It was never going to be easy to run a big wave event at Puerto Escondido. Between striking teachers, road blocks, gas shortages, missing competitors and camera equipment, confiscated CO2 cartridges, a patchwork collection of safety skis, afternoon onshores, and of course the nearly impossible task of catching two scoring waves on an XXL beach break in 60 minutes, there were a lot of reasons why this event should have been a failure.
But while the event is still far from over, after running four heats today, it’s beginning to look like the Puerto Escondido Challenge is going to be a slam dunk success.
There were a handful of non-competitors checking the surf at the crack of dawn—assessing conditions and hoping to catch a wave or two before the event was called on—but the team at WSL had been up hours before, checking and rechecking buoy readings, prepping webcasts, and briefing safety teams.
When Owen Shultz caught the first wave of the morning—a left with a solid 30-foot face—the consensus on the beach was that the event would be called on, and 30 minutes later that’s exactly what happened.
By the time the first heat hit the water at 9:00, the wind was ripping offshore, sets were starting to pulse, and the crowd on the beach had hit record numbers for Puerto Escondido. Heat one was all Greg Long, who found a solid pocket ride for a keeper score.
Then local charger Rogercin Ramirez upped the ante in round two, scoring a 9.0 for a solid left that ran the length of the sandbar. That score wasn’t enough to win the heat, but Rogercin advanced in third behind Will Skudin and Grant “Twiggy” Baker, and will contest the semifinals tomorrow.
Heat three was the best of the round, not only because the swell had filled in, but also because the lead changed every five minutes. Makuakai Rothman, Pedro Callado, and Carlos Burle all went on tears in the last 20 minutes, finding corners amongst the closeouts and sending “bombas” to the delight of the crowd.
But it was Jamie Mitchell who ended up stealing the show. His heat 4 clash started slow, with no major sets in the first 15 minutes, and the afternoon onshore winds starting to ruffle the lineup. Then Jamie went on a rampage, racking up a 10.0, a 9.03 and an 8.0 in the space of about 20 minutes. After his top score was doubled (per event rules), Jamie ended the heat with a combined score of 29.03—near perfect, and more than enough to smoke the rest of the field. Rusty Long scored a 9-point ride to advance in third, and local boy Jimel Corzo placed second, earning one of two Mexican spots in the semifinals.
Depending upon whom you ask, tomorrow morning is going to either be the same size as today, or even bigger—and the wind forecast is looking pretty good for a mid-morning start. With two semis and a final left to contest, plus a dozen unseeded surfers antsy to prove themselves once the final heat ends, we can expect another day full of heroics, just in time for the weekend.
In other words, all we need is three hours of good wind, and the inaugural Mexican big wave event can go down in the history books as the unlikeliest of successes. Considering all of the other challenges that have been overcome, the Puerto Escondido Challenge pretty certainly deserves it.
Greg Long vs. Albee Layer vs. Kai Lenny vs. Will Skudin vs. Grant Baker vs. Rogercin Ramirez
Makuakai Rothman vs. Pedro Callado vs. Carlos Burle vs. Jamie Mitchell vs. Jimel Corzo vs. Rusty Long