The heaviest waves, the deepest dive, or the craziest travel exeperience ever.
All is fair when exploring our incredible planet’s oceans…
My very first surf travel…two year stop-over in Puerto Rico!
Legacy of a “lifestyle”…
When I first started bodysurfing and bodyboarding in Puerto Rico, back in the late 70’s, I had absolutely no idea of the advantages proper surf gear and equipment could provide to beginners like me. Advantages not only on performance but also in safety. Back then, this was simply not a priority. I would arrive from school, change into my OP surf trunks, take my plastic bodyboard(that’s right, plastic bodyboard…belly rash guaranteed!) , run to the beach located a few blocks from our apartment and join my friends for a surf session (more like a surf-romp!). We had no idea what we were doing. No fins, no rash guards, no going left or right and no barrels (what’s a “barrel”??). We were 11 yeasr old. All straight rides for us, from the “line-up” all the way to the beach. Whoever rode longest was “the brotha’”. We were sea urchins and very proud of it.
And then, pretty much out of the blue, Sufer Magazine arrived into my life.
First glimpse at what would be…
I remember it very well since we had just moved from the hotel near the airport to the condo residential area of San Juan still known today as Isla Verde. And a few blocks away (everything was a few blocks away) from my home, Island Water Sports & Surfshop. As I walked by the shop, I was surprised by the amount of sleek looking surf boards and accesories neatly set up in their main display window. I decided to go in and the first thing that met my senses was the cool AC and smell of neoprene as the sliding doors opened. Inside, I remember the lighting was a bit subdued, a welcome change from the glare of the Puerto Rican early spring sun. Once inside, I was overwhelmed by the amount of gear, equipment, clothes, and watersports accesories.
The waves caught on those posters and photographs were huge, othewordly.
They immediately caught my imagination. All throughout my first visit, the smell of neoprene and surfwax, something I will never forget.
Surfer Magazine, January 1979, Vol. 20, No. 1 – $ 1.50
And then I saw the magazine stand. And Surfer Magazine. On the front cover, a monstrous, cavernous barrel, and deep inside the belly of the beast, a young hawaiian charger, some local surfer called Dane Kealoha…later I learned Kealoha was ranked #2 in the world and would be considered to be the best tube rider of his generation!
The immage caught him surfing a jaw-dropping wave at a break that, to me, just sounded plain dangerous and insane: the Banzai Pipeline, in Hawaii. And yet there he was, this kid, making it look so easy, so casual in his stance, and with such regal poise. I remember going to the surfshop dude behind the counter and asking him how tall he thought the wave might be. He said at least 15 ft…and wide enough to fit a mack truck! I looked at the picture, awestruck. I still remember a sense of wonder mixed with a tinge of very real fear. I was hooked instantly. It was the first of many magazines I would read over the years.
Legends and Travels…
I would soon learn about surf legends like Rory Russell, Shaun
Thompson, Mark Richards and Gerry Lopez. I would read about their accomplishments in the World Circuit and also about their exploits on their travels to places like Sumatra, Bali, Tahiti and Fiji. I felt specially proud when their adventures turned towards our continent, exploring Mexico’s huge expanse of untamed coastlines, and then going further beyond borders, travelling to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and as far south as Peru.
These were the pioneering days of surf travel, and to the daring came the inevitable spoils: perfect, uncrowded breaks, warm weather and friendly people (mostly!). Check this out:
And ever the immages of awesome, huge waves caught on film and published in surfing magazines like Surfer, Surfing Magazine and later, Transworld Surf, cemmented my love for surfing even further. Invariably, if I found a picture of a huge wave, I would stare at it, trying to fathom what the protagonists were actually feeling and how they would make it out unhurt.
The fact was that some were indeed hurt and others would never make it …it didn’t happen often, but when it did (i.e. Mark Foo’s death at Maverick’s) it always made me pause and take measure of how dangerous and unpredictable the ocean can be, even for seasoned watermen and surfers alike. As I looked at countless immages in those magazines, I knew now that somewhere out there there monsters existed, patiently waiting to be challenged by a select few. Why would they do that? What drove them to be that commited, and, most importantly, how did they survive waves of that size and power?
And so,after paying $ 1.50 US to an impatient surfshop attendant, I started to read my first magazine. And as I flipped through the pages, my love affair with extreme ocean sports began. Surfing at the top of the list,surely. But as I learned more about the lifestyle, I also learned about other board sports like body boarding, skim boarding, body surfing, and many others that would reach popularity in the coming years (windsurfing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing,etc.). Shortly after buying my second or third magazine, I had saved enough money to go half-ways with my dad, asking him to please help me buy my first real body board: A Moorey Boogie 32. I loved it. It’s colors were acqua green. On it I caught my first big waves and got my very first barrel! Two years later we were re-located back to Mexico. Even at my young age (12 years old) I knew exactly where I wanted to go next: Puerto Escondido.