Dorian flies in and gets the barrel and the bonus cheque
Puerto Escondido is a beautiful stretch of beach in Mexico, and it also produces some of the biggest beach break barrels in the world.
So good is it that it was deemed a venue for the World Surf League Big Wave Tour for two consecutive years.
This contest was won by Kai Lenny in 2017 – watch replay here https://www.worldsurfleague.com/posts/264204/puerto-escondido-challenge-round-one-heat-1
and won by Grant 'Twiggy' Baker in 2016 – watch replay here - https://www.worldsurfleague.com/posts/212150/puerto-escondido-challenge-round-one-heat-1
Before that, however, it was the charismatic Hawaiian surfer and the 4th-rated World Tour competitor in 2000, Shane Dorian who took on the challenge of maxing Puerto. Shane, who for a time was considered the best big wave surfer in the world, spotted something interesting on the charts and headed down to Mexico to meet a swell.
I conversed with him about the session back in 2015.
"I was on a boat trip in Indo, and I saw the charts, and it looked like an insane swell for Puerto," remembers Shane. "I flew all the way home to pick up my boards and got back on the plane and flew to Mexico to chase the swell."
As another North Shore surfer Ken Bradshaw has said so many times in interviews, and I quote the big man, 'to be a good big-wave surfer you need dedication, determination, and desire.' All of which Shane had in buckets at the time. From Mentawais to Mexico via Hawaii is a helluva schlep to meet a swell that might funk out on the way to the beach.
It was the right call.
"It was fucking huge," remembers Shane. "We had to paddle out in the boat harbour about a half-mile away. It was impossible to paddle through the surf."
Then, while dodging huge close-outs and outside sets on one of the biggest rideable days of the decade, a beast of a wave showed up and started bearing down on Shane. According to big wave aficionados who frequent Puerto, the good ones at this shifting beach break have a distinctive look to them. Maybe they're tapered, perhaps they have a wedge-appearance, but apparently, when a good one comes, you can spot it.
This wave was monstrous but had that unique look about it, and Shane put his head down and started scratching on his 9'0 John Carper quad-fin. He found an entry, but something went wrong.
"At first I thought it was going be a roll-in, but then it held me up in the offshore," recalls Shane. "My fins popped out on the way down. I was so sure I was going to eat shit."
For a terrifying split-second, it did look like the amiable surfer was in a world of trouble, and that his eggs were heading for the big omelet in the sky.
Our Hawaiian charger, however, knew what to do. He ended up freefalling, landing on his board, and recovering in time to pull in.
The barrel was a gaper, and it swallowed him, and then spat him out with such vehemence that the wave had award-winner written all over it.
"The barrel was wide open, and it slabbed and hit the sand just right," said Shane.
It earned him the Billabong Ride Of The Year Award in the 2015 WSL Big Wave Awards, netting the surfer prizemoney of $50,000. Shane also added a further $5,000 to his kitty for the Surfline Best Overall Performance Winner 2015, making that beach break barrel quite a lucrative wave.
Shane admitted that the barrel was more survival than tube-riding nonchalance afterward, stating, "It wasn't pretty, but it did the job."