I woke up early, before the sun began peeking over the hills and made my way to the restroom, to relieve myself of the remaining aftermath of the previous night’s combat drinking mission that my travel companions and I had embarked on in Downtown Puerto Escondido.
I walked to the balcony and stretched, my muscles tight and overtaxed from days of paddling for survival and absorbing massive beatdowns in the classic, bone crushing Zicatela beach break.
The 6 second stand up barrels somehow made the thrashing my body endured worth every second.
The morning breeze was blowing warm, straight offshore.
The unforgettable smell of burning cane and trash hung pervasively in the air.
Overnight, the south swell had obviously increased in size, from the sound of the waves cracking on the outer sandbar.
I grabbed my surfboard, some money and a towel and tried to roust my roommates for one last go, before our scheduled departure later that afternoon.
Somehow, I had managed to pack my bag the night before, although I had no recollection of that ever occurring…
My hungover travel companions simply stared at me, indignant from the outrage of waking them from much needed rest.
“Come on you guys.. Its big.”
“Can you hear it? ”
“I’m going out to La Punta… It’s gotta be clean there…the swell direction is perfect…”
The words, ” Fuck you… I’m exhausted…you go by yourself if you want”… emanated from a groggy voice from under the scratchy Mexican blanket.
” Just make sure you get back in time to make the flight out…and be safe dude. Don’t get hurt.”
Daylight was beginning to peek through the clouds as I stumbled out the door and began the long walk out to the highway.
The town was beginning to stir and i could see some moving headlights slowly passing in the distance.
The air temperature was already approaching 8o degrees at sunrise.
I stopped briefly at a ramshackle bodega, and summoned the half sleeping shopkeeper.
“¿Puedes agarrarme un coco frío por favor?” I asked.
The shopkeeper retrieved a ice cold green coconut from the rusty old freezer and handed me a plastic straw.
¿Cuanto Cuesta? I asked.
I paid the shopkeeper and walked over to a tree stump a few feet away.
Grabbing a machete that had been stabbed into the stump, I carefully whacked a chip from the coconut, exposing the interior and inserted the straw.
The ice cold coconut water went down smooth and satisfying. Once the coconut was empty, I placed it back on the stump and chopped it in half with one hard blow. I used the chip that I had cut previously to scoop out and eat the gelatinous “spoon-meat” from the inside of the coconut.
Breakfast in the tropics.
I tossed the coconut in the trash can, grabbed my stuff and resumed hiking the remaining distance to the highway.
Once I had made it to the highway, I sat on the edge of my board by the side of the road and waited.
Within minutes, a Taxi driver stopped to ask me where I wanted to go.
” La Punta…”
“Tres Pesos”, he replied.
I nodded in agreement and the driver tied my surfboard to the top of his Toyota Corolla with a piece of rope.
I tossed my stuff in the car and jumped in the front seat.
I laughed a little inside, when I saw the remainder of a large joint of the potent local Oaxacan weed that the driver had been smoking, sitting in the ashtray and wondered to myself if he would offer me a hit.
He jumped in and we made the short drive out to the point in silence.
I paid the driver and retrieved my stuff.
The sun was now up and a 10 mile per hour offshore breeze blew steady.
I could hear the rumble of waves in the distance.
Making my way from the highway to the ocean, I paused briefly, after topping a small berm, to take in what would become for me, one of the most magical sights I had ever seen in my life.
Perfect lefts, lined up and stacked deep, wrapping into the point.
Nobody around for miles.
Water temp: 80 degrees.
Air temp : 80 degrees.
I stashed my towel and money under some rocks with my flip flops and shirt and walked to the jump off point slowly, watching the ocean and timing the large incoming sets.
I waited for a lull and jumped in. The water felt like a silky bathtub. After a short paddle, I paused and evaluated my take off spot.
A few minutes went by before a set popped up on the horizon. I could see sizeable waves stacked 6 or 7 deep rolling in.
The waves were breaking much further out than they had on previous occasions, and long rides seemed very likely.
I had managed to misjudge the take off spot and was caught inside, with an ominous looking set looming in the distance. I dug deep and began paddling hard for the shoulder. Somehow I managed to slip easily out the back of two solid 8 foot lefts.
These were waves that people would be literally fighting over back home in HB, rolling by unridden.
Stopping to assess, I saw the 5th wave in the set looked extra clean and lined up. Digging in again, I made my way to the revised take off spot. My positioning proved correct and I stroked into the wave with only 4 or 5 hard paddles.
The drop was easy.
I carved hard off the bottom and turned straight up into the lip. Recovering, I dropped back in again and again, racing down the line through numerous hollow sections that quickly backed off and invited a roundhouse cutback or an S Turn.
This was a far cry from the typical crowded, cold HB dumpers that allowed for a bottom turn and a few quick moves before crumbling into shit.
Nearing the beach, I kicked out. I was exhausted…
From one wave.
I estimated that I rode that wave for a solid two minutes. Mind-blowing.
I felt like a kid at a skate park. The quality of these waves allowed me to surf as I had always dreamed. Anything was now possible.
On one wave, I managed to launch myself straight up and looked down to see I was airborne, seemingly floating 3 feet off the surface of the water.
Somehow I managed to pivot and fall on top of the lip of the broken wave and stuck the reentry.
The first “Floater” I had ever managed to land in waves of consequence.
The cycle repeated itself over and over…Solid lined up wave after wave.
After an hour of flawless perfection, I looked around and noticed that I was still alone.
At that moment it became clear to me that this was a gift.
One of the most magical gifts that God could ever provide to one his children.
I slowly made my way back out to the take off spot, spent, smiling internally and externally….
Sometimes life sucks.
And sometimes, it is a magical experience.
You never know what they day might hold…
I surfed my brains out completely alone for another two hours.
I picked nothing but the best waves in the set, and let the lesser ones roll by harmlessly to end their existence on the beach.
At one point during that time, I sat on my surfboard waiting for a new set of waves and was blown away as I watched a Manta ray with an easy 10 foot wingspan, break the surface and breach hard, a mere 10 feet from where I sat.
Wow ! Did that just happen?
In stunned amazement, my thoughts shifted to what exactly might cause a massive Ray to breach so hard.
What was chasing it?
My thoughts then drifted back to a Panga boat ride we had taken days earlier, to go snorkeling in the lagoon at Puerto Angelito.
The boat driver had slowed midway through the journey to point out a large Mahi- Mahi.
A Mahi Mahi that turned out to be a 15 foot Mako Shark that swam up to our boat and grazed the side of it, rolling up on it’s side and looking straight at me with a giant eyeball, while the boat driver laughed maniacally… my fingers attempting to dig into the fiberglass seat of the boat.
My nirvana was interrupted by an overwhelming feeling of dread.
A feeling that somehow , I was not quite as alone as I had thought.
I fought through the urge to leave the water, scanning back and forth for signs of a telltale dorsal fin which never materialized, and was rewarded with another few solid sets of waves.
After hours of straight up balls out solo surfing, I turned around to hear voices nearby.
2 guys, who turned out to be from Newport Beach, were paddling out into the lineup.
They approached me and asked ” How are the waves?” I simply smiled and told them it was “incredible.”
I told them that I had plenty, and they could have it to themselves. These 2 guys had traveled a long way, and now they could make their own memories.
Landing on the beach after a short paddle in, a Mexican kid of about 10 years old approached me dragging a cooler.
He popped open the cooler and handed me an ice cold Dos Equis Amber and a bottle opener.
I handed him he equivalent of 50 cents from the coin change in my wax pocket.
I retrieved my flip flops, my towel and my cash from my secret stash spot and I began the slow walk back to the highway, working on the cold beer.
Once I hit the top of the little berm en route to the highway, I paused and turned around for one last look.
I was sunburnt, exhausted and now slightly lit up.
I looked out to watch the Newport Beach guys for a few minutes, smiled and thanked God for the gift.
Life would be different from this point onward.
It dawned on me yet again that I was blessed that morning, and had been hit over the head by my Creator with the realization that perhaps many other such moments awaited me in the future.
They could be around any corner.
I made my way back to the the Hotel just in time, and found my travel mates packed and ready to go.
“You fucker, where the hell have you been?
We were going to fucking leave you here…our flight is the last one out today”…
” By the way….”
” How was it, dude?”
” Epic” was all I could say.
Somehow, the massive smile on may face told them just about all they needed to know…
We hustled all of our shit into a van and headed over to the worlds scariest airport, where the runway disappears and turns into the ocean, just as you lift off.
We arrived just in time to board with the turbines spinning up and support vehicles clearing the ramp
Mexicana had perhaps the most beautiful Stewardesses in the world. Their beauty was not enough to keep me from slumping back in my seat, closing my eyes and drifting off, with visions of clean lined up lefts reeling off endlessly.
I quickly fell asleep on the plane to Mexico City.
Once back in the home environs, surfing just didn’t appeal to me on the shitty cold days anymore.
I found it impossible to dig up the motivation to pull on a clammy damp wetsuit, and battle it out in 3 foot wind chop with a pack of knuckleheads from Riverside.
Memories can be comforting.
Sometimes, they can be life affirming.
I can never forget one particular magical morning…
Thanks God, you rock.
Portrait of the author as a young punk.
Circa 1989, when these events took place…
*Edit…I tossed this vid below in. I love it for many reasons…First, the vibe nails the feel of a fun surf trip with good friends…Second, I love Jack Johnson’s music and Third, he surfs exactly like my old friend and surfing partner since the age of 13, Mike Davis….Exactly.
Miss you buddy.
Would have been fun to watch you tear it up in those big lefts…