Puerto Rico, a Caribbean playground with reefs and points for every taste, is the adored home of surfers like Dylan Graves, Otto Flores, and Alejandro Moreda for reasons as many as the 100+ spots that make up its northern shore, including the spot that provided this dazzling shorebreak bomb, which earned the opening spread of our March 2017 P.R. feature written by managing editor Ashtyn Douglas and photographed by Ryan “Chachi” Craig. We caught up with Chachi in-between trips and asked him for the story behind Moreda’s dreamy trapdoor tube.
This day was the peak of the swell, the big day that everyone on Puerto Rico was eager to see come to life. The buoys were massive by normal PR standards from the distant hurricane, Nicole, spinning endless lines our way. The morning was truly huge. I don’t recall the exact buoy readings, but whitewater was more or less all that was visible on most of the rainy coast. I went down to PR to hang out with Otto Flores and Alejandro Moreda, two guys whom I’ve traveled with before and who were gracious hosts in showing me their island. From the city of San Juan, we drove west, checking all the spots that might be breaking. Raging swell and current made most places unrealistic to surf. Even a perfect wave that we watched from above–a long right-hand point that apparently never breaks–was too hard to access, and honestly, was a dangerous looking scenario by all accounts. The swell was more organized around Dylan Graves and Brian Toth’s local beachie, and that’s where most of Puerto Rico’s talent showed up.
The waves were pulsing, and I couldn’t decide whether to shoot from land or water. There was only one photographer in the water, but it was pretty intimidating on the inside, where waves were relentless and top-to-bottom. I decided to wait and shoot some angles from land before jumping in. There were numerous spectators, surfers, and media watching and documenting the show; I decided I wanted to have a slightly different perspective, so I went way, way down the beach. From where I was, there was a crazy amount of haze and mist from the swell and most waves were blocked by the intense shorebreak in the middle of the beach. I climbed up a mound of sand and stood on some debris as high up as I could manage.
This image was shot at 400mm and almost didn’t happen. I hadn’t been in that location for more than 10 minutes, shooting next to a hive of bees, when Alejandro paddled into this beast. I was trying to figure out where else I might be able to move to and looked up to see this wave. I had no idea who it was at the time, but I was freaking out as I shot it. I could only see it in bits and pieces through the shutter firing away, but it looked like a massive pit, straight into the death end-section that breaks over reef. I zoomed in on the back of my screen to see if it was sharp, and sure enough, I had lucked out. I shot this angle for a few more minutes then decided to walk back and shot some others before hopping in the water. Needless to say, I was fired up that it was of Alejandro and that it showed a different look to a wave that’s heavily photographed.