We dare you to look at this image of surfing legends Stephanie Gilmore, Gerry Lopez and Rob Machado and not smile. We came across it recently when gathering images that best represent International Surfing Day. Held on June 16, it is a day dedicated to celebrating and protecting the beaches, waves and oceans that we all love. It's also a time for all surfers to band together to share the stoke of surfing. This image probably shows that shared sense of stoke better than most.
The photo's awe inspiring capacity may be due to the fact that these three surfers are icons of the sport, known for surfing with incredible style and living with a generosity of spirit. Gerry Lopez was a pioneer of Pipeline in the early 1970s and a three-time Pipe Masters champion whose graceful approach to tuberiding redefined the sport. He was also one of the first surfers to explore the magic of Bali and Indonesia. On top of all that, he was on the ground as part of the crew of windsurfers and tow surfers who first tackled Pe'ahi. In the last two decades he has lived in Bend, Oregon, practicing yoga, handcrafting sustainable surfboards, snowboarding Mount Bachelor and surfing every chance he can with the same passion and grace. When we asked what surfing means to him, he simply replied, "Surfing is a deeply wonderful thing - anytime, anywhere and any way."
It is a philosophy that Rob Machado, of all his peers, has taken the most to heart. While he was an integral part of the Momentum Generation, a pack of surfers led by Kelly Slater that dominated professional surfing in the 1990s, Rob's approach to a wave, and to life, was always more in the Zen-like Lopez mold.
After a CT career where he was among the top ten surfers for 11 straight years, Machado retired to follow a freesurfing path. Since his competitive retirement he has stayed true to his creative spirit, constantly experimenting with new equipment and finding different lines for each and every wave. The committed environmentalist also founded The Rob Machado Foundation and for the last 15 years has educated and empowered young people to make sustainable choices.
That just leaves Steph Gilmore, who has taken the baton of stylish sustainability and ran with it. While her six World Titles eclipses that of Lopez and Machado, she might best reflect the grace and flowing style of those legends. Out of the water, Gilmore's ever present smile is a reflection of her ability to see the best in situations and in people. Her competitive drive has never dimmed, as her results this year have shown, but it has never come at the cost of her personal relationships or her pursuit of other creative passions like music and photography.
These three surfers have all changed surfing in their own way, yet a common thread of style, decency, humor and humanity runs through. No wonder then that when they get together, the stoke of surfing shines through. We're hoping surfers around the world can replicate that stoke on International Surfing Day - June 16.