Let’s be honest about Puerto Escondido as a venue for big-wave competition: sure, the Mexican beach break may be powerful, dramatic, and have moments of sheer brilliance when the conditions align, but a perfect wave it is not, and that presents significant challenges to the world’s hardest-charging surfers.
The line between a 9 and a 2 was very thin this morning, with a lot of perfectly-ridden waves clamping and mutating just before surfers could find their way out the end. On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got Billy Kemper’s expertly-ridden Carmelitas tube that spat him out unscathed with a 9-point ride in the can. On the other, you’ve got former Puerto champ Grant “Twiggy” Baker, taking off on what looked like the most perfect Puerto right you could imagine, only to have it warp and clamp on him, giving Twiggy a surprising Round 1 exit and likely a fair amount of sand between his teeth.
But, as difficult and frustrating as it surely was for the surfers, it was riveting as hell for those of us spectating from the safety of our armchairs. Watching the world’s best send it on 20-foot closeouts is about as entertaining as surf competition gets—as long as they come up in one piece once the whitewater clears, which was thankfully the case for all of this year’s competitors.
Click through the above gallery to see highlights of the glory and chaos that was the 2017 Puerto Escondido challenge. All photos by Derek Dunfee.