Puerto Escondido

Before arriving in Puerto Escondido, the three of us had heard of this place many times. It’s featured in surf magazines, surf movies and world class competitions on a regular basis. This surf town holds a wave that is both notorious and respected. Sometimes, if one is crazy enough, it is deeply admired.

A typical Puerto scene, complete with California style life guards, large tourism accommodation, etc.

The seafloor bathymetry, where the surf break occurs, is unique in it’s drastic steepness. One hundred feet from the beach and you’re in 100 feet of water. This is amplified by the fact that there is virtually no continental shelf off shore and no land mass blocking the path of a swell. In other words, a swell coming for Puerto Escondido retains 100 percent of it’s energy until it slams into the incredibly steep beach: Precisely where guys like us sit on our surf boards waiting to experience that force.

Moments before the true power is unleashed

It must be noted here, that because of this unique seafloor layout, anchoring Patience was quite difficult. We finally found a small underwater mound with our depth finder that was shallow enough to set the hook. The catch was that it was 20 yards from a large bouldery breakwall. This is the last place a sailor wants to leave his boat, but it was our only option. I digress.

We were happy to hear that there was only a 2-3 foot swell. At any other location, we may have brushed this forecast off as barely worth a paddle out. Not here though. Considering the free reign of swell power, a 2-3 foot swell will become 5-7 feet of slamming wave force.

After watching and timing, we paddled into the lineup, wide eyed and smiling.

It's difficult to capture the energy of these waves on camera. Let's just say, there is a good reason there are no surfers in the water.

Allow me to describe my reality of what catching a wave here was like. I have no doubt, an onlooker would have described those six seconds quite differently, if one had noticed me at all. In my mind it was deeply memorable though: The wave looks like a harmless bump as it approaches. Nice, this is a small one. I turn around and start paddling. Immediately I feel the energy lift the tail of my board up. Time to stand up. The wave follows suit and stands up too. It’s rise is more impressive than mine. Moments ago, a two foot bump, now a six foot wall. The acceleration of my drop is incredible. The rail and fins of my board hold on to the vertical water with determined desperation. My skill level limited me to simply holding on as I screamed across the face of the wave. One second, two seconds. The lip of the wave just above my head begins to curl as the whole thing is about to fold over and slam into 4 feet of water. I steer my board up the wave to avoid being swallowed: easily done considering I was going 50mph. Just before the wave curled into the climactic last act of its life, I made for the exit. The energy of the wave I harnessed, transfered into upward motion and with it I launched into the air and out of harms way. Gravity released it’s grip, as I hung in mid air for a while. I plunged into the ocean behind the crest as it unleashed its thunder onto the beach. “Holy shit, I want another.” I thought.

And I got one more, but this time my aerial dismount ended unsuccessfully and I tumbled to the beach and into the end of my session a little defeated, but completely happy.

This is the same wave as above, a moment later. It's not so much the hight that was impressive, but the force that it arrived with.

The following day, the swell and wind increased. Our precarious anchorage was becoming dangerous: Patience rocked violently and the chain became wrapped around some rocks underwater, which jolted her regularly. She reminded me of a frantic horse that knew something the rider didn’t. We listened to her and on an unplanned whim decided to leave. We were underway in 30 minutes.

As we high tailed it for the safety of deeper waters offshore, we were struck by our new perspective of the break.  Shifty, heaving masses of water surged under the boat and towards shore, finally colliding with the sandbar and expending their unfathomable amount of energy in what looked like aqueous mortar explosions that reached several stories high.  Our eyes were fixed to this most hostile display of oceanic power for a while before we finally focused on the horizon off our bow, hoping for calmer waters in our next port of call (and jumping off point for the infamous bay of Tehuantepec) Huatulco.

1 comment for “Puerto Escondido

  1. May 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    great post. amazing experience. wave doesn’t seem like quite the right word for this watery rocket.
    just love that u guys get to write about these after the fact.

Comments are closed.