Todos Santos: Starting To Stir

Alex Gray, standing tall during an all-star session at Todos.  Launch Gallery » Murray

The North Pacific wave machine is in full effect and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Over the past month, there have been more surfable days at Jaws, Mav's and Todos than the previous four years combined. The holidays were especially generous allowing for an epic Jaws session on Christmas Day, numerous Mav's days and even a paddle session at the Cortes Bank. Todos has been the most reserved of all the big-wave spots, partially as a result of the major storm events forming so far away in the Western Pacific, but the island really started to come to life this past week with two solid showings.

"It was a great warm up surf to get ready for bigger swells to come," said Greg Long, who hasn't let up one bit since his big win at Waimea in December. "It's really amazing to have such a world-class crew of big-wave surfers in the water."

On January 13, a list of surfers that read like an abbreviated invite list to the Eddie converged on the small Mexican island, nine miles off the coast of the northern Baja port of Ensenada. Besides obvious suspects like Greg Long and partner in crime Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Shane Dorian, Mark Healey, Ian Walsh, Dave Wassell, and Kohl Christensen flew over from Hawaii for a dose of cold water. Rusty Long, Gary Linden, Mike Parsons, Derek Dunfee, Alex Gray, Ryan Seelbach and Benji Weatherly rounded out the California contingent, while a handful of other big-wave chargers also had the same thing in mind: score some giant paddle-in waves when Todos is at its best on a big, long-interval west swell.

Jaws was huge on Monday, which led everyone to believe that some of that energy would make it to the West Coast. Unfortunately, the swell never really materialized here the way it did in Hawaii.

"You can tell from the setup that this place can handle a serious amount of swell," said Ian Walsh, who's spent ample time at Jaws, but has limited experience at Todos. "I'm already looking forward to coming back for another go."

Although the sets were averaging 12 to 15 feet (Hawaiian scale), there were only a few bigger waves. Most people wouldn't want anything to do with a wave with a 30-foot face, but these guys are freaks. They surf waves this size with their eyes closed. Regardless, anytime you get an accomplished and colorful group like this together, it's a good time, even when Mother Nature doesn't live up to her end of the deal. Party waves, a lineup full of skis and kelp, the occasional big drop and lots of story talk out the back kept everyone entertained.

Until someone figures out how to manufacture a 60-foot wave, the pursuit of riding big waves will always be different than any other athletic endeavor on the planet. Imagine going to play hoops with your friends and the rims are gone, or going to the skatepark to work on your ollies and the ramps are all gone. You get the picture. You are never guaranteed conditions with surfing and even more so when you are after big waves.

There are too many variables to count, too many factors that can fail. You can't practice big wave surfing. Your practice for big wave surfing is going surfing when the waves are big. All of these guys know this and it's part of what make it so special, so elusive and so rewarding. The best days are few and far between, and it takes an incredible amount of dedication, luck and skill to really get an epic big-wave session. So, maybe this was just another dress rehearsal or better yet, a chance to practice for when it matters most.