Oct 30, 2012
Author: SBC Surf
Last fall, Tofino shredder Isaac Raddysh set off for Mainland Mexico with a solid crew of friends. Their idea? Simple, really. Just paddle out into some bombing beachbreak, turn and go, and get either really pitted or really pummeled. As it turns out, they had a few other adventures along the way. Here's the full text of his story about the trip, as seen in the Summer 2012 issue of SBC Surf. All photos by Kiel Harvey.
After a long summer in Tofino, groveling in waist-high conditions, all I ever want to do is get barreled and surf some waves of consequence. Upon brainstorming with the boys for some ideas of where to go for two weeks in September, we came up with a return to Mexico. We'd been down there a few years ago and scored some crazy waves, so why not go back? The game plan was clear—straight to Pascuales, with La Ticla, just south, as a backup. We knew what we were in for as we reminisced about our first trip, waking up to see Brian Conley and Nathan Fletcher towing into massive barrels at the main beach at Pascuales. That time, we'd hike up the beach to surf by the rivermouth where it was half the size, but this time we were making a pact—if there was anyone else out there paddling into waves, we would have to give it a go.
We arrive at Pascuales in the afternoon. The taxi driver takes us straight to Edgar's Hotel, and we're welcomed by Edgar himself. He remembers us and sets us up with the same room we stayed in on the last trip—top floor with two beds and a balcony overlooking the main beach. The surf is blown out and head high. As we start unpacking and setting up hammocks as extra beds, Edgar tells us what he knows about the forecast.
"It's probably going to be the same tomorrow, about three feet," he says, as he puts his hand high above his head and signals overhead conditions. He must be going by the Hawaiian scale, we realize. "With the offshore wind in the morning, it should be good, man," he continues, "but the next day we're getting a good swell, five to six feet."
We know the Hawaiian scale, and six feet means solid waves. It should be the heaviest surf any of us have ridden.
(top: Janek Peladeau. bottom: Kye Peladeau)
The next day is a perfect warm up. After surfing hollow, head-high waves all morning, everyone has gotten a few barrels and, surprisingly, a number of quite violent beatings. Slowly everyone filters out of the water as the wind picks up, and we all congregate in the restaurant for lunch and our first caguama—big beer—of the trip. There's nothing on the palate for the rest of the day, other than drinking beer, hanging out on the balcony and playing our household game, 'The Spit Whisperer.' Predict a barrel will spit, and it does: +2 points. If it doesn't: -2 points. Eventually everyone loses track of the score, and it's time to hit the hay in preparation for the first big day.
Janek is awake first, sitting in the only armchair on the balcony, next to Kye in his hammock. I'm on the floor, sleeping on top of my board bag under Kye's setup.
"Spitter," Janek calls. "2 points." I can hear Kye starting to move around.
Not two minutes later, I hear "spitter" from up in the hammock. "Two points," Kye says, claiming it.
"Alright, I'm up," I declare, though the sun hasn't even broken the horizon as I peer over the balcony. Through the early morning haze, I can see what appear to be double overhead spitters, left, right and centre along the beach. As we debate how big it is out there, CC, Frazer and Kiel filter out of the room to join in. After 15 minutes of gazing at the ocean in awe, everyone starts to get their boards ready.
"There's no way I'm going out there under-gunned," says Janek, as he pulls out a 7'0" somewhat reminiscent of a javelin. It doesn't take long before we're walking across the black sand beach and starting the journey into the lineup.
The initial paddle out isn't too bad, but I'm a little unsure about whether that's a good thing. Sitting beside Janek out the back, I look over to see a double overhead bump coming in about 20 feet away. Janek sees it too. It rolls along, perfectly groomed by the offshores, and then the bottom drops out and we're looking into a massive barrel. It's the best wave either of us has ever seen, and the gnarliest. We look at each other, both a little unsure of ourselves. "I guess that's what we're looking for out here," I say, uneasily.
The first hour or so of the session is profitless. Everyone is dodging sets, catching smaller waves and following each other around for some sort of assurance. All the while, two tow-in teams on jet skis are getting absolutely barreled.
Eventually our hearts settle back down into our chests, and the first few barrels of the day are ridden. It all seems to go down in one flurry of action. I swing and paddle for a left. The drop is easy, and I go straight to the bottom and hook stall into the barrel for a couple of seconds. A chandelier comes down and knocks me off at the very end, but that doesn't even matter. At this point, I'm just stoked about pulling into one of these beasts. As I grab my board on the inside, I see Frazer taking off super deep on another good-looking left. He sideslips into the barrel on his backhand, travels for a bit and gets gobbled up by the foamball. I push my board under the water to start my duckdive, and get completely annihilated. I do three backflips underwater while holding onto my board, and then I get slingshotted up to the surface and see Frazer right next to me. "Did you see that?!" he shouts, his eyes wide open.
"Yeah man, that was insane," I acknowledge, as we paddle back out to the rest of the boys. The next set comes in, and Janek is up next on yet another left. He drops in as we all paddle over the top and look back. The wave drains along for a while, and all we hear is a faint but long hoot after it closes out. I look around and everyone is smiling ear-to-ear as we all get more comfortable with the waves.
More sets come through, and more waves start getting ridden by our crew. After going left all morning, I decide to switch it up and go on a right. It's a fun drop to a cruisey pocket ride, and I kick out about 20 feet in front of CC, who caught a wave a while before and had been going through hell on the inside. I lie back down on my board and look out to see one of the biggest waves of the day about to detonate right in front of me. Glancing over at CC, I see him turn around and start bee-lining it towards the beach to get away from the impact zone. I follow suit, take three strokes towards the shore and then turn to face the wave. One stroke towards the whitewash and I attempt to duckdive, but my board is ripped from my hands and the worst beating of my life begins. Something hits me in the jaw—I think it must be my board, so I open my eyes. There's nothing but black. In a slight daze, I can feel sand in my mouth, so I quickly spit it out as the wave continues to pull me every which way.
Finally I break the surface, and with my first breath I feel a sharp pain in my teeth where the board hit me. Feeling around with my tongue, I immediately realize it was crushed-up pieces of teeth that I spat out underwater. I let the rest of the set wash me to the beach and head back to our room to inspect the damage. Luckily, it's not too bad, and the pain is bearable, so I take a seat on the balcony. It's not long before the rest of the boys come in, one by one, until Kye is the only one left. A perfect right comes his way—it lets him in easily, and he starts racing down the line towards a huge section. He disappears behind the lip, about as deep as you could be, and then comes flying out the doggy door. He takes a look around, lies down on his board and rides the whitewash in after the barrel of his life. Caguamas tonight for sure.
(top: CC Unger-Mayor. bottom: Janek Peladeau)
At a plastic table in the gravel courtyard of Edgar's compound, I roll the dice on our backgammon board and take a swill of beer. Choforo sits across from me, telling me about his plan to drive his Bug down the coast in search of waves. "You should come," he says, "I know all about this coast." He rolls and makes his move. "Just ask Edgar tomorrow, and he'll let you take his truck."
I think for a moment. Edgar's truck is a light pickup with three seats, and we have six people with 12 surfboards. "That would be epic," I tell Choforo, "but I don't know if it's possible." He looks at me like I'm stupid. "This is Mexico," he says. "It's no problem—three in the front, and three in the back with the boards."
The next day, we ask Edgar. "No problem," he says. "It's $40 per day. Take it for as long as you want, and pay me when you get back. It just needs to be filled up with coolant every time you drive somewhere." He hands me the keys.
We pack up our room, sweep the broken caguamas off the ground and load up. Next stop is La Eurona, but Choforo left in the morning and all we have are his vague directions on how to get there. Six white kids with a gigantic stack of surfboards set off into the boonies of Mexico.
Later, after four hours of driving in the midday heat, we come across the turnoff. "This is it, boys," I say. "Does anyone remember what Choforo said?"
Frazer sticks his head through the back window. "He said it's easy. Go through town, pass the store, turn left, and then follow that road to the beach." Everyone looks at me and nods with approval, and it actually ends up being as easy as that, until the left. Pavement turns to gravel, and we come to a shallow but wide river running through the road. There's a Mexican on a horse coming the other way.
I stick my head out the window, and point across the river. "La Eurona?" I ask. He turns his head and looks at me through the shade of his sombrero. "Si, La Eurona," he replies as he walks by.
Through the river it is, the first of many obstacles on this road to the beach. We eventually get there to find one of the most beautiful white sand beaches we've ever seen. Nobody around, and a small but deceivingly powerful wedge up against a picturesque headland. We go for a surf, and then head to La Ticla to meet up with Choforo. When we get there, he helps us convince a hotel owner to let all six of us rent just one room with two beds so we can save a few pesos.
We set up our hammocks in a big web and unpack. It's late, so Choforo bids us goodnight. "Tonight, I let you sleep," he says. "Tomorrow, we surf in the morning, then I take you to meet my friends. Ticla locals."
(top: Frazer Mayor)
After three sessions and an uncountable number of Magnum ice cream bars, we purchase a few caguamas and it's time to meet the Ticla locals.
"Follow me," Choforo says, "I take you on the shortcut just down here." He takes a left on a gravel road lined with run-down huts and shelters. As we venture further, the road becomes a small trail into the jungle. We pass by a donkey, then clamber up onto some rocks and over a barbed wire fence. I start wondering what we're getting into.
Before long, Choforo leads us around the corner of a small hut and it opens up to a little living area, half outdoors and half under cover. Three Mexican men are sitting in a circle, smoking weed rolled in dried cornhusks and sipping caguamas. They look up with frowns at the sight of six white boys showing up at their house, but Choforo quickly explains the situation and their frowns turn into smiles. They speak no English, so we rely on hand movements and Choforo to communicate.
"Look at this," Choforo says, as he grabs a copy of The Surfer's Journal that they have lying around. He flips through the pages and stops on a photo of a Mexican standing in a field of marijuana with a pistol in his back pocket. "That's him," Choforo says, pointing at the boss. We look over at him and he's wearing a huge grin as he puffs on his cornhusk joint, nodding.
Through many beers and many cornhusks, everyone gets to mingling and it starts to turn into a small party. The beer starts catching up to me, and soon I have to spring a leak. I ask one of the locals where to go, and he looks at me like I've offended him in some way. Something must have been lost in translation, so I act out a piss, sound effects and all. He laughs and brings me off to the side. With his lighter, he shows me three little plants, acts out pissing on them and then shakes his head with a 'No.' Then he points over to another bush and gives me the go-ahead.
During my leak, I hear an interesting conversation going on between Frazer and the boss. When I get back to the circle, Frazer starts telling us what he's interpreted. "Dude," he says, "apparently those fields are just across the river there, in the mountains. He's saying there are porcupines eating all their plants, and he wants to go hunt them with us tomorrow. He said we could catch one, bring it back then barbecue it up. If we buy the ammo, they have the guns."
I can hear Choforo cracking up from across the circle. "Not porcupines, man. Wild boars. We should go tomorrow."
(bottom: Isaac Raddysh)
After a week of surfing the mellower, more rippable waves of La Ticla, we say farewell to Choforo and head back to Pascuales. We're greeted with the familiar face of Edgar giving us the shaka. "You made it," he claims in a slightly bewildered tone, "and the truck is alright." I go to hand him the keys, but he suggests I hold onto them. "I have another set. You take the car whenever you want the rest of your stay, free of charge." It was as if we'd passed some sort of initiation, and we all felt right at home.
Back in Pascuales, we got two more days of big, heart-pumping surf. We broke ten more caguamas, and before long you couldn't even see the floor in our room. On the final night of our trip, we decide to end it in classic fashion with many, many bottles of tequila. It was hard to grasp the idea of heading back to Canada—after just two weeks immersed in an environment completely different than our own, I felt like any of us could stay for an undetermined amount of time. We had fully adapted.