The Conversion Of Cory

From the rigors of the World Championship Tour to wrestling giant grouper off the Gulf Coast, it’s all in a day’s work for Cory Lopez.

After a couple of years wallowing in the middle of the WCT (World Championship Tour) pack, Cory Lopez has reignited his career. The 28-year old goofy-foot, who hails from the wave-starved, fishing-rich Gulf Coast of Florida, has quietly had a stellar year and is currently on the bubble of the top five and looking to join the likes of Parko, A.I., Slater, and Mick Fanning at the top of the surfing world.

Aside from one wild year at the …Lost house in San Clemente, where the compound immortalized the So Cal, “I don’t give a f-k” attitude of the day, Cory has been in the WCT game since he was nineteen years old and fresh out of high school. Lopez, who is no stranger to the endless traveling and less-than-glamorous side of pro surfing that most of us never see, has a habit of flying home after nearly every event to see his family, friends, and newly purchased home. Call it a testament to his values.

This interview was conducted in the lobby of a hotel in Huntington Beach, California immediately after his older brother, Shea, knocked Cory out of the U.S. Open. The 5’10” Lopez, who’s lean yet muscled body is starting to look like that of a lightweight boxer, was upbeat and talkative as we discussed a magical “yellow trunk” session in Reunion Island, life on tour, Florida, fishing, and whether or not he’s got what it takes to win a world title.TransWorld SURF: When was the “yellow trunk” session?

Cory Lopez: The “yellow trunk” session was right after the Rip Curl WCT Reunion Island event finished. Reunion is one of the best places I’ve ever surfed-that place is just awesome, and there’re so many different places to surf.

Was that session where they had the contest?

No, it was from a different spot. The paddle out where we shot had the most urchins I’ve ever seen-paddling out was so heavy.

What’s the setup like at that spot?

It’s right off the main road, and you drive by it all the time. It’s just a perfect little wave. You don’t want it too big. That day was just about the perfect size-just a little bit overhead. This one coral head sticks up, and the wave just boils right off of it and gives you a perfect air section. After the air section, it gets kind of deep, so the landing’s not dangerous at all. It’s a pretty sick spot.

What was the highlight of the session?

I got a really weird, suck-up barrel that was pretty cool. It was a really thick lip, and I fully backdoored it. I remember being really stoked because I didn’t think there were going to be any barrels out there. I had a big floater off the same barrel section that I was pretty psyched on, too. Other than that, just a couple airs-that wave is so sick for airs, and Jack (English) knew right where to set up to shoot ’em. Who else was out there?

There were a couple Reunion locals who surfed well, about three Boogie boarders, and me. Just a couple guys, really.

How did it all come about?

Did you just bump into Jack or something?

We’d been shooting St. Leu earlier, but I knew that wave was good because it was the right size. I got out of the water and saw Jack shooting from the other side of the bay doing pulled-back scenics of St. Leu. I honked my horn at him and pointed over to the wave. I parked, paddled out, and next thing you know, he was out in the water.

What about the yellow trunks?

What happened to them?

I think they’re in a board bag I left in Florida.

They probably reek.Yeah (laughs).

What was it like hanging out at the old …Lost house in San Clemente?

I don’t really remember those days (laughs) … no, I do. That was when I first went pro. I’d just gotten out of high school and went out to California. Those were fun times, you know?

It was a wild, grungy house, totally carefree, not a lot of cleaning going on, lots of parties, lots of girls hanging out. Definitelhad a lot of good times at that house, lighting Randall on fire and stuff.

How old were you at the time?

Seventeen. So you were seventeen and lighting people on fire?

I think Dave Dixon lit him on fire. I haven’t seen the videos in so long I’ve forgotten, but I don’t think I was the one who lit him on fire. Maybe I was, though-I have a horrible memory.What about some of the more wild times-well, at least the ones you can talk about?

There was just some crazy stuff going on there (laughs). Wardo and I had a couple of good fights there. One time we were wrestling and knocked this huge $1,000 TV over, and it fell on top of us. (Matt) Biolos (…Lost shaper) got really pissed at us for that. But it was all fun-that’s just what happens when the boys get nuts. What was everyone’s drink of choice?

J germeister shots-ice cold out of the freezer. How did that time affect your surfing?

It sounds like you guys partied a lot, but what about surfing?

We surfed all the time-that was the deal. Those were the best times for my surfing because I was there in San Clemente, surfing every day, and watching guys like Shane Beschen and Archy surf. Wardo was down there, too. He was only fifteen then, but surfing so good. He was probably the same size then as he is now-he was just a freak. That whole time really helped my surfing a lot, just all that surfing at Lowers and seeing all the pros coming down there. How did that era end?

You grow up and realize you can’t continue living like that. You gotta move on up out of the slums, you know?

I made it onto the WCT that first year I did the ‘QS, and those days came to an end. Your surfing has obviously come along, but how are you different now personally?

I’m just a little more controlled now. It used to be all about fun, but now you gotta consider the real part of life, like what you’re gonna do to be financially stable later on in life. But I still like to have fun once in a while, and when we have a break on tour, I like to go out with my friends back home.What’s different about the tour now as opposed to when you first started in 1996?

The level of talent is a lot better now. You’re never in a heat now that you just know you’re gonna make. Not to be cocky or anything, but when I first got on tour, you’d look at the wave conditions and say to yourself, “I’m gonna beat this guy.” Now everyone’s so good, you never get a heat that you just know you’re going to make.

There’re no “gimmes” anymore?

Not at all, unless you get … no, I can’t say that.

You can say it.

Unless Neco Padaratz gets kicked off tour, because his opponent would get a bye.

If you could change anything about the WCT, what would it be?

The amount of time we have to travel. I’d put more events back-to-back, just so we could do Kirra and go straight to Bells. It’s like, you go to Kirra, and you’ve got a week-and-a-half until Bells starts, so they want you to go do the comp at Margaret River (over 2,500 miles away). I’d just try to make the traveling a little easier on the guys.

Condense it a bit?

Yeah, like Tahiti and Fiji would be back-to-back.

It seems like it would be pretty tough to maintain a girlfriend because of all the traveling you guys do. What’s been your experience with that?

I’ve got a girlfriend, Jennifer, who I’ve been with off and on for eight years. The traveling puts some hard times on relationships, and that’s why we split up a couple different times. It’s definitely hard when you travel for two months and only talk on the phone. You just have to trust each other, and it can get pretty heavy-that’s definitely the hardest part. I’m stoked now, though, because she’s traveling with me this year.

According to the ASP Web site, you’re engaged. Is that still the story?

No, we’re not engaged. That’s a farce (laughs).

You might want to talk to them about that.

Yeah, what’s up with that?

She’s not wearing a ring.

You and Andy Irons seem to be pretty tight. What’s your relationship with him like?

Andy and I are like best friends. I got onto the ‘CT a year before him, but as soon as he got on, we traveled together. We love to surf together, and every winter we try to get a vacation in and go somewhere with our chicks.

What do you enjoy about traveling with him?

Just being able to surf with him all the time. He’s more motivated to surf than I am. Like, I can chill out, not wake up that early, and just surf in the afternoon. But with him, he’ll come wake me up and be like, “Let’s go surf!” I grew up on the Gulf Coast, and we don’t surf over there too much, so I’m not used to surfing all the time, you know (laughs)?

If there’s waves I’ll surf, but I only go out once a day. But when I do go out, I go out for like five hours. Andy will go out for a couple hours and come in.

What do you dislike about traveling with him?

He’s always getting dragged away by people saying, “Do this, do that.” He attracts so much attention. We’ll be trying to do something, and people are grabbing at him, and I’m just like, “Let’s go, man!” Would you consider him a rival?

We were rivals, and then he started beating me more. I think he’s beaten me the last four times we’ve surfed against each other, but before that we were pretty equal. So yeah, there’s a rivalry there, and I’m pretty bummed about the way it’s going right now. I need to get him back. Some of the best guys on the WCT haven’t won an event. You’ve got one victory under your belt from back in 2001. What do you have to do to get over the top and win one of those things?

My whole problem has been consistency. I think I’ve been in five finals and only won one of them. I’m having a problem linking heats together. I’ll have a great heat and then blow the next one. I’ve also messed up with priority a lot, too. I’ll have priority, and I’ll go on a wave that gets me a six, and the guy behind me gets a perfect one and gets a nine. I always do stuff like that, and it’s pretty annoying. Can you win a world title?

Yeah, I know I can. This year it’s not really a reality to me. The top five is my goal this year. That’s going to be real tough-it’s tight right now. I just put a new gym in my house, and I’m psyching right now, getting in shape. I think one of the things that’s been killing me the last few years is that I’ve kinda been out of shape, not as physically fit as I could be to make a solid go at it. I really want to build my body up more so I can just go crazy out there. I don’t want to feel like I’m out of energy, and I want to be able to keep pushing harder and harder.

What about Kelly?

Do you think the title is his this year?

I won’t say he has it this year, but I’ll say he has the best shot. But with five events to go, anything can happen. I think he’s gonna do it, though-this is one of the best years I’ve seen him surf.

Today you surfed against your brother Shea. What’s it like surfing against your flesh and blood at that level?

It sucks when you get in a heat against your brother. He’s my brother, and I don’t really care that I lost to him, you know?

He made it, and that’s cool. If it would have been anyone else, I would have been super pissed.

So you guys aren’t out there beating the crap out of each other?

No, not at all. When we were young, we were like that, but not anymore. We’ve both mellowed out a lot since those days, but back in high school, we were pretty nuts.

I think that’s pretty standard for most brothers.

Yeah, it’s something you grow out of.

Why do you fly home after every event even if it’s halfway around the world and a huge hassle?

When my chick isn’t with me, one of my biggest goals is to get home, see her, and see all my friends. I’ve also got a sick boat that I love going out on. I just built a house, and I’ve got stuff to take care of with that, too. My parents live three houses down, as well, so I get to see them. Those are all huge priorities tight. What’s your relationship with him like?

Andy and I are like best friends. I got onto the ‘CT a year before him, but as soon as he got on, we traveled together. We love to surf together, and every winter we try to get a vacation in and go somewhere with our chicks.

What do you enjoy about traveling with him?

Just being able to surf with him all the time. He’s more motivated to surf than I am. Like, I can chill out, not wake up that early, and just surf in the afternoon. But with him, he’ll come wake me up and be like, “Let’s go surf!” I grew up on the Gulf Coast, and we don’t surf over there too much, so I’m not used to surfing all the time, you know (laughs)?

If there’s waves I’ll surf, but I only go out once a day. But when I do go out, I go out for like five hours. Andy will go out for a couple hours and come in.

What do you dislike about traveling with him?

He’s always getting dragged away by people saying, “Do this, do that.” He attracts so much attention. We’ll be trying to do something, and people are grabbing at him, and I’m just like, “Let’s go, man!” Would you consider him a rival?

We were rivals, and then he started beating me more. I think he’s beaten me the last four times we’ve surfed against each other, but before that we were pretty equal. So yeah, there’s a rivalry there, and I’m pretty bummed about the way it’s going right now. I need to get him back. Some of the best guys on the WCT haven’t won an event. You’ve got one victory under your belt from back in 2001. What do you have to do to get over the top and win one of those things?

My whole problem has been consistency. I think I’ve been in five finals and only won one of them. I’m having a problem linking heats together. I’ll have a great heat and then blow the next one. I’ve also messed up with priority a lot, too. I’ll have priority, and I’ll go on a wave that gets me a six, and the guy behind me gets a perfect one and gets a nine. I always do stuff like that, and it’s pretty annoying. Can you win a world title?

Yeah, I know I can. This year it’s not really a reality to me. The top five is my goal this year. That’s going to be real tough-it’s tight right now. I just put a new gym in my house, and I’m psyching right now, getting in shape. I think one of the things that’s been killing me the last few years is that I’ve kinda been out of shape, not as physically fit as I could be to make a solid go at it. I really want to build my body up more so I can just go crazy out there. I don’t want to feel like I’m out of energy, and I want to be able to keep pushing harder and harder.

What about Kelly?

Do you think the title is his this year?

I won’t say he has it this year, but I’ll say he has the best shot. But with five events to go, anything can happen. I think he’s gonna do it, though-this is one of the best years I’ve seen him surf.

Today you surfed against your brother Shea. What’s it like surfing against your flesh and blood at that level?

It sucks when you get in a heat against your brother. He’s my brother, and I don’t really care that I lost to him, you know?

He made it, and that’s cool. If it would have been anyone else, I would have been super pissed.

So you guys aren’t out there beating the crap out of each other?

No, not at all. When we were young, we were like that, but not anymore. We’ve both mellowed out a lot since those days, but back in high school, we were pretty nuts.

I think that’s pretty standard for most brothers.

Yeah, it’s something you grow out of.

Why do you fly home after every event even if it’s halfway around the world and a huge hassle?

When my chick isn’t with me, one of my biggest goals is to get home, see her, and see all my friends. I’ve also got a sick boat that I love going out on. I just built a house, and I’ve got stuff to take care of with that, too. My parents live three houses down, as well, so I get to see them. Those are all huge priorities in my life. Did you get any paintings up on the wall yet?

It looked pretty barren when we did that Habitat column (Volume 7 #4).

I bought some paintings, but they’re not hanging up yet. How do you decorate a house when you’re never there?

I heard you hang out at this little fisherman bar when you’re at home. What’s that place like?

Yeah, the Blue Marlin.

Are there a bunch of crusty fishermen hanging out?

Yeah, there’re all kinds of fish pictures on the wall. It’s not a dive bar, though; it’s actually kinda nice. There’re high, vaulted ceilings, so it doesn’t get too smoky in there.

They still smoke in bars in Florida?

Yeah, we’re not like Cali, man. Full smoking bars in Florida. Not in restaurants, though. The Blue Marlin is cool; it’s got pictures of all my friends with their big fish on the wall.

How often do you go fishing when you’re home?

As much as I can. I’ve also been doing a lot of free-diving lately, too. I haven’t been doing too much rod and reel fishing lately, but right now because of all the hurricanes out there the water is really churned up, so the fishing’s awesome-I can’t wait to get back. If you had a choice between diving and rod and reel fishing, which would you choose?

I’d do both the same day. I just got into diving, so it’s a new thing for me.Who got you into diving?

My friend Dane. He hangs out with this guy Manny down in the Keys, and he’s just a nut. One time, we were free-diving in 65 feet of water over this artificial wreck where a lot of sharks hang around, and I went back to the boat and saw this 30-pound bonita tied up behind my boat. It’s all gutted and sliced open, and there’re like 50 little reef sharks doing tornadoes around it. Then all of the sudden, a twelve-foot hammerhead came into the mix and was acting really aggressive, so I got out of the water. Dane and his brother were still down there checking it out, but then they came flying out of the water and onto the boat because the hammerhead was getting too crazy. What is it about fishing and diving that you like?

I just love catching and eating fish. In Florida, it’s a staple. I’ll never buy fish in Florida-if I don’t get it myself, my friends will give me some. I also just love being out in the water and being the captain of my boat, which is a big responsibility. Going out and finding the spot, using all the electronics, just knowing how to do all that stuff is cool-it feels like an accomplishment. We’re grouper fishing with deadlock drag and 100-pound test line, so it’s full tug-of-war and test of strength. You never know when you’re gonna catch that really big one. The diving thing is more about adrenaline. You get down there, see a huge fish, and you’re hunting him. There’re aggressive bull sharks down there and tiger sharks, too-but I haven’t seen one of those yet. Describe your perfect day at home.

Ideally, I’d surf and fish. But because waves are so rare, a good day would be to go fishing, catch some fish early, get home, and have a barbecue with what we caught. That’s the ideal day-a barbecue by the pool, have some friends over, and just hang out.

What is it about Florida that produces such great big-wave surfers?

It’s gotta be the sunshine, dude (laughs). Over there, you never get scared of big waves because it doesn’t get big enough to hurt you. Big waves are no different than small waves-it’s just in your mind. If you can rip the hell out of a small wave, then you’re gonna be able to ride a big wave-everything’s just slowed down, longer, and more drawn out.

How many more years do you see yourself doing the WCT?

I’ll do it as long as I can. It’s a great way to make money, and it’s the only thing I know how to do. These next couple years, I really want to focus on my fitness and get to where I feel like I gave it an honest shot, because I feel like I’ve never really given it everything I’ve got. Some moments I’ll give it all I got, but other times I don’t feel good enough to totally compete. I wasn’t checking you out or anything, but you seem to be in pretty good shape.

Yeah, I just spent all this money putting a gym in my house, so hopefully it’ll pay off and I can make the commitment to push my body into shape. I want to have a strong second half of the tour because I’ve never really had a strong, full season-I’ve always done well the first half or second half. So if I can put it together this year and get a top-five finish, that’ll be nice. How are you setting yourself up for the future?

Lately I’ve been investing in property, some stock-market stuff, and there’s a little something on the table that I don’t want to talk about quite yet. I’m sure everyone will know what it is if it happens. Keep us posted on the mystery project.

Yeah, I’ll let you guys know if it happens.

Pull Quotes:The paddle out where we shot had the most urchins I’ve ever seen-paddling out was so heavy.

Those were the best times for my surfing because I was there in San Clemente, surfing every day, and watching guys like Shane Beschen and Archy surf.

Not to be cocky or anything, but when I first got on tour, you’d look at the wave conditions and say to yourself, “I’m gonna beat this guy.”

Big waves are no different than small waves-it’s just in your mind. my life. Did you get any paintings up on the wall yet?

It looked pretty barren when we did that Habitat column (Volume 7 #4).

I bought some paintings, but they’re not hanging up yet. How do you decorate a house when you’re never there?

I heard you hang out at this little fisherman bar when you’re at home. What’s that place like?

Yeah, the Blue Marlin.

Are there a bunch of crusty fishermen hanging out?

Yeah, there’re all kinds of fish pictures on the wall. It’s not a dive bar, though; it’s actually kinda nice. There’re high, vaulted ceilings, so it doesn’t get too smoky in there.

They still smoke in bars in Florida?

Yeah, we’re not like Cali, man. Full smoking bars in Florida. Not in restaurants, though. The Blue Marlin is cool; it’s got pictures of all my friends with their big fish on the wall.

How often do you go fishing when you’re home?

As much as I can. I’ve also been doing a lot of free-diving lately, too. I haven’t been doing too much rod and reel fishing lately, but right now because of all the hurricanes out there the water is really churned up, so the fishing’s awesome-I can’t wait to get back. If you had a choice between diving and rod and reel fishing, which would you choose?

I’d do both the same day. I just got into diving, so it’s a new thing for me.Who got you into diving?

My friend Dane. He hangs out with this guy Manny down in the Keys, and he’s just a nut. One time, we were free-diving in 65 feet of water over this artificial wreck where a lot of sharks hang around, and I went back to the boat and saw this 30-pound bonita tied up behind my boat. It’s all gutted and sliced open, and there’re like 50 little reef sharks doing tornadoes around it. Then all of the sudden, a twelve-foot hammerhead came into the mix and was acting really aggressive, so I got out of the water. Dane and his brother were still down there checking it out, but then they came flying out of the water and onto the boat because the hammerhead was getting too crazy. What is it about fishing and diving that you like?

I just love catching and eating fish. In Florida, it’s a staple. I’ll never buy fish in Florida-if I don’t get it myself, my friends will give me some. I also just love being out in the water and being the captain of my boat, which is a big responsibility. Going out and finding the spot, using all the electronics, just knowing how to do all that stuff is cool-it feels like an accomplishment. We’re grouper fishing with deadlock drag and 100-pound test line, so it’s full tug-of-war and test of strength. You never know when you’re gonna catch that really big one. The diving thing is more about adrenaline. You get down there, see a huge fish, and you’re hunting him. There’re aggressive bull sharks down there and tiger sharks, too-but I haven’t seen one of those yet. Describe your perfect day at home.

Ideally, I’d surf and fish. But because waves are so rare, a good day would be to go fishing, catch some fish early, get home, and have a barbecue with what we caught. That’s the ideal day-a barbecue by the pool, have some friends over, and just hang out.

What is it about Florida that produces such great big-wave surfers?

It’s gotta be the sunshine, dude (laughs). Over there, you never get scared of big waves because it doesn’t get big enough to hurt you. Big waves are no different than small waves-it’s just in your mind. If you can rip the hell out of a small wave, then you’re gonna be able to ride a big wave-everything’s just slowed down, longer, and more drawn out.

How many more years do you see yourself doing the WCT?

I’ll do it as long as I can. It’s a great way to make money, and it’s the only thing I know how to do. These next couple years, I really want to focus on my fitness and get to where I feel like I gave it an honest shot, because I feel like I’ve never really given it everything I’ve got. Some moments I’ll give it all I got, but other times I don’t feel good enough to totally compete. I wasn’t checking you out or anything, but you seem to be in pretty good shape.

Yeah, I just spent all this money putting a gym in my house, so hopefully it’ll pay off and I can make the commitment to push my body into shape. I want to have a strong second half of the tour because I’ve never really had a strong, full season-I’ve always done well the first half or second half. So if I can put it together this year and get a top-five finish, that’ll be nice. How are you setting yourself up for the future?

Lately I’ve been investing in property, some stock-market stuff, and there’s a little something on the table that I don’t want to talk about quite yet. I’m sure everyone will know what it is if it happens. Keep us posted on the mystery project.

Yeah, I’ll let you guys know if it happens.

Pull Quotes:The paddle out where we shot had the most urchins I’ve ever seen-paddling out was so heavy.

Those were the best times for my surfing because I was there in San Clemente, surfing every day, and watching guys like Shane Beschen and Archy surf.

Not to be cocky or anything, but when I first got on tour, you’d look at the wave conditions and say to yourself, “I’m gonna beat this guy.”

Big waves are no different than small waves-it’s just in your mind.ough to totally compete. I wasn’t checking you out or anything, but you seem to be in pretty good shape.

Yeah, I just spent all this money putting a gym in my house, so hopefully it’ll pay off and I can make the commitment to push my body into shape. I want to have a strong second half of the tour because I’ve never really had a strong, full season-I’ve always done well the first half or second half. So if I can put it together this year and get a top-five finish, that’ll be nice. How are you setting yourself up for the future?

Lately I’ve been investing in property, some stock-market stuff, and there’s a little something on the table that I don’t want to talk about quite yet. I’m sure everyone will know what it is if it happens. Keep us posted on the mystery project.

Yeah, I’ll let you guys know if it happens.

Pull Quotes:The paddle out where we shot had the most urchins I’ve ever seen-paddling out was so heavy.

Those were the best times for my surfing because I was there in San Clemente, surfing every day, and watching guys like Shane Beschen and Archy surf.

Not to be cocky or anything, but when I first got on tour, you’d look at the wave conditions and say to yourself, “I’m gonna beat this guy.”

Big waves are no different than small waves-it’s just in your mind.