Time to Change

On Sunday morning, October 30, 2011, I was up silly early.  This was the day that a party of 12 Australians were set to arrive at the hotel and make it theirs.  This was the day that started off by setting the clocks back an hour, representing my first time participating in that phenomenon way down in the tropics.  Of course, what Sunday in October would be complete without the virtual affiliation of Fantasy Football?  Well I had that going for me too.

It was quiet, dark, and sorta chilly.  Wished I had a hoodie, but I didn’t bring one.  The a.m. offshore winds this time of year are wicked brisk because The Mother Mountains that begin climbing immediately out of Puerto all find their way to about 3,000 meters.  So it’s 4am new time.  The Aussies weren’t set to arrive for another 11 hours.  Kickoff for the early games was also a ways away.  7 hours I believe.  I drank lots of black coffee until it got light.

When it got light, I got busy.  I grabbed my new ball and headed to the beach.  It was 7am.  I was barefoot in a bathing suit.  I wore a ball cap backwards.  I did NOT wear sunglasses.  I did NOT have an Ipod.  When I touched my feet to the sand, where the ivy and tall grass still grow, I flipped the ball up with my left hand, and watched it all the way into the top of my right bare foot.  The sting which preceded the blood represented sweet things to come.

Mi Balon

Today I bought my ball.  90 Pesos.  Up from 75 as I recall.  The Indian pumped it up for me and promised air for the life of the ball. 

My calendar has promised me four solid months to prepare myself for a return to the pitch when i return to the United States of America.

I promised Bicscuit & Bruiser that I would be flying around like a Bird when we gather again.  In other words, coming in especially hot.

None of this comes easy.  You have to want it.  You have to feel it and nab it.  You have to understand what is really at stake, and why.


What’s he building?

The beanpole wore lightweight Capris, Puma shoes with socks, a red futbol jersey, a blue beanie, and he carried a yellow Size 5 under his right arm.  He walked down my street this morning at 6:30am.  I have never seen him up close, so it’d be too tough to guess his age.  He’s in his 20‘s somewhere.  No Ipod.  No sunglasses.

I knew where he was going, but I was so damn curious how he was going to get there.  Not the easy answer to how, but really and truly how.  His final stop would surely be midway between Zicatela and La Punta.  He covertly plops himself down well off the shoreline, camouflaged where the ivy & tall grass meet the sand.

Would he jog there?  Run?  Carry the ball or not?  What was he thinking about?  Who the hell is this guy?  What’s he building in there?  What’s he building?  I know exactly what he does once he gets there.  I’ve seen his performances for several years, but I am just dying to know what it is that is driving those performances.

About a week ago, I saw him juggling the yellow Size 5 with the bottoms of his feet.  The fucking bottoms.  Straight up.  Guy was laying on his back near the ivy and the tall grass.  Beanie, Capris, the whole nine, and he was juggling his soccer ball with the bottoms of his feet.  All alone.  No sunglasses.  No Ipod.  Holy Sh*t.

Upper Vee

I was introduced to this young lady at the Monday hot spot in all of Puerto Escondido.  Cabo Blanco would be the place.  Great food.  Great dancing.  Party usually starts around 11:30pm.  Probably why I’ve never been to a Monday party at Cabo Blanco.  Needless, it’s the only place to be, and it’s a great night out.  A new friend of mine named Emilio introduced us.  We drank Mojitos. The music was loud.  We barely spoke.  I believe her name was Maggie.  I forget what I told her my name was.  There were a bunch of other dudes fancying her attention.  Like I cared.  Anyway, two weeks later I see her running the beach with a soccer ball.  She was wearing a tight pair of Roxy shorts with a skimpy lime green tank top. On the back it read Favre w/ a big #4.  She looked pretty damned good.  From what I could tell, she looked like a player with a bit of skill too.  I approached her and began stupid small talk.  She was maybe 27 y/o at the most.  Her toes were painted black.  She sported a couple of tattoos.  She had a nose ring.  I was hoping that I would be given a chance to tell her why I was living in Puerto Escondido, but she would have to ask.  This is not information I give out too readily.  And then it hit.  “So why are you down here in Puerto Escondido?”, she said.  “So I can prepare myself to play soccer in The States,” I said.  No Really. Seriously.  I don’t get it. Well that’s because it is sort of complicated. Are you a paid player? It depends on your definition of paid.  Well what is yours?  My ROI is the better indicator.  It’s value added.  I think you are full of shit.  Frustrated with my ambiguity, she pushed the ball with pace towards my folded hands.  It was my moment to win or lose.  Instinctively I dropped my hands, softened the ball off my chest, juggled it from my left quad to my right quad, and knuckled it hard with the Left towards the vacant lifeguard tower.  

Six Foot Puerto

Most everyday these days, I wake up with very little, if anything to do.  Should the day go as expected, I am able get a good portion of it all done.  Today was no different.  By 3pm, on this particular Saturday, I drifted away from the hotel in search of somebody or something.  Apparently, I was exploding with things to say.

The 50 year old man from Switzerland appeared out of humid air.  Originally from North San Diego County, he’s been living over in Europe since 1985.  That was the year I graduated high school. He left the San Diego area when there was very little on the East Side of Hwy 5. He’s been coming to Puerto Escondido for many years.  He was in his kitchen making pasta sauce, and it looked like he knew what he was doing.  We made small talk about how manageable it has been at Zicatela lately, and in the same breath how a four foot wave around here can bitch slap you silly. We both agreed that you CAN NOT afford yourself to be on the receiving end of any sized lip.  And Yes, even a two foot lip.  He told me that he is finally at peace with not still having to have that perfect, stand up, truck sized, spitting barrel ride any longer.  He then went on to say that he is NOT at peace with never having had that very ride aforementioned.  Heavy duty stuff! I couldn’t help but see right through the middle aged man.  Just then, a massive thunder strike rocked the entire area.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up, reminding me that it was time to hack that shit back.  I told him that thunder and lightening were underrated elementals.  He lit up a cigarette and asked if his right ankle appeared swollen.  I couldn’t help but notice all the open cuts and purple scar tissue all over his legs and feet.  “The ankles don’t look too bad,” I said.  He offered me up a cold beverage and then wanted to know my story.

I told him I was here to be a tube rider, and that after a solid week of manageable surf, I felt I was on my way.  I told him that I was still petrified of the thought of any kind of real beat down on a Six Foot Day.  The Six Foot Day where 44 year old men must choose the proper weapon, leave the rope at home, and find that one perfect barrel.  I told him that I sort of thought that I kind of maybe really wanted it.  I told him that everybody loves 2-4 foot days out in Puerto, not just the old guys like us.  I told him that when it’s 3-5 foot at Main Beach, if the excuses don’t riddle you first, you had better be a solid athlete in the water, because the consequences run extra high in these waters.  I told him that a Solid Six Foot out here is so nasty and dangerous, that if you have any reservations about your strength and abilities, you had best stay on land.  I then started using words like T-Rex, Water Cornices, Underground Vortexes, and the like.  I told him that anything bigger than Six Foot means that most local and visiting surfers alike are forced to surf elsewhere.  Myself included.  I told him that I have a golden opportunity to build up to Six Foot Puerto, and I am taking my time in getting to that point.  I told him about my double strung 8’0” Gun that has never been snapped and built for this exact beast of a wave.  I told him that I still wasn’t too comfortable managing that board at the present time.  I told him that I can almost smell it happening soon based on what I’ve gotten out of myself this past week.

He suggested I come back at dark for dinner.  “I’m making pasta, and I know what I’m doing,” he said.  This is where you can insert a Cosmo Kramer Guh Guh Guh, because that is what came out of me.  I was fired up.  It was 5pm.  The rains had begun, which was sure to bring the evening offshores.  By 6:30pm it was blowing hard offshore.  I waxed up and paddled out for my second Szechwan of the day.  There was one guy out at Far Bar.  I rode my 6’6” Composite with leash.  Like I said, it was still 2-4 foot.  I managed to slip out pretty easily through the Rip.  The distilled water was coming down in offshore sheets.   Finally what looked like a makable four foot wave came right to me, and I went.  If you measured this ‘four footer’ from the top of the pitching lip to the ocean floor, it was more like 10-12 actual feet of mayhem.  For starters, the sea floor is moving like those floor escalators at the airport, and the wave itself is about 80% Vert.  There are no fluffy biscuits and free handouts at the Mexican Pipeline.  I digress.  During the critical takeoff moment, I became ineptly blinded by water and wind.  The wave jacked.  Although my eyes were open, they might as well been closed.  And so it was…..that later….as the surfer told his tale, la la la and then I got thrown out into the flats and was beat down accordingly.  I spent 20 min. trying to scrap back out.  No Cigar.

I showed up at 8pm for pasta, hoping to God that I would be fed enough calories. Dinner was was still an hour away, which left me little option.  I snuck a Double TBSP of Skippy Peanut Butter right out of his Jumbo Jar.  At 9:30pm, I got my plate of pasta.  It was delicious.  Best I’ve had in a while.  It just wasn’t enough..

 Six Foot Puerto

Life of Pi

When the head popped up, I knew exactly what it was.  Been seeing these beauties in the lineup for the past month.  A fascinating creature.  When the second head showed, I knew exactly what was going on.  These two massive sea turtles were getting it on right in front of me.  I paddled closer.  I got about five feet away and watched it go down for maybe two whole minutes.  The bottom turtle was euphoric.  Eyes rolling all over.  Stomach all pink.  The top turtle was locked and loaded.  Flapping his wings or rudders or whatever they are called.  He and I made distinct eye contact.  I gave the nod.  We were both stoked.  I had to immediately scrap out of there without another thought.

Fill in the Blank


Viciously nestled in between shifting Mushroom Rips, are Giant Rogue Waves.  From 1000 feet above sea, this is what it can look like.  They call this spot The Mexican Pipeline.  It can only be seen, heard, and felt in Puerto Escondido, Oax.

Hope Solo

Two times during this warm, humid evening, I walked outside and hosed off.  I wasn’t alone.  I knew Mr. Gomez was out there somewhere.  Apparently so were every other creepy crawler of the night.  The sounds and the rattles combined with the eyes of the Fire Flies kept me extra close to the palapa.  The water out of the hose felt sweet.  I knew it would buy me some extra sleep.  It was raining good.  Daylight came at 7am.

Through the binoculars, the surf had picked up significantly.  Big Corduroys as far as my eye could see.  At 11am the tennis court was still wet. I put on zinc.  I also put on a new, white, long sleeve, 55+ SPF special lycra.  It was high noon in the Mexican Tropics.  I grabbed my board and ran down the overgrown path towards Wild Bills.  I had heard Ramz was in town, and apparently nobody knows *$*$*$* like Ramz.

I was prepared to go out there alone.  Gads.  Had surfed it 2x before with Big Jim a few years back.  Scouted it a bunch last winter during futbol rehab.  Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to operate within the Buddy System, but a decision had been made, and unless Ramz was home, and wanted to surf, I would go where no man had gone before was going to be going on this unassuming scorcher of a day.

I jogged down just as they drove up.  Father and Son heading to Puerto.  I’m sure I caught them by surprise.  We all shook hands.  They stayed in the truck. I knew right then and there that I would be surfing alone.  “It’s pretty good size Amigo.  The tide should still let you out through the rocks, or you can enter from the steep section of beach just passed the arroyo.” They drove off.  I walked away.  I forget which prayers I used. 

Back in the Water

I was up real early Friday morning, January 21 2011 feeling better than I had in quite some time. It was 7am and sorta chilly. I put on socks and a long sleeve T and drank black coffee. Chango had already gone surfing. He’s part of the dawn patrol at La Punta. Papa doesn’t surf main beach anymore because it’s no place for old people. He’ll be the very first to say the place terrifies him.

I waxed up and put fins back in my composite 6’6, loaded up on sunscreen, and walked barefoot to the main beach break. It was 7:30am. From the tree, the walk is a little over a mile. I stretched on the beach in front of the surf for about 10 nervous minutes, and then found my crease. It was 3-4 foot and surprisingly manageable. The set waves were still double overhead if you had the right board and the skill set to nut up. I had neither.

There seemed to be no shortage of familiar faces in the water. There did however seem to be a massive shortage of strength in my arms and legs. It was wonderful to be back in these waters. Any waters for that matter. Made a couple waves, had a couple moments. I half jogged back to the treehouse to minimize my time in the hot tropical sun. It was 9:30am.

On my way home I ran into the man with a canopied pickup filled with oranges. He met me at the tree ten minutes later. 25 oranges for 20 Pesos.($1.60) Ate a bunch of oranges and papaya and then went to work around the tree. Papa Chango has me working for some keep. Plenty for me to do around here even though he does all the real work.

He likes having me around I’m sure. I don’t think he has any idea who I really am or what I’m doing. I’m still pretty secret about things.

Walk of Fame(Final Act)

Five kids swarmed on my ball. I didn’t even see where they came from. Honestly. They just appeared, and at first, it appeared like they were going to steal my ball. It became an instant frenzy, filled with juggling and dribbling exhibitions, diving goalie saves, shoving and tackling, the full circus. You name it, these five kids were doing it. And they were doing it with my ball. My ball.

I didn’t know what to think, so I didn’t say one word. Didn’t look any of them fuckers in the eye either. I paid them no attention whatsoever, and walked right into the ocean to cool off. I stayed in the water three minutes. Goals were being set up. Perhaps sides were being drawn. There was still an electric ball frenzy happening right on shore, and right in front of my eye. It was almost like they had never seen a soccer ball, which in the end, couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I came out of the sea and the fast talking began. The teasing too. Who knows exactly what they were saying. I could tell it was something like, “Who gets the old, bird legged, white man. It was obvious. Good stuff. Fair Play. They were obviously too young to know that they were adding gasoline to a fire. A fire that was about to spread. Duh.

This was to be no meet and greet pre-game warmup either. I wasn’t going to know any of their names, where they lived, or their exact ages. They had taken over like a swarm of bees. It was the weirdest thing that I had going at the moment. It was the only thing I had going at the moment. What would you have done? These are moments in life that won’t ever become dreams. You can’t dream this shit up.

So I whistled for the ball. They passed it to me. I picked it up and said, “Sorry fellas, Not today…Maybe tomorrow.” NOT!

I didn’t have to tell any of these kids to wait while I found a place for my wallet, or Ipod, or camera, or sunglasses, or any other Gringo accoutrement I might have been schlepping around. I was in trunks. I was tranquilo. I was present, and I was all in.

They kept laughing and being hyper. They were excited no doubt. Remember, 10 minutes prior, they were five kids on the beach without a ball. I brought the goods. Question is…Was I going to “bring the goods?” I kept having to say, Me tiene no cuidado in response to whatever they were asking. They were talking very fast. All of them at once. I figured they wanted my input about something, and like I said, I didn’t care.

Instantly it was on, and I had the two young kids. I knew that was coming. The three older boys made up the other team. I had all the older boys pegged at 16-17 years, mas o menos. The two younger kids were both 11 or 12. I’m sure they were all related in some form or fashion. Nobody had shirts on.

The field was 25 meters in length, and was on the first tier of medium tall sand. The goal posts were maybe five feet apart. They were sand volcanoes with sticks sticking up.

I’m of belief that ball skills in the tall sand take a lifetime of work to master. The older boys were considerably fancier with the ball than I was. But that’s all they were. Fancier. And due to their age, and in general, they had their way with the 12 year olds when push came to shove. They began the game off by just dominating us.

A HUGE part of beach soccer is 50/50 balls, and although my two teammates were just the kind of gritty kids I’d want on any of my sports team, I determined that they were only going to win about 15% of those 50/50’s. They just weren’t big enough yet. It became real clear, real quick, that I was going to have to rely on my strength and my condition, before any of my ball skills. Sort of a blessing actually. So that’s what I did.

When it became clear to me that there was more at stake for my two 12 y/o teammates than Peyton or Drew ever had to experience, I was ready to pinch myself. I had no choice but to put my stamp on this game in all the most experienced ways. They muscled off the 12 year olds, and I muscled over the teenagers. When my boys began to see me really digging in, they began to believe.

The games details would bore you to death. I’m not too clear about them anyway.(There’s been a 5.7 Mag earthquake here in Puerto Escondido since this game took place.) I just know that I muscled it. I dished it. I forced it. I high-fived it. I earned it. I inflicted myself on this three-aside like these boys hadn’t anticipated.

From the goal line,(what line?) in what turned out to be the final play of the game, when I crisply,(finally) dished the ball backwards to one of my oncoming 12 year olds, and he cleanly cracked it one touch for a nice goal, it marked a very magical moment in time. I gave the kid the index finger. He was ecstatic and in disbelief. I could totally tell. This kid might have just scored the best goal of his entire life, and it seemed like he scored it against just the right band of brothers. He turned to see if his squid fisherman father had seen it. He had.
The sun was setting. I was on the breakfast plate. Big fucking efforts. Soaked in sweat, I went in the ocean. I could have gone more, really truly, but they called the game. Hmmmmm. They set the ball down in the sand and made sure that I was aware of that. I said Gracias. They said Gracias. Had there been a scorekeeper, my guess is 12-10, them. I wasn’t keeping score.

With a freshly sprained big toe, I walked home barefoot. Glorious Stuff.

Come Visit Puerto Escondido.