The sun is just peeking over the horizon as our plane touches down in the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico. Our destination, the enchanting beach town of Puerto Escondido, holds a reputation for its notorious adrenaline-pumping waves. This picturesque surfing paradise on the Pacific coast is our chosen terrain for our much-anticipated surf trip.
Puerto Escondido translates to “Hidden Port,” and indeed, it feels like we’ve discovered a secret gem, a tropical utopia tucked away from the trappings of commercial tourism. Cobblestone streets wind past colourful local shops and vibrant markets. A mingling scent of tortillas, fresh fruits, and the tantalizing aroma of Oaxacan mole drifts from roadside eateries. However, amidst the festive atmosphere and the intoxicating culture, we are here for one thing: the legendary Mexican Pipeline.
Zicatela Beach, a golden stretch of sand that stretches over 3 kilometres, is where the magic happens. This is the epicentre of the surfing community and home to the renowned Mexican Pipeline, a surfer’s dream come true. With waves towering anywhere from 6 to 20 feet, Zicatela is a playground for the brave and a proving ground for the world’s best.
Our first day in the water is a baptism by fire. The Pacific isn’t in a forgiving mood, and the colossal waves are a humbling reminder of nature’s raw power. We paddle out, duck diving through the white-water barriers, and align ourselves in the line-up, hearts pounding with a blend of fear and exhilaration.
Catching a wave in Puerto Escondido is like riding a rambunctious, untamed stallion. It takes persistence, respect, and a bit of daredevil spirit. Each wave is a pulse of energy charging through the water, carrying the might of the distant storms from which they originated. Riding these monsters, one gets a sense of unity with the ocean, a feeling of being a tiny speck of life amid a colossal force of nature.
Between surf sessions, we explore the town, immersing ourselves in the local culture. We visit the bustling Mercado Zicatela, with its labyrinthine corridors offering everything from exotic fruits to locally made crafts. We dine at traditional Oaxacan eateries, feasting on mouth-watering tlayudas and chapulines, washed down with some mezcal. The spirit of Puerto Escondido is as captivating as its waves, with a vibrancy that matches the fiery Oaxacan sunsets.
As days turn into nights, we are drawn to the bonfires dotting the beach. The surf community here is a melting pot of international cultures, with stories flowing as freely as the local tequila. Tales of epic rides, gnarly wipeouts, and close encounters with the ocean’s inhabitants form the backdrop of our nighttime discussions.
The day before our departure, the ocean gives us a parting gift. A well-formed swell rolls in, offering up clean, towering waves. We paddle out with the first light, and for a few magical hours, we dance with the ocean, carving our path on the smooth walls of water. It’s a farewell surf session that will forever be etched in our memories.
As our surf trip to Puerto Escondido concludes, we leave with sunburned skin, salt in our hair, and a newfound respect for the mighty Pacific. We’ve ridden the Mexican Pipeline, tested our mettle against the ocean’s fury, and discovered a vibrant town filled with colour, culture, and warmth. As surfers, we chase waves, but often, it’s the experiences and memories formed on the journey that stay.