Bear with me, but I find a lot of similarity in the histories of surfing and Christianity.
Both began in simplicity and, over time, became too complicated to carry their own weight. Christianity was a simple movement realized from person to person and nimble in its spiritual expression, especially when compared to the monolithic religions of the era. Surfing was the avocation of people young and old riding wooden boards on unnamed beaches that weren't always the most accessible.
By the fourth century, Christianity had become the "official" religion of the Roman Empire and, while that enabled its rapid spread across the Western world, it became intertwined with empires, kingdoms, and governments to the point that the spiritual and the venal were inseparable.
Surfing, in the days of the wahines, groms, hodaddies, and kooks was a relaxed and uncommon pursuit for a variety of age groups. In the 1950's, World War II and Korean War veterans, in particular, found it a pleasant diversion from the nightmares caused by long-resolved battles*. As it became popular in general culture, and the source of a lot of attention from adolescents with money to spend, it naturally attracted the marketers who created the monster known as the "surf lifestyle". Nowadays a 14-year-old with a natural affinity for reading waves and balancing on a board can become the multi-millionaire spokesman for a power drink company.
Both Christianity and surfing suffered from this growth and both are now entering a post-institutional phase. While there are a lot of people attempting to lure Christendom back to its effective and simple days of just being Christianity, surfing is still making way too much money for those in charge of merchandising and contests for there to be a general recognition of the effect of the loss of simplicity. However, a growing number of young surfers are attempting to reclaim those days when it was the surf and not the sponsorship where watermen found satisfaction.
And, in that quest, they tend to turn for inspiration to the guy known as Mr. Pipeline.
Once in Huntington Beach, I was in the "green room". Just that once. It doesn't happen on the east coast really, so it was rather special. The green room is that tube formed by a rolling wave in which good surfers in good surf can place themselves. While mine was a good wave, I'm not that good of a surfer, so it was probably for only five seconds or so, but on my deathbed I will regard it as one of the best moments of my life. I can't imagine what it's like regularly to abide in the room and, in sublime confidence and ability, reach out and touch that dynamic wall of water.
Nowadays, he would be the toast of every surf beach in the world and a fair number of advertising agencies, too; probably with his photo of the cover of a variety of surfing periodicals. But, in 1962, he was given a simple trophy in a makeshift ceremony and left to his own devices. He would, as he matured, develop a recognizable style that, to those who have never surfed, appeared casual and offhand, but was anything but; and he would challenge greater and greater waves.
Lopez and his friends started to experiment with the enormous waves of Oahu's North Shore around the time that surfboard design was changing from the rather simple solid wood boards to those made of fiberglass with channels, subtle curving known as foil and rocker, and downrailers. The new design made even the most daunting of waves accessible.
Pipeline is notorious for huge waves which break in shallow water just above a sharp and cavernous reef, forming large, hollow, thick curls of water that surfers can tube ride. There are three reefs at Pipeline in progressively deeper water further out to sea that activate according to the increasing size of approaching ocean swells.In other words, if either the surfer or his/her equipment is not up to it, a rider will be severely injured or killed in rather short order. In the 1960's, Gerry Lopez took a new board design into the surf at Sunset Beach Park and rode the tubes over and over again. By his 25th birthday he was recognized as the best tube-rider in the world and earned the nickname "Mr. Pipeline". A few years later, the annual competition on the North Shore was re-named the Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters.