Last week Puerto Escondido saw a 20 foot swell and a who’s who of big wave legends piling into the Mexican town to get their fill. The highlights reel was vast. There was Dorian’s huge shack, Villaran’s muddy beast, crazy drone coverage and everything else in between. One photo though for me really stood out. It was a monster 20 footer, with a goofyfooter and a regularfooter splitting the peak. The man going right was none other Gary “Gaz” Quentin Hughes.

Hughes, now in his late 50s, is originally from Cronulla but has spent the last two decades running his SurfAce surf school at Pacific Palms. Back in the ‘70s and '80s he made a name himself by ruling Cronulla Point by day and menacing pubs with his punk bands at night. He scored the cover of Tracks back in 1981, only a few years after suffering a near fatal wipeout at Sunset. He was speared in the top of the head by another surfers loose board, had a metal plate inserted into his noggin and wore bike helmets for a while to prevent further injury. One of the true characters and chargers of surfing, Hughes decamps to Puerto every year for big shacks, cheap beers and as much debauchery as he can find. Tracks caught up with him to talk about the latest swell and some of his life’s lessons learned.

Hey Gaz, how was the last swell and what was the vibe?

It was BIG but I have surfed bigger there and there was a lot of bump, backwash and of course massively strong currents and rips. There were a hell of a lot of surfers in the lineup too with a lot of pros and not a lot of rideable ones which makes it triply difficult with such huge waves. This swell was very thick as the periods were very long. There were a couple of egos present, but generally the nature of big wave riding in Puerto is fraternal, with a lot of good people sharing and caring. Mind you, I did have to reprimand a certain Peruvian charger for dropping in on myself and Jamie Mitchell.

Gaza driving his 12 foot Mack truck through a bomb. Photo Paco Calleja Gaza driving his 12 foot Mack truck through a bomb. Photo Paco Calleja

How long have you been heading there and how long do you stay?

I've been heading to Puerto now since 1997; this being my 10th trip and my sixth straight "Tour of Duty". I've been spending about 3 months each year here (May, June, July) and I'm always sad when I must return. It's truly a very cosmic and magical place; especially the waves - being so big, powerful, accessible and hollow!!!

How old are you and how do you maintain charging those big bazzas?

I'll be 57 in February and I train a lot - soft sand beach running, push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups, swimming, skipping, punching bags, a few weights, but I think the mental side of it is equally important. You've got to train your mind to charge and also to cop big beatings which are of course inevitable.

Gary about to test the mental side of things. Gary about to test the mental side of things.

A couple of your Facebook pics showed you with a few hot young Argentinian chicas on your arm. How do you go with the ladies over there in Mex?

Ya know it's great here because you meet so many ladies of all nationalities, sizes and shapes. I of course love them all and I think that most of them love me too.  I do so love the local girls (Mexicanas) but I have a definite penchant for Argentinians. However, having said that, I also have a special German friend. I definitely do engage in much more sexual activity here than back at home - it could be the heat and the holiday atmosphere. Of course I was a Rock'n'Roll singer and ya know in my late 20s and 30s I used to get girls breaking into my house and jumping into bed for sex. Funnily enough, that still happens to me here! hahahaha....

That's Gary, the cured meat in an Argentine sandwich. That's Gary, the cured meat in an Argentine sandwich.

From Cronulla to Boomers to Mexico, can you describe your life charging big waves?

Well, basically I've always been drawn to big waves; the bigger the better of course and the hollowness is an integral facet, no doubt! I loved Hawaii and Bali too. All these places have at times great big hollow waves, but of course Puerto Escondido is the best fit personally with not only its consistency but lifestyle, people, culture, girls, proximity, nightlife (be careful) and of course big hollow, deadly pits!

Any rules for life?

Stick up for your mates in a fight and don't ever fuck your mate’s wife.

Anything you want to get off your chest?

Please show respect. Don't be judgmental. Religion is fucking bullshit. And Ladies Love Outlaws.

Steep and deep. Not bad for a man eyeing of his 60th birthday. Photo Daniel Flash Nava Duran Steep and deep. Not bad for a man eyeing of his 60th birthday. Photo Daniel Flash Nava Duran

On the cover at Cronulla Point back in 1981. On the cover at Cronulla Point back in 1981.

The bottomhand turn from the opening shot. Photo Lucano Hinkle The bottomhand turn from the opening shot. Photo Lucano Hinkle