Back To Barra

Hanging on by his toes, Zack Humphrys demonstrates what all the Barra hype's about. McMullin

You wouldn't know it by reading the headlines or watching CNN, but the simple stoke of surfing is alive and well in Mexico. Up and down the coast you can find big-wave hell-men (and women), no-name chargers, young groms, seasoned tour vets, and the ever-present ex-pats. With so much sun and surf, it's no wonder why it's become such a gathering place.

The focal point has always been Puerto, and with all the attention big-wave surfing is getting these days it's more popular than ever, but when the swell is pumping and the winds come onshore late in the morning there are two options: get out of the heat and into some air conditioning or head to any number of points that can handle the conditions. After dealing with a wave-starved spring on the East Coast, the mission of the crew I was with was clearly to maximize our surf time by heading to the points.

Our band of brothers included Jersey boys Zack Humphreys, Chris Kelly, the immortal Dean Randazzo, and everybody's favorite Floridian free-surfer, Alek Parker. An eclectic ensemble to be sure, but all competent watermen and incredibly surf-hungry.

Our timing couldn't have been better. For the better part of a month southern hemisphere energy has been bombarding Mainland Mexico, and it's been swell after swell after swell down there. Posting up in Puerto, each day we would hire a driver with a van to take us a couple hours down the coast. With myriad spots to choose from, we were lured to Barra De La Cruz several times -- the pointbreak made famous during the 2006 Rip Curl Search. And while it wasn't firing like it did for that historic contest, it was still supremely rippable with barrel sections setting up on the outside and on the inside racetrack. The consistent run of surf kept the crowd mellow, as everyone was able to maintain a steady rotation.

Plus, you waste too much energy if you're anything but mellow. Barra is a tiring wave. There's a lot of current that pushes up the point when a good swell is pumping through, and paddling against it is almost like being on an aquatic treadmill, except it's your shoulders that get taxed. Then when you finally catch a wave they're so incredibly long that linking turns and driving through barrel sections takes its toll on the legs. The walk back up the point doesn't help either given the fact that the sun absolutely pummels you. But somehow three, four, even six-hour sessions aren't uncommon -- it's just that good.

In the midst of another marathon session, Dean Randazzo, on his walk back up the point, came up to the small spot of shade I had found to catch his breath after another 200-yard wave. I offered him some water. As he gulped it down he commented on the wave, "It's tough out there. So much work against the current when you're up on the point. I don't think I've surfed this much since my last treatment. I'm pretty beat. I think I only have one more wave in me."

With that he slowly walked up the point, saving what energy he had left for one more wave. I watched him paddle out, battle the current one more time, and wait patiently for "one more." He was rewarded with one of the better waves I had seen him catch that day; a nice one that hugged in tight to the sandbar and kept walling up, just daring him to rip the top off of it. He obliged, in classic Dean fashion, by surfing it in his all-or-nothing, balls-to-the wall way. Putting everything he had into turn after turn until the wave shut down on the inside. Maybe it was the heat, but I was tired just watching him surf it.

Then I watched as he sprinted back up the beach to the point ... for just one more. All told, it's trips like this make you think about why you got into surfing: good friends, good waves, sunburns, and all that that entails.