examples to the Craigslist Bolt. All of the signatures feature “LOPEZ” written on the stringer in all caps, in what looks to be beneath the glass. One small difference with the Craigslist board is the tilde over the O, which I have personally never seen before. In conclusion, I think the Lightning Bolt board posted to Craigslist was a rare example of a Bolt that was hand-shaped by Gerry himself.

The Craigslist Bolt was actually listed for a mere $700, which I think is an absolute steal. The listing stayed up for a few days but I have no idea who eventually made off with the board. If you’re the lucky owner, give me a shout!

Featured Photo at the top of the page by Jeff Divine; found on his awesome website.

 

To Bolt, or Not to Bolt? 1970s Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt Single Fin

First, allow me to beg for forgiveness regarding the bad pun in the title of the post. I’d promise not to do it again, but I don’t want to waste whatever little credibility I have left!

More to the point, there is a fascinating example of a Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt board that is currently for sale on eBay. I have posted pictures of the board below (pics are via the eBay listing).

While a genuine Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt board from the 1970s is a holy grail for many surfboard collectors, there’s one catch: it’s often difficult to establish the provenance of true Lopez handshapes. For example, there are the California Bolts, which, as their name suggests, were produced on the West Coast and not in Hawaii. The California Bolts often bear a Danny Brawner-designed laminate meant to approximate Lopez’s signature. The California Bolts were mostly shaped by Mickey Munoz and Terry Martin.

Gerry Lopez Signature Island Trader Surf Shop 1.jpg
Great example of a Mickey Munoz-shaped California Bolt. You can clearly see the rectangular shape around the “Gerry Lopez” signature, which is a laminate that was applied to the board. Click through for more pics of the board, which were originally posted by Island Trader Surf Shop. Their site also has a clear picture of Munoz’s signature.

In addition, I have heard from Randy Rarick, who is the authority on all things relating to Hawaiian surfboards and their creators, that Lopez only signed the blanks of his handshapes — never on top of the glass.

Still, I am a bit confused, given that there are some distinct qualities about the Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt being sold on eBay, that matches up with some other boards that were recently sold at auction.

As you can see in the pictures above, “A Pure Source” has been written on either side of the Lightning Bolt laminate. You can also see a Gerry Lopez signature off to the far right in the second picture. Back in the 1970s, “A Pure Source” was the marketing slogan for Lightning Bolt. Based on Rarick’s guidelines — the fact the eBay board has a Lopez signature on top of the glass, and not the blank itself — one might say the board is not a handshape.

And yet there were two boards sold at recent US Vintage Surf Auctions that were advertised as Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolts.

Board #1: 1975 Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt #180, Sold at USVSA (Link)

Gerry Lopez Lighting Bolt USVSA.JPG
Close up of the first USVSA board. You can see it has the same formatting with the signature. Pic via USVSA

The first USVSA board, pictured above, has the exact same signature formatting as the eBay board at the top of the page: you have “A Pure Source” written across the Bolt laminate, and then a Lopez signature off to the right, signed on the glass itself. The USVSA website dates the board to 1975, and it claims that it is a Lopez handshape. In addition, the USVSA site claims the Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt is numbered #180.

Board #2: 1977 Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt #404, Sold at USVSA (Link)

Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt USVSA 1.JPG

Are we noticing a pattern yet? Same “A Pure Source” logo and handwritten signature in the exact same placement as the other two boards featured in the post. USVSA dates this board to 1977. This time, there’s a closeup of the serial number. The board is #404, which is stamped on the stringer. USVSA board #2 has a wedge stringer, which is an unusual touch.

It should also be noted that both USVSA boards have fin boxes. Rarick also tells me that the vast majority of Lopez handshapes made in Hawaii had glass-on fins.

In conclusion, I’m confused about how to explain this curious trio of Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt surfboards. Based on Rarick’s context, I do not believe any of these three boards are Lopez handshapes. As a refresher, none are signed beneath the glass, and at least two have fin boxes (it’s unclear with the eBay board whether or not the fin is glassed on.)

Second, both USVSA boards commanded relatively low prices at their respective auctions. Board #1 sold for $2,700 and board #2 went for $2,400. Compare this to a 1972 Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt (with a glass-on fin, and a unique “signature”, which is a whole different story) sold at USVSA for $4,225, which you can find here.

I guess I can’t figure out why Lopez would go through the trouble of hand signing these boards with “A Pure Source” and a signature on the deck if he didn’t shape them himself. As always, if you have any information, please let me know! If there’s one thing I enjoy more than making bad jokes in blog post titles, it’s hearing from readers.

1980s Astrodeck Ad: Sagas of Shred

Greetings, Shredderz! Welcome to the latest installment of Sagas of Shred, where I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of surf culture from years past. Pictured above is an Astrodeck ad that appeared in the August 1985 issue of Surfer Magazine (Volume 26, No. 8). The ad features none other than the following surfers: Rabbit Bartholomew, Larry Bertlemann, Greg Day, Gary Elkerton, Herbie Fletcher, Marvin Foster, Hans Hedemann, Michael Ho, Marty Hoffman, Jim Hogan, Vince Klyn, Buzzy Kerbox, Wes Laine, Buddy Lomas, Gerry Lopez, Barton Lynch, Tony Moniz, Willy Morris, Paul Peterson, Martin Potter, Joe Roper, and Rory Russell (whew!). That kind of list is only fitting for a product considered to be the “ultimate in competitive traction.” Bonus points if you can match the names to all the faces!

Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (June 12): Yater Hull and More

Greetings, Shredderz! As always, here’s a collection of some of the coolest boards I’ve seen floating around online as of late, including an awesome Yater hull.

@Yater

A post shared by Vintage-life (@robertstassi) on

How cool is this thing?! Yater was the subject of my most recent post, but I might like the board above even more. I can’t be for sure, but it looks to have a bit of a vee bottom. The outline of this Yater hull is very reminiscent of some Liddle and Andreini hulls (specifically, Andreini’s Vaquero model.) The fin — both its rake and its placement — reminds me of Liddle’s boards.

Hull aficionado Kirk Putnam has an excellent pic on his blog that traces the lineage of Andreini and Liddle’s shapes back to George Greenough. I’ve added the picture below. Liddle’s board is at top, and the next two are Andreini Vaqueros. The fourth board from the top is a Surfboards Hawaii vee bottom shaped by John Price, and the board at the bottom is a Midget Farrelly stringerless vee bottom with a Greenough logo. I had been aware of Greenough’s influence on Andreini and Liddle, but had no idea that Yater had tried out some of these shapes as well. Andreini has made no secret of his admiration of Yater, and it’s cool to see a shape that combines the Greenough school of displacement hulls, and Yater’s more traditional side of California board building. If you have pictures of another Yater hull, please drop me a line!

Kirk Putnam Hulls: Yater Hull
A partial shot of Kirk Putnam’s quiver. Pic via kp’s round up

For more on the subject, I urge you to check out Putnam’s blog. If you’re prone to quiver jealousy, though, his Instagram feed might push you over the edge!

 

Lopez’s boards for Lightning Bolt are by far the most collectible, but it seems like there’s a growing interest in some of his more obscure shapes. Pictured above is an extra clean example of Lopez’s signature model that he produced for Hansen in the late 1960s. What’s interesting about that board is that it actually featured two different logos. There’s an example of a different Hansen / Lopez board that was recently sold on eBay. It has the alternate logo, which I have reproduced below.

Hansen Gerry Lopez Logo Shred Sledz
Note the different logos in the two Hansen / Lopez boards. The first one says “By Gerry Lopez”, and the second has “Designed By Gerry Lopez.” In addition, you’ll notice the Hansen logos themselves are very different. Pic via eBay

 

Bird Huffman is a San Diego fixture. He runs Bird’s Surf Shed, where he oversees an ungodly stash of vintage boards. Here Bird has come across two awesome early examples of boards from two separate San Diego craftsmen: Skip Frye and Steve Lis. Make sure you click through all the pictures in the gallery above. The Frye is very similar to the Select Surf Shop single fin I posted about recently, down to the glassed on wooden fin. I love the Frye wings logo towards the tail — never seen that placement before.

Skip Frye 1970s Select Surf Shop Single Fin 6'10"12.jpg
Skip Frye Single Fin with Select Surf Shop laminate. Look at the sharp wings in the tail. Pic via Craigslist

The Lis board is a funky shape, given that it’s a wing pin single fin, and Lis is best known for his fish designs. Make sure you follow Bird on Instagram, as he has been posting updates on the Lis board as he gets them!

 

Surf Line Hawaii: Shred Sledz Deep Dive

Greetings, Shredderz, and welcome to the latest Shred Sledz Deep Dive! Today’s Deep Dive features a venerable Hawaiian surf brand that has long deserved a closer look: Surf Line Hawaii. Before I get into the history, though, let’s skip right to the good stuff: pictures of awesome surfboards.

First up is a single fin shaped by none other than respected Hawaiian shaper Dennis Pang. Pang got his start at Surf Line Hawaii in 1976, before moving on to some of the most recognizable Hawaiian brands, like Lightning Bolt, Town & Country, and Local Motion. The board below was originally listed on eBay (pics originally found on the eBay post).

This thing is clean and mean. I love the black & white color scheme and the pinlines, with just a touch of color on the logos on both rails. I was a bit stunned when the board didn’t sell for $450, considering that another Surf Line board by Dennis Pang sold for $1800 ten years ago!

Surf Line Hawaii History

Surf Line Hawaii began as a surf shop on Oahu. It was founded by Dave Rochlen, and I believe Fred Swartz as well. By the time the shortboard revolution started in earnest, the shop began to put out boards under its own label.

I was blown away when I saw all the well-regarded shapers who passed through Surf Line over the years. According to Stoked-n-Board, Ben Aipa, Randy Rarick, Tom Parrish and Michel Junod, in addition to the aforementioned Dennis Pang, all shaped for Surf Line at some point!

Aipa Surf Line Hawaii
Aipa for Surf Line Hawaii. Board was made for Tony Moniz in 1981. Tony is a former pro and father to Josh and Seth, two up-and-coming Hawaiian pros in their own right. Pic taken from Boardcollector.com

However, I was even more shocked when I found out that Lightning Bolt’s famed core group — Gerry Lopez, Reno Abellira and Barry Kanaiaupuni — were all early Surf Line shapers. Lopez actually spent some time working in Surf Line’s offices on the business side.

Gerry Lopez Surf Line Hawaii Offices 1972.jpeg
Gerry Lopez working at his “first real job” in the Surf Line Hawaii offices on Oahu, 1972. Picture via Gerry’s personal website.

Here is a great Surfer Magazine interview with Tom Parrish that expands on how a bunch of Surf Line employees broke away to found Lightning Bolt. Bolt was founded by Lopez and Jack Shipley, the latter being Surf Line’s top salesman at the time. Shortly thereafter, Reno, Barry and co followed Lopez and Shipley out the door. It’s really saying something when it’s hard to find space to mention Dick Brewer‘s involvement with Surf Line, as well!

Surf Line Hawaii Surfboards

The board pictured below was shaped by Barry Kanaiaupuni. It was sold at the Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction in 2007, where it went for a mere $1,000 (anyone have a time machine handy?) Pics were taken from the auction site (original link here). I love everything about this board: the listing calls the bottom a “root beer” color, the purple fin pops, and I love the logo, with its clean lines and two-tone color job.

After Lopez left to found Lightning Bolt, Buddy Dumphy took the lead on shaping boards at Surf Line. Lopez writes about Dumphy in his memoir “Surf Is Where You Find It”. Patagonia’s website has a great excerpt from Lopez’s memoir, “Surf is Where You Find It”, where Lopez describes his early friendship with Dumphy and their early experiences riding new surfboard designs.

I’m fascinated by Dumphy’s boards. While they seem to be coveted by a segment of collectors, Dumphy shapes don’t seem to generate the same excitement as those from shapers like Barry K, Reno, and of course Gerry himself. Still, Lopez’s respect for Dumphy speaks volumes about his abilities as a shaper. Sadly, Dumphy passed away as the result of a car accident sometime in the 1990s.

The single coolest Dumphy board I was able to find online was posted by HolySmoke.jp. I have no clue if the board is for sale but that airbrush is absolutely killer!

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The 70s were a great decade for surfboard airbrushes…

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Here’s another Dumphy single fin, which was also sold at the Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction in 2007. I love the plumeria logo on the deck. It looks like this thing was shaped in the 70s for some serious North Shore surf. Pics taken from the original auction listing.

 

I was able to find a few Dumphy boards currently for sale online. There’s one currently for sale at New Jersey’s Brighton Beach Surf Shop, and it’s only listed at $450. Link to the board can be found here. I think it’s underpriced, considering the history of both the brand and Dumphy, but then again, the Pang board at the top of the page failed to clear the same $450 mark.

Surfboardhoard.com has a different Dumphy Surf Line Hawaii single fin for sale, but they don’t list the price. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s north of $450. You can find that board here.

Surf Line Hawaii has such a rich history and a deep stable of shapers, it makes it hard to spotlight just a few boards! Standard Store / UsedSurf.jp are selling two other 70s single fins. Note that because the boards are in Japan, the prices are much higher. But they illustrate the wide variety of cool logos that Surf Line employed throughout the years. Boards can be found here and here (pictures below taken from Usedsurf.jp). The boards are credited to Steve Wilson / Welson (guessing the difference is a translation issue), but I couldn’t find any evidence of a shaper by that name. If anyone has some details, let me know!

 

Finally, no Surf Line Hawaii post would be complete without a mention of Randy Rarick. In addition to organizing the Triple Crown of Surfing, putting on auctions like the aforementioned Hawaiian Islands Vintage Surf Auction, Rarick restores old surfboards. There is currently a Surf Line Hawaii board for sale on eBay that Rarick restored. The board is not a Rarick shape, but rather, it was made in 1971 by Ryan Dotson. You can find a link to the board here, and I have included some pictures below as well. (Pictures are from the eBay listing.)

Surf Line Hawaii: Odds and Ends

Believe it or not, I haven’t even covered all of the Surf Line Hawaii shapers, like Rick Irons and Sparky Scheufele! If nothing else, that speaks to the incredibly deep collection of shapers that passed through the brand over the years. Sadly, Surf Line Hawaii no longer seems to be in business. It seems as if they stopped producing surfboards long ago (I would guess sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, but that is just a guess), and a Yelp listing indicates that Surf Line’s Honolulu retail location has closed, too.

Nonetheless, Surf Line Hawaii played a prominent role in the Hawaiian surf scene, and remains one of the most impressive collections of shaping talent ever.

I hope you enjoyed this Deep Dive! If you have any pictures of any Surf Line boards you would like to share, or any comments at all, please reach out via the Contact section. Thank you for reading, and may your stoke levels remain high and rising!

Featured Image at top from @aipasurf on Instagram. Original link to photo here.

Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (May 8)

Greetings, Shredderz! Hope your stoke levels are high and rising. Here’s a smattering of rad surfboards I’ve seen pop up on social media over the past week or so.

It’s a scientifically proven fact that you can’t go wrong posting pictures of vintage Lightning Bolt boards. And sure, the thing has a bit of water damage, but I much prefer old boards with some character than a lot of the full-blown restoration jobs that prioritize aesthetics over preservation. But I digress. No matter where your preferences might lie, Gerry Lopez was and will always be the man.

 

Another proven fact: there is no such thing as too much neon. This here is a selection of some primo Echo Beach vehicles, courtesy Lance Collins of Wave Tools, and Peter Schroff of Schroff Surfboards. Love the Team lams on the Wave Tools boards to the right.

Click “Continue Reading” below for some more selections…

Continue reading “Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (May 8)”

Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (April 30)

Greetings, Shredderz! Hope you are all having fantastic weekends. Without any further ado, here’s a selection of social media posts that have recently caught my eye.

Christian Fletcher’s signature model is the coolest. Raddest. Most-shredding-est. Choose whatever superlative you prefer; I just can’t get enough of these things.

Hit the “Continue Reading” link below for some more vintage surfboard goodness…

Continue reading “Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (April 30)”

Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (April 23)

Greetings, Shredderz! Here are some interesting vintage surf posts I’ve stumbled across in my recent internet travels.

#toughchoice

A post shared by Island Trader (@islandtradersurfshop) on

Island Trader Surf Shop is a great shop in Stuart, Florida that happens to sell some pretty rad vintage boards. They don’t update their blog frequently, but when they do, there are some great gems. (I’m partial to this Harbour Rapier and this transitional Hobie board with a tiger stripe spray.) Back to the shot above: this looks like an old Weber Surfboads ad. I love the floral print inlays on the decks, and the “WEBER TEAM 67 PERFORMER” is a sweet looking board that must have been made for team riders back in the day.

Hit the link below for some more selections…

Continue reading “Shred Sledz Social Media Roundup (April 23)”

Hansen by Gerry Lopez

Greetings, Shredderz! I hope this post finds you during a weekend of bountiful waves and exceptional surf craft.

Regarding the latter, if you’re currently in need of a Gerry Lopez / Hansen surfboard, you’re in luck, because there’s a primo example currently up for sale on Craigslist in Phoenix, Arizona of all places.

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Gerry Lopez at Sunset Beach, North Shore of Oahu

Photo by Art Brewer; via Encyclopedia of Surfing

While Gerry Lopez is best known for his work with famed surfboard company Lightning Bolt during its 70s heyday, he also produced a line of licensed boards for Hansen.

The boards from the Hansen / Lopez collaboration were not hand shaped by Mr Pipeline himself. Even so, given the relative rarity of these bad boys, you’d think that they would be more prized by collectors. Less than 1,000 of these boards were produced, according to Hansen’s blog.

Their blog also has some great photographs of another Hansen by Gerry Lopez board. I have reproduced those pictures below. You’ll notice that the board on the Hansen blog has Dart branding on it, which is absent from the Craigslist board featured at the top of this post. Another interesting detail can be found in the third picture. The “Dart” version from Hansen’s blog appears to be dated to 1972; Stoked-n-Board, however, claims that this board was only produced between 1970 and 1971.

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Note the “Dart” branding, which does not appear on every model
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The fin looks identical to the one in the board at the top of the page
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I would guess 1972 refers to the date, which contradicts Stoked-n-Board’s claim that these boards were only made in 1970 and 1971

Photos via Hansen’s Surf

The blog also includes a great shot of an ad announcing the board. It’s interesting how Hansen refers to it as “The Lopez Series”. You’ll also notice the board in the advertisement does not have the “Dart” branding, nor is “Dart” mentioned at all.

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Photo via Hansen’s Surf

Here’s another example of the “Dart” branding on a Hansen / Lopez board, taken from a picture uploaded to Swaylocks:

Gerry Lopez Hansen_0

Photo via Swaylocks

In typical Shred Sledz style, I also did some digging around the far reaches of the internet and was able to pull up some examples of other Hansen / Lopez boards. I was able to find one that recently sold at the US Vintage Surf Auction. The winning bid was $2K. This board is apparently all-original and in great condition, hence the price (which would still be considerably cheaper than a Lopez Lightning Bolt). One thing to note about the USVSA board is it boasts an alternate logo, which I have reproduced below. Note that the USVSA dates this pink logo board to 1969. I tend to believe the 1969 date, given that the Lopez / Hansen board has some properties that are shared with other Transition Era boards. The Hansen / Lopez board has a distinct S-Deck, and the ad above mentions a slight vee bottom as well. I’ve become even more convinced after finding this excellent post on the subject of Hansen hulls, courtesy of displacementia, which is one of the finest surfboard blogs on the planet.

U2F3CHRYGCSX

Photo via USVSA

Here’s one more example of a Hansen / Lopez board. This one is for sale, but unless you live in Japan or you live for needless markup, I don’t think it’s worth the $2800 (minus tax) they are charging on usedsurf.jp. You can find a link to the Hansen / Lopez board here. Bitching about the price aside, it looks like it’s in great condition. Some other interesting notes: usedsurf.jp dates the board to the 60s, but judging by the date on the stringer it looks like it’s from the 70s, though I can’t quite make out the exact year. The Hansen logo on the usedsurf.jp board can be seen on the bottom, right near the nose — same as the Phoenix Craigslist example.

USV10271_011

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Love the subtle little Hansen logo by the nose
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Beautiful dark green pinlines

You can find the Phoenix board on Craigslist here. It’s being listed for $1,000, which I don’t think is totally insane. It’s not in perfect condition, but the board has not been totally restored, according to the poster, which I always prefer. In any event, check it out if you’re interested.

 

Mr Pipeline: Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt

Happy Monday to all you faithful Shredderz out there! I hope this week brings you a non-stop procession of tasty waves and interesting surf craft. I figure there is no better way to start the week than with the holy matrimony of Lightning Bolt Surfboards and Hawaiian legend Gerry Lopez. The Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt is perhaps the most famous vintage surfboard of all time, and for good reason. If the name Gerry Lopez rings a bell, it’s because you may recognize him from his role as Schwarzenegger’s sidekick Subotai in “Conan the Barbarian.”

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Gerry Lopez has one of the all-time greatest appearances by a pro surfer on film, guest starring as Subotai in “Conan the Barbarian.” Lopez is the mayor emeritus of Pipeline; his co-star in the film would go on to a decent political career himself.

Actually, that’s nobody’s first impression of Mr. Lopez, but it is an irresistible piece of surfing trivia. All jokes aside, surfing legends don’t get any larger than Gerry. For goodness sake, the dude’s nickname is Gerry “Mr. Pipeline” Lopez! Given his impeccable style, it’s a miracle they haven’t re-named the spot after Gerry himself:

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Gerry Lopez, styling at Pipe. It doesn’t get any better than this! Check out the Lightning Bolt board beneath his feet. Photo by Jeff Divine.
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Lopez at Pipeline in 1975. Photographer unknown; pic via Lightning Bolt
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Lopez (left) at the Hang Ten American Pro at Sunset Beach in 1974. Photo by Jeff Divine; pic via Encyclopedia of Surfing 

First, some background on the man and the marque. Lopez, along with business partner Jack Shipley, founded Lightning Bolt in 1970. (For more extensive background, see the Encyclopedia of Surfing’s entry on Lightning Bolt.) Lighting Bolt started with an unorthodox business model that was more akin to a collective than a real brand. According to the EoS, Bolt initially did not have a centralized factory where all of the production took place, and instead a variety of shapers – including Lopez and other notables like Reno Abellira, Tom Parrish, Tom Eberly, and Barry Kanaiaupuni – shaped at home and then brought their wares into the Lightning Bolt store, where the boards were sold to the public.

Lightning Bolt was ubiquitous during the 1970s, and even today it remains at the forefront of surfing’s consciousness. Unfortunately, Lightning Bolt’s history can also be read as a cautionary tale about the perils of poor brand management. Other brands and shapers shamelessly borrowed the distinctive logo, slapping it on boards that had nothing to do with Lightning Bolt.

Even “official” Lightning Bolt surfboards have a mixed history. Take, for example, the green and yellow board pictured above. The board was originally posted for sale on Craigslist in Los Angeles, where it was advertised as a Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt surfboard. And as you can see in the second picture, there’s a clear “Gerry Lopez” laminate bearing the man’s name himself. So far so good, right?

Unfortunately, the board at the top of this post was unlikely to have been shaped by Gerry himself.

According to Randy Rarick, boards that bear the “Gerry Lopez” laminate – not to be confused with a signature – are “California Bolts” that were licensed to a variety of different businessmen around the world, including a factory in the San Diego area. Two shapers involved in the production of the California Bolts were Terry Martin and Mickey Munoz. For more context on California Bolts and the licensing of the Bolt name there is some good info on Boardcollector.com. Martin and Munoz are extremely well-respected, and for good reason; but there is a big difference between a Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt and all the rest.

So, what does a genuine Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt look like, then?

Here’s an example of a 1970s Lopez board that was sold at the recent California Vintage Surf Auction. Note: this board has been restored. But it does contain a clear Lopez signature on the stringer, which at the very least is meant to refer to how these original Lopez boards would have looked:

Image via Surfer Magazine Forums

Surfboardline.com has an incredible selection of Lightning Bolt boards, where you can compare boards that have the Lopez laminate, like the green and yellow board above, versus boards where you can clearly see Lopez’s hand drawn signature beneath the glass. For an example of the latter, see the picture below:

Pic via Surfboardline.com

In summary, Lopez seemed to sign many of the boards he hand-shaped. And those that he did sign, he did under the glass, in all capital letters along the stringer. Lightning Bolt surfboards will always be collectible, and rightfully so, but there’s value in exploring the distinction between a board shaped by Gerry Lopez himself, and one that he assisted in designing.

The board at the top of this post has already been taken down (asking price was $650, for those who care about price points). Even though it’s not a “Lopez” board in the strictest sense, it’s still a wonderful piece of surfing history.