Nervy goofyfoot pro surfer from Indian Rocks, Florida; world-ranked #3 in 2001; younger brother to easygoing Shea Lopez, also a top world tour pro. "He's rudely talented," writer Cintra Wilson said of Wilson. "A visceral show-stealer, with diamond-hard balls."
Lopez was born (1977) and raised on Florida's Gulf Coast, and began surfing as a preschooler. He placed third in the menehune division of the 1989 United States Surfing Championships, and won the boys' division of the '91 Championships. His stepmother said that Lopez at that point was notorious around the the neighborhood for two reasons. First, he liked to ride his bike at full-speed off the end of a nearby dock, jumping off right before hitting the water. And second, "He was the meanest little brother in history."
Lopez qualified for the world pro tour in 1997, having already made a reputation as one of the world's best young high-performance free surfers, quick and flexible, with gyroscopic balance that often guided him through the most ambitious tailslide and aerial maneuvers. He'd also become tight friends with fellow hard-charging surfer and partier Andy Irons.
During an early round heat at the 1999 Gotcha Tahiti Pro, the handsome dark-haired Lopez rode deep inside the tube on a pair of big, thick, deadly lefts at Teahupoo, getting annihilated both times and failing to advance to the next round, but setting a world tour standard for reckless cool. Earlier that year, Lopez was part of a first-of-its kind surfing expedition to Cuba, which included his father (who is three-quarters Cuban) and brother. Asked by the surf press afterward if he'd gained a "new perspective on Communism," Lopez answered, "Well, we went to all the museums and stuff, which was cool. I understand it a lot more, but it still seems like a pretty bogus deal."
Lopez's world tour rating breakthrough came in 2001, when he returned to Tahiti to win at Teahupoo, and finished the year ranked third. Fellow Floridian CJ Hobgood won the title. (The 2001 ASP season was shortened to just five events following the 9-11 terrorist attacks.) Lopez had two other top 10 world tour finishes (#10 in 1998, #9 in 2003, when he won the US Open of Surfing), and after the 2007 season he failed to requalify.
Extremely photogenic, Lopez was featured in more than 30 surf videos, including What's Really Goin' Wrong (1996), Lost at Sea (2000), Iratika (2001), and Flight Academy (2002). In 2008 he was one of the first to surf the mind-bendingly long tubes at Skeleton Bay, Namibia, and one of his best rides from there earned the "Best Barrel" award at the 2009 SURFER Poll Awards.