Puerto Escondido

The waves that break along the coast of Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca (pronounced whoa-ha-ka), Mexico will break your balls. Nestled ever so quaintly on the Pacific coast of mainland Mex, Puerto Escondido (meaning hidden port) got it’s name because of it’s elusivity to tourism in the 70s. Not many major airlines flew directly into Puerto, thus meaning less tourists, less crowds, and more waves. Now all that’s changed. It’s now easy as hell to fly there, making Puerto one of the most popular international surf destinations. Another attraction is it’s uncanny resemblance to Pipeline. That doesn’t matter, though, because the waves there will kill you. It takes a rare breed of individual to tackle the insurmountable odds of surfing and surviving solid 20-foot close-out death barrels. For this reason, we’ve enlisted Justin Cote (Editor Chris Cote’s brother and big-wave pizza delivery boy) to write this inquisitive story on how to travel to Puerto, catch some bombs, and live to tell another tale.

“When you’re not surfing, there’re other cool things to do such as fish, drink poolside, watch fútbol with Brazilians, and my personal favorite, cruise up and down the beach with a surfboard tucked under your arm and flap with tourist girls.”

“Don’t get too attatched to your boards, though. Boards are broken more frequently here than anywhere in the world.”

“One time I broke a board while duck diving. A wave just pushed me right through the thing.”

“Avoid hotel pools after four or five in the afternoon, they get kinda gnarly in the busy season.”

“During the summer months, expect waves ranging from two to twenty feet.”

“Don’t expect to do any kickflips out here, it’s more about barrels and heavy turns.”

“While you’re sitting out there in the lineup, don’t bob around flapping with everybody¿focus on catching a bomb, because they will come.”

Justin Cote has been traveling to Puerto Escondido for the past six years, and in 2000, made his mark at Puerto by taking top honors in the annual Mexi-Pipe Masters event (a local big-wave surf contest that draws Mexico’s best as well as traveling rippers and soul bros alike).¿C.C.

Why Go? Quite simply, to get the best waves of your life. Giant, A-frame peaks storm out of a submarine canyon and unload on Playa Zicatela. If you’re not up for a sand and saltwater enema, you can hit up some nearby breaks like La Punta, a rippable left point two miles down the beach. When you’re not surfing, there’re other cool things to do such as fish, drink poolside, watch fútbol with Brazilians, and my personal favorite, cruise up and down the beach with a surfboard tucked under your arm and flap with tourist girls. There’re chicks from all over the world at Puerto, and they all want to party! Need any more reasons?

How To Get There I saw these guys roll in with their Toyota Land Cruiser from San Diego, California, and they looked like hell. I suggest flying. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to save a few bucks, fly out of Tijuana, Mexico. Otherwise, call your local travel agent or search the Internet. A round-trip ticket from Los Angeles should be around 600 dollars. Once you arrive, take a cab to Playa Zicatela¿it’ll cost you about ten bucks with all your boards and stuff.

What Boards Should I Bring? Bring ‘em all! You can ride a nine-foot rhino chaser when it’s big, and your favorite shortboard will work when the waves are small and for anything in between. A seven-six pintail is an all-around good board to have. Don’t get too attatched to your boards, though. Boards are broken more frequently here than anywhere in the world. One time I broke a board while duck diving. A wave just pushed me right through the thing. But don’t fret, guys down there like Roger and Miguel Ramirez can fix your baby overnight, and the boards usually work better with a little weight added. Thick and heavy pintails work well here¿think 70s Lightning Bolt pintails.

Where Totay There’re tons of places to shack up in Puerto. From the swank Hotel Santa Fe (that’s where all the prissy photogs stay) to passing out on the beach with the sketchy late-night party crew. El Arco Iris, Bungalows Zicatela, and Acuario are all cool places to stay. You can wax up in your hotel room, run across a dirt street, navigate the scorching sand, and catch a rip current out into the lineup in less than two minutes¿unless a set comes, then you’re screwed. Expect to pay from ten to 40 dollars a night, depending upon the level of luxury you’re looking for. Avoid hotel pools after four or five in the afternoon, they get kinda gnarly in the busy season.

Grub The food in Puerto is an awesome mix of international and Oaxacan cuisine. Along with the best view of the peak, the tastiest burritos in Mexico are served at Aroma Divina. Hit up Café Cito for a quick cup of coffee and a freshly baked croissant for breakfast¿they also show surf flicks here at night. La Gota De Vida is the killer dinner spot, serving up all kinds of good stuff. Try the veggie stir-fry and four-cheese pizza. Most meals will cost you less than five bucks.

The Waves During the summer months, expect waves ranging from two to twenty feet. These waves are met every morning with an offshore wind that usually lasts until 11:00 a.m. Sometimes it’s closed out, but after big swells, sand is dragged from the beach to the lineup, creating ideal peaks. Speaking of peaks, you’ll want to check out Carmelitas, a freight-train right on the north end of the beach. Down the beach is Far Bar, which breaks best on a steep-angled south swell. Don’t expect to do any kickflips out here, it’s more about barrels and heavy turns. You don’t really need a leash while surfing the beachbreak¿it’s been said that wearing one increases the odds of your board snapping. The evening glass-off can get super fun when a thunderstorm causes offshore wind. The waves here can be pretty intimidating, so allow me to pass on this bit of wisdom I received from Strider Wasilewski: “Be ready so you don’t have to get ready.” What he meant was, while you’re sitting out there, don’t bob around flapping with everybody¿focus on catching a bomb, because they will come.

Nightlife Every town has its little routine as far as when to be at which bar. Puerto’s no different. Festivities begin at the local watering hole, The Barfly. Besides having a great name, the place has a balcony that overlooks the street, where you can leer at girls walking the alloquin (boardwalk). The bartender’s name is Pepe, and he makes a mean moped (a popper-style drink). After you’ve worn out you’re welcome at The Barfly, cruise across the street to The Wipeout. This place is four stories tall, and everybody chills on the top floor. This is a good spot to warm up your dance moves. Just don’t wear yourself out, because you’ve gotta go to El Tubo (The Tube). Located right on the beach, El Tubo is the afterhours hot spot (Think Wild On on the E! network). It’s best to hang with some friends here due to the local vibers. They aren’t surfers and may try to f¿k with you. If you’re still standing, get a couple of death dogs (bacon-wrapped hot dogs) from the street vendors and hit the last stop of the night¿La Punta, the after-afterhours spot. This is where the ladies really get nuts, and because it’s located right on Playa Zicatela, you’re hotel room’s nearby.

The Local Rippers Puerto is home to some of the best surfers in all of Mexico¿ and the West Coast, for that matter. Raul Noyola just won a WQS contest in Costa Rica¿you’ll know it’s him when you see a short and stocky goofy-footer killing every wave. Carlos “Coco” Nogales is the guy who gets the tube of the day and the hot Argentinean girl. Roberto Salinas is a former Mexican national champ who rips the place on a daily basis. Then there’re the younger guys like Oscar Moncada, David Rutherford, Checo Ramirez, and Celestino Diaz who are starting to get recognized as the next level of ripping Mexican surfers.

Miscellaneous Although it’s expensive, rent a car and ask one of the local boys to take you to one of the many insane breaks up and down the coast. (Do it!) If you need some gear while you’re there, talk to Joe at Mexpipe surf shop. There just happens to be a Brazilian bikini store attatched to it as well. U.S. currency is widely accepted, but pesos will get you better deals. There’re Internet cafes and ATM machines available, too. Learn some Spanish, it shows people that you care about their culture! Lastly, when you’re in Puerto Escondido, show some respect to the people who so graciously share their home. Catch a wave for everybody’s bro, Jeff (a.k.a. Scarecrow), who was paralyzed while surfing the beachbreak last year. Scarecrow was the main man down there and will be again one day soon!no Diaz who are starting to get recognized as the next level of ripping Mexican surfers.

Miscellaneous Although it’s expensive, rent a car and ask one of the local boys to take you to one of the many insane breaks up and down the coast. (Do it!) If you need some gear while you’re there, talk to Joe at Mexpipe surf shop. There just happens to be a Brazilian bikini store attatched to it as well. U.S. currency is widely accepted, but pesos will get you better deals. There’re Internet cafes and ATM machines available, too. Learn some Spanish, it shows people that you care about their culture! Lastly, when you’re in Puerto Escondido, show some respect to the people who so graciously share their home. Catch a wave for everybody’s bro, Jeff (a.k.a. Scarecrow), who was paralyzed while surfing the beachbreak last year. Scarecrow was the main man down there and will be again one day soon!

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