Inside the Mind of a Charger: An Interview with Mara Lopez

Mara in Sumbawa. Photo by Andy Kovzun.

How do you get comfortable surfing big waves?

This is the question we all want to ask surfer-actress Mara Lopez. She recently graced the big screens in BuyBust, Erik Matti’s anti-drug thriller, and in between tapings and press appearances, she was chasing storm swells across the Northern Luzon. She also went to Iceland to surf in glassy, glacial water. While most people would say no, it seems that Mara would go. Read on to know what goes on in the mind of this inspiring charger!

Baby charger on board. Photo by Hiroshi Yokohama. 

Hi, Mara! What was your first impression of surfing?

And how old were you when you first started surfing regularly? Growing up, surfing was my favorite pastime because of my dad. He pushed me on my first wave when I was just a baby. My dad’s name is Hiroshi Yokohama and he is an insane waterman. He surfed a lot, and when he wasn’t surfing, he’d take photos of people surfing, including legends like Gerry Lopez. He was completely in love with surfing and so I surfed because he surfed.

The inside bowl at Sunset Beach, HI (1989). Photo by Hiroshi Yokohama.

When I turned 6, my dad started taking me along his surf trips. In 1996, he opened the first surf school in the Philippines called the Yokohama Surfing School (YSS). So we always spent an insane amount of time on surf trips together. He took me surfing everywhere and my mom would be watching or taking photos from the shore.

Mara’s parents: Hiroshi Yokohama and Maria Isabel Lopez

However, it wasn’t until 5 years ago (I was 23 years old) that my own journey with surfing began. For the longest time, I was just riding waves because of my dad. And then it happened-- it became more than a hobby or a pastime-- it was suddenly the center of my life! I started traveling on my own and exploring places away from the crowd. I really enjoyed searching for new waves to surf. You know the saying “Only a surfer knows the feeling?” Now, I get it!

Embracing the unknown. Photo by JP Sarmiento.

Today, you are known to take on waves that are triple your height. How did you get comfortable with big waves? What do you say to yourself during heavy conditions?

During a solo trip to Bali in 2014, I explored many surf spots around Indonesia and was exposed to all sorts of waves. One thing these waves had in common-- they were all heavy and huge! During my first week, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had just started using a shortboard after being on a longboard for 18 years. It sure wasn’t easy surfing, and some days, I’d be so frustrated because I just couldn’t catch waves. But by the end of that trip, I got more comfortable with the waves in Indonesia and I guess it really started from there. I promised myself I’ll go back to Indonesia and surf the waves I couldn’t surf before.

The girl with the hat. Photo by Jacqui van Woerden.

During heavy conditions, I pray for safety and protection and then I’ll surf my brains out. It’s gotten to a point where I just embrace the wipeouts. If I can survive the wipeouts, then I know I’ll be fine. Also, it’s a good idea to have a surf buddy! But on the days that I’m surfing alone, I’m a bit more careful.

 Living The Dream. Photo by Matt Power

What surf apparel do you like to surf in?

What makes you feel comfortable while in the water? I love anything surf-proof like Kudo Surf’s beautiful bikinis. I love wearing them because it’s made from a type of recycled material called Econyl™ regenerated nylon. A lot of people who see me in the water also know me as “the girl wearing a hat all the time.” I’m comfortable wearing a hat cause sometimes I’m in the ocean for 8 hours straight so I have to protect my eyes and my face from the sun.

Stardust. Photo by Matt Power.

What is your next personal surf goal?

BARRELS! Hahaha. Lots and lots of huge barrels. I also definitely want to surf bigger waves and be a more technical surfer. Right now I’m dreaming of a trip around the Mentawais! I hope to go in the next two years. From big waves to the big screens, Mara Lopez would go. And as the rest of us cheer her on, we are riveted by a certain type of stoke by association, as if just watching Mara take the world in stride also makes us a little braver. Stay tuned for her next big adventure on @maralopezy on Instagram!

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