by Eric Greene
They call this wave "The Heroine." Who are “they”? I don’t know. Locals, tourists, outsiders, journalists... I’ve heard it enough to form an association. People come from all over the world to test their luck and their cojones with this wave. Me? I’ve come for it, but for other reasons as well. Like the town: Puerto Escondido. The hidden port. An unassuming gem of Mexico. I love this place and all that it represents - The food, the people, the climate, the authentic filth and absence of conniving corporate tourism. The wave? That’s the added bonus. The Mexican Pipeline. There are waves and breaks of infinite amounts consuming both directions of this coast line, but Zicatela, The Heroine, is the one that surges into the front yard, staring into your soul and vibrating into your ears whenever the swell is exceeds five feet.
I’ve been told that you can spend a lifetime learning this wave, trying to attain a comfort with it. You get some rides and avoid some beatings, and feel you know what you’re doing in the lineup. You brave some days at a six foot swell and you wrap yourself inside the fastest, squarest barrel of your life. You think the wave is beginning to welcome you into her heart and be nice to you. And as soon as you start to feel that complacency, she destroys you. Maybe it’s something simple, like breaking your favourite board in her jaws or grinding a stain of coarse sand into your shoulder blade, but it could be much worse. Broken bones, lacerations, and yes, even death. She is not nice and you can never suggest that.
You’ll have your good days. Four or five feet with a long interval, blowing off shore as the tide pushes in. It starts on the beach as you watch for a while, appreciating it. Next, you paddle out, which takes all of a minute if you time it properly. In the lineup the breeze and crushing lips create a strong and continuous noise, yet it seems remarkably silent. You take your time and ease into some shoulders. It’s fast, it’s steep, and it’s shallow. You stroke into one and feel it suck vertical below you as your inertia drifts weightlessly across the lip, and you pull back. You feel like a coward as the wave spits down the vanishing shoulder and you curse aloud at yourself. The next set you tell yourself that you’re going no matter what, but you’re not fast enough and when you make the move to put your feet underneath your torso, the next feeling you have is the sand violently massaging your hip as pressure pierces into your ears like knife blades. Darkness.
Maybe for every 10 or so bone crushing beat downs that drill you into the bar, you get one offering of a beyond vertical drop or a throated cavern that grants you an exit, if you’re lucky. When you get that first one and feel the euphoric high and rush that pulses into your bones, whether you recognize it or not, you will chase that high for the rest of your life. This wave is not nice to you, but every so often it gives you a ride that leads you to believe it is, so that heroine-like sensation will let you keep chasing. You can go anywhere else in the world and surf any wave you want, but something will always be pulling you back here. This is Zicatela. She is cruel, she is ultimate, she is perfect, and she will be waiting for you.