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Monday, August 23, 2010
The morning after


Fresh off his win in Peru, Jamie Sterling keeps pushing. Gallery »

The swell of the season was upon us. Pure south. Long Interval. Chile was 25 feet. Peru was 20. Surely, Puerto would be maxing. Bigger than the May swell, no doubt. It would be redemption for all the "but" days at Playa Zicatela this season. It was the perfect direction and size with clean conditions. Nothing could go wrong. But wait, hold the phones, we're talking about the heaviest beachbreak in the world. Anything can go wrong or at the very least, much differently than what you planned for. Never build your house or hopes on shifting sands.

It was déjà vu all over again from the May swell. Tons of surf but not much surfing, that is unless you had a ski. If you had mechanical assistance, you and your partner were laughing all the way to the wave bank. If not, you were paddling up and down the beach like a pollo with it's cabeza cut off, dodging sets, looking for the occasional corner and getting caught in Mississippi River-sized rips like a piece of old driftwood floating out to sea. Yes, there were the occasional epic rides, huge barrels, broken boards, nasty wipeouts and lineup crushing sets that Puerto has become famous for, but it was not the perfection many of the world's best big-wave riders were seeking. They were thinking A-Frame peaks and instead it was more like the Great Wall of China.

Twiggy busy exploring all that Zicatella has to offer. Gallery »

Despite the shape, or lack there of, it wasn't small by any means. The swell made it into Mexican waters averaging 15- to 18-foot sets. Yes, there were lulls, and it may have been a bit inconsistent at times, but many swells of this size can be a bit slow. When Puerto gets this big, there aren't many takers. Let me rephrase that, there are a handful of folks who go out for a paddle, but when it comes down to it, not too many will commit to going over the ledge. Despite some of the heaviest barrels of the year being ridden, there was definitely a communal feeling of being cheated. Another 2010 south swell and no perfect teepees?

Maybe the bar has been set to high? Expectations unrealistic? Have we lost our grounding with lofty goals and the false confidence that comes with dominating just about every big wave the planet? Maybe. If a session goes down without a XXL nomination, did it really happen? Bottomline, more big waves are being ridden today than at any other point in surfing history. Chalk it up to leashes, lack of leashes, quick release leashes, WAM models, the false sense of jet ski security, big-wave bravado at an all time high, performance levels off the chart, big-wave equipment being finely tuned, shapers who cater to big wave whims and a cadre of surfers who sole purpose is to tame rhinos.

After the many successes of last winter, the collective big-wave community may have been spoiled a tad, myself included. It's hard to get back in the Yugo after you test drove the Ferrari. They just don't handle quite the same. So, if you ask me, my surf report was that Puerto was epic! When was the last time you saw a 35-foot beachbreak take a deep breath and spit left and right simultaneously? I don't care if most barrels shut down, the water color was off or that I didn't get a cover shot, there are a lot worse places to call the office. No one got hurt, and there is another swell coming tomorrow. There always is. Reports are Tropical Storm Frank is going to cross it up. With all the perfect forecasts that ultimately set you up for disappointment, some low expectations might do us all some good and leave us pleasantly surprised.