A Mexican Wave Buffet
*An excerpt from Slippery
The dust, the warm, heavy air, the swarming flies, the road’s pebbles catching between heal and thong with each step, Chris’ freshly half barbered, half butchered face breaking into some awful rash, none of it matters, not one iota. The first view of Barra de la Cruz as we pass over the final crest and down into the bay, you could be facing execution and still be aware of one thing only; how perfect is this place?
Every surfer’s cartoon scribbles have transformed to reality, wave paradise is unfolding before us. A beach shack laden with hammocks from every available post spills on to the sand, surfers waxing up in its shade then jogging up the point. To the right, a headland covered in earth brown boulders drops into the sapphire water. A lonesome rock stands tall out of the water a few metres into the sea at the most distant edge of the headland, waves standing up as they approach it, pulses of swell unraveling into endless barrels as they hug the sandbank from the top of the point all the way to shoreline half a kilometre down the line. The wave faces light up in the mid morning sun, a handful of surfers stroking effortlessly into faultless top-to-bottom barrels, forming silhouettes behind the lip, lines of swell stacked to the horizon.
A slight onshore wind is starting to feather at the crests of the waves as we get ready in the beachfront shack, gorgeous barrels becoming playful walls, lips of whitewater fluff begging to be destroyed. An assortment of surfers from each wave-blessed corner of the planet, as well as some poor landlocked guys from Switzerland and Montana, say “ola” as we go about our pre-surf routine. Those lucky enough to have been in the water at first light are now resting, sipping on Fantas, Sprites or Coronas, watching from their hammocks as Barra de la Cruz puts on a show.
“Just run up the point to the very last little bay of sand, then paddle from there and hope no sets clean you up. Then you’re out there.” A Californian who’s been here plenty of times, gives us as much info as we need and we’re off. As we start our jog up the point, I see five waves lined up the length of the bay with five guys flying down the line on each of them.
We paddle straight through a lull and into the takeoff zone. There is a spattering of blokes waiting patiently for the next set. There’s no hassling thanks to a horizon stacked with perfect waves en route. Mark nabs the first wave of the trip, taking off seamlessly as a wave bounces off the outer rock and flies past me, lining up 500m of fluid ecstasy.
A guy to my inside squanders the second wave of the set, floundering rather than paddling. He looks to double dip and lines up to paddle for the third wave of the set. Fuck that, I paddle straight past him without a hint of remorse, having traveled halfway across the globe to be here, this thing’s mine. A bounce of side-wash off the headland wedges the wave a foot bigger as I get to my feet, sling-shotting me across the face. I feel my left foot hugging the deck grip as I drive off the bottom and up the face into the most welcoming piece of lip I’ve ever seen. I glide back down, taking in the clear view to the ocean floor racing beneath, before driving once more off the bottom. I’m shaky on my feet, far too much time has passed since my last surf, but the waves are insanely perfect, you can’t go wrong.
Three hours pass; surf till your legs shake, jog up the point, paddle, hoot, surf, smile, jog back up the point, hoot, paddle, surf, smile, jog. I feel my shoulders aching, retinas baking, guts growling, wet boardshorts tearing away layers of inner thigh skin with every jog round the headland. I ride my last wave to shore and walk back to the shack.
“Beer, Slip?” Chris is lazing in a hammock, a Corona in his hand, an overload of surf stoke shining through his sun-fried eyes.
Two coronas and three fajitas later, we’re asleep in our hammocks, the blazing afternoon sun making it difficult to see guys ripping the afternoon walls to shreds. 4pm and we paddle out for the afternoon session. The setting sun wreaks further havoc on heavily glazed eyes. Surfers, bong-head and non-bong-head variety, can’t help redeye syndrome. I’ve long been accused of smoking the peace pipe, my first physio boss threatening to fire me for persistent red eyes. ‘Stop turning up to work stoned!’
It was her fault, giving me the afternoon shift. I’ve never smoked in my life, but living on Australia’s east coast, the rising sun is the harsh mistress that leaves pterygiums in her wake. No surfer can escape. I was 23 at the time, fit, tanned and I’m pretty sure my cougar boss took pleasure in accusing me of being naughty. She was gagging for a young pleasure wand. I really should have just given her a pounding. Equally gagging were all the neglected middle aged mums I’d been tasked with teaching Pilates two nights a week. ‘Great class, Flynn, have you tried that new bar round the corner? I’m heading there now if you’re keen?’ Gravity had taken hold of these ladies and no amount of poorly instructed Pilates could change that, but again, I should probably have pounded the lot of them. The Toy Boy window closes far too quickly.
We surf till dark, the onshore wind abating to complete glass, barrels throwing wide at the take off, warping uninterrupted all the way to shore. It’s pitch black as we stumble up the beach for the final time, pack up, give the shack man a stack of pesos and walk through exhaustion back to Pepes. “How good was that”, “How good is this”, “Fuck I’m buggered”, “Farking starving aye”, “This place is fucking sick,” modern day philosophers in quite the tete-a-tete.
Twelve days of sand-bottom barrel bliss at Barra de la Cruz pass in a euphoric, overtired, sweat-filled trance. If there is one sacrifice you have to make to enjoy this heavenly piece of south Mexican manna, it is the foregoing of sleep. You cannot sleep here. No chance. It is so fucking hot. We spend each night on sopping wet mattresses filled with litres of sweat. We chat through the night reliving past glory days, and play music or podcasts until pure exhaustion finds us collapsing to the lightest of snoozes around 5am only to be woken within moments by the first rumblings of fellow surfers waxing their boards and gathering their things for the walk to the beach in the pre dawn dark.
After twelve days, having shed several kilos and surfed countless perfect waves, it’s time to go. We bid Pepe farewell and shake hands once more with Julio as he arrives at Cabanas Los Pepes. We load boardbags onto his van and begin the journey towards the international terminal at Oaxaca airport.
Next stop, Vegas.
*Full copies of Slippery are available in paperback, ebook and audiobook at www.capebardo.com/slippery