Life after the ASP World Tour is an interesting one. For one thing, you're still a surfer even if you're not in the Top 44. It's not like you hang up the board with the jersey. You certainly don't just lose the passion. In fact, some of the most inspiring and popular surfers today are Dream Tour alumnus. It also gives you time -- time to think more deeply about the world around you, time to raise a family, time to teach others to surf.
And time to go fishing.
Shea Lopez is a World Tour veteran, former U.S. Open champion, and respected analyst of all things competitive in surfing. He's also a Gulf resident, budding environmentalist, father, and fisherman. You could say he's got a lot of paddles in the water of life these days.
ESPN.com: So, does the Fantasy Surfer Pundit thing take up a lot of your time these days, or are you still able to break away from the laptop?
Shea Lopez: Truthfully, I always watched far too many heats online before, now at least I have a legit reason for my obsession. I tune in, of course, to watch the best surfers in the world ride the best contest venues in the world, but I also enjoy the way each heat unfolds in a game of cat-n-mouse. Without a proper heat strategy, even the best surfers will lose to mediocre ones the majority of the time.
ESPN.com: What have you been doing aside from watching heats? Where has the road taken you this last year?
It's taken me to far fewer destinations than previous years. Yet, somehow I'm catching the best waves of my life. You've got to love growing older and wiser.
ESPN.com: I have to get a little serious here for a minute. Can you tell me how you wound up covered in oil on the cover of the Surfrider Foundation's newsletter, "Making Waves?"
It was through friends of mine and a common interest we share, to not allow near shore oil drilling. We all went to the beach in New Smyrna back in November with a bucket of molasses and soy sauce. An hour of shooting and one heck of a sticky mess later, we got the shot. It was never used at the time. Then came April 20th and BP screwed up royally. Our worst fears had come true and Surfrider was already sitting on the shot that showed exactly what a sad reality it is to be a surfer living on the Gulf of Mexico.
ESPN.com: Tell me about the situation at your home in the Indian Rocks Beach since the well has been capped.
Indian Rocks Beach has yet to see the direct effects of oil in the water. Hardest hit, so far, has been the local tourist industry with numerous cancellations. But a good blow from the west, northwest or north and it could get have gotten ugly.
ESPN.com: As someone who writes about the environment almost as much as pro surfing, I've always felt that pro surfers should take a more active role. I was really excited to see that campaign.
My life was a blur for 10-plus years surfing professionally -- spending most of those years traveling outside of the US, I was exposed to pollution, poverty, and injustice like nothing I could imagine after growing up on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Life has slowed down for me since then. Being home more I have noticed things aren't as great as I thought here in the good old U.S A. either. By seeing what is going on firsthand and forming my own opinions on events occurring, I now feel I can present a proper message to the public regarding hot topics.
ESPN.com: You were quoted as saying, "There are three things you don't mess with: my family, my surf, and my fish -- and right now BP is messing with all three." Describe each effect specifically.
My family lives in the water. In our free time, we get to play in the waterway and we're normally a happy bunch. Also, my brother owns Nekton Surf Shop on Indian Rocks Beach. Oil in the Gulf of Mexico isn't exactly good for business.
My surf is why I am who I am. Take away the opportunity for me to surf and you are taking away a piece of me, a rather substantial piece of me.
My fish have always been a huge part of my life. I follow the fishing conditions as closely as the surf. For as long as I can remember if I wasn't surfing I was fishing -- neither of which mix well with oil in the water.
The water gives my family and me the majority of the things we enjoy and need. Without a clean, healthy body of water at our doorsteps we would lose our reason to live in Florida. And it's way too late for me to run for the hills and become a mountain man. That just isn't in my blood.
ESPN.com: It is certainly one thing for us to all say we are against offshore drilling, but that means we have to somehow use less petroleum. Do you think surfers are willing to do that?
The majority of surfers live close enough to their local beach to ride a bike or skateboard to go surfing. In doing so, it also adds to your local credibility in the line-up. That's what you call a win-win situation, right there. Surfers on a whole are an environmentally conscience group. Through better education, I feel strongly that we would be capable of making changes.
ESPN.com: Do you think that professional surfers could have been lending their star power to campaigns like this before the BP spill? Is this a call to action?
Yes and No. Dave Rastovich lives and breathes environmentalism. Mick Fanning lives and breathes world titles. If you put someone out there that doesn't bleed for the cause, people will see right through them. Passion brings awareness, recognition, and results.
ESPN.com: Okay. So, Teahupoo. Who's making the semis?
Kelly, the Hobgoods, and Andy Irons. Besides for wildcards, they will be the best surfers in the event at Teahupoo.
ESPN.com: I'm going to ask you to go out on a limb, now. Who's going to be sitting on the wrong side of the table when the ASP reshuffles the deck in September?
Blake Thorton and Marco Polo, for sure. Everyone else could pull off a miracle at the most dangerous and beautiful wave in the world.
ESPN.com: That's not a very dangerous limb. But, I have to hand it to you, not that he's a dark horse, but you have been calling for Jordy Smith to step up all year.
His surfing is on another level. Especially when you consider his size and power combined with the technical above-the-lip maneuvers he pulls of so easily. The difference in 2010 has been his knowledge of the system. With a firm grasp of man-on-man competition and what the judges are looking for, he has already risen to No. 1 in the world. If someone, like Dane Reynolds, doesn't follow his lead, then Jordy could be poised to rack up multiple world titles in no time at all.
ESPN.com: You mentioned fishing is a passion for you and your brother. Any recent tales for us?
They're all great. I have enough to fill a book. And the best thing is -- the fish get bigger every year.