Words by Tom Freed | Photos by Edwin Morales (FB here)
Whenever someone utters the phrase “from where you’d rather be,” Stab’s collective mind’s eye immediately focuses on a sand-bottomed setup beneath a smiling sun. We’re talking beachbreaks. Trunks. Bath water. All the finer things! And, since we so adore such things, we’ve decided to team up with our like-minded pals at Coronaextra.com.au to deliver you a new series: The World’s Best Beachbreaks.
We’ll be detailing, visually but also through written text, all our favourite sand setups from around the world. The requirements? Nothing but golden grains beneath, nothing but a warm orb above, trunk temperatures only, and a perfect setup to end the day with a Corona and lime.
No. 1: Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Playa Zicatela. Close your eyes and say it. Let those vowels rattle out of your mouth like a foreign prayer. Picture a beach on the edge of a jungle with thundering tee-pees spitting both ways. Music with horns. Women with curls. Palapas y cervezas. Waves with balls. Keep praying. Zicatela’s ground zero in our world of beach breaks, folks. The Alpha, Omega and Apocalypto of sandbars. And the steamy Mexican town that surrounds it — Puerto Escondido — a crossroad for backpackers, babes, local heroes, pro surfers and nameless hellmen. With several peaks to choose from, all capable of draining anywhere from two-20 foot, the place has a little something for everyone. Even Shane Dorian (the 20 foot part). Yes, dear readers, the original dream of warm stand-up tubes o’er grains of gold is alive and well in Deep Mex. Now, follow yo dreams.
Lemme break it down for ya:
Land in: Puerto Escondido International Airport, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Then: Cab it the ten minutes to the beach, no rental cars necessary, baby.
Stay: At Bungalows Zicatela, but there are a plethora of other hotels, backpackers, homestays and hostels on offer. Any price range you please.
Bring a: Quiver. Depending on the swell forecast, a shortboard, a step-up, and a proper gun if ya got the cojones. (psst…that means testicles)
What’s she like? Una diosa. (A goddess). Powerful, glorious, breathtaking. 30 Cels on land, 30 Cels in the water. Miles on miles on miles of golden sands with copious bungalows and restaurants to choose from beachside. Extremely consistent and at her most mighty, a certified big-wave court. But don’t let that sway ya if yer not into life-vests and 9’6”’s — Puerto can serve up small-medium sized wedges and teepees, too! (Just go when there’s not a macker coming). Specifically speaking, the far north peak called Carmelitas is a super ledgy and hollow righthander that goes the bigger it gets. Straight out from the lifeguard tower is that classic Mexican Pipeline split peak and then south a touch is Far Bar, a mixed bag of wedges and peaks that can get mental on their days.
What really makes her tick? Canyons. As in those deep submarine canyons serendipitously off the coast of Puerto suckin’ in that swell like underwater topographical vacuums. Indeed, because of those deep canyons off the coast, south swells can travel that 3,000 miles across the Pacific, funnel into the bay through those ditches and still be, like, 20 feet. Unlike a lot of windswell-whore beachbreaks, Puerto loves long period groundswell, uninterrupted by local wind and weather. Direction from the 280-295 degrees-zone, so pretty effin’ south. A little more southwest for the “far-bar” section. Offshore winds are preferable (obvs), which is north/northeast as not to crumble those notorious Mexican pipes.
Other options in the area… A consistent, albeit smaller, lefthand point at the southern end of the bay (bout a mile’s walk) called La Punta is rippable. Can even get world-class on a big swell. And if Puerto isn’t doin’ it for ya…apparently there’s some sand-bottomed righthand points a few hours south, Salina something-or-other. Might just be rumours though.
For a good time… A restaurant called El Mana has some healthy eats and Cafecito is the spot for great breakie. Hotel Santa Fe’s got some great food as well, and for early night fun, Casa Babylon’s got great cocktails, babes, music and Jenga. To shake your yer tail feathers and find babes (if the Jenga didn’t do it), Kaballah is an epic place to party.
At all costs, don’t… wander the beach or take a date for a moonlit shoreline stroll at midnight. It ain’t Malibu bonfire beach parties. In Mex, a dark beach in the wee hours could be a prime place to get robbed or hassled by corrupt cops. If ya wanna be a drunk idiot, be respectful and do it close to yer bed. Always take a cheap cab as opposed to hoofing it late night, too.
OK, I hear ya, but what’s an expert say? Rusty Long says, “Puerto Escondido is just a beautiful place that has that special magnified energy, kinda like the North Shore, and with people that are there for the love of riding some serious waves. It’s also just so consistent, which is what keeps me coming back. And the quality, I mean, when it’s on — I feel like you can get some of the biggest, best tubes in the world. And in the 10-15 foot (Hawaiian) zone. It’s not for everybody, but it’s just one of those truly special places in the surf world. I really love those deep righthanders in the corner. The outside submarine canyons creates those ones as well as the classic A-frame peaks in front of the lifeguard tower. Puerto’s crazy too, because the bigger it gets, the better it can get. Like in the eight-foot-plus or eight-12 foot zone and coming from the southerly angle, that’s when I start going to the corner for those rights.”