While much of America was reeling from the results of the Presidential Election last week, many a West Coast surfer found mental escape thanks to a pumping early-season swell. From Mavs to Mission Beach, Santa Barbara to San Miguel, surfers enjoyed days on end of hot Santa Ana winds and pulsing waves. Malibu-based regularfooter Dillon Perillo had the foresight to bolt south of the border, hoping to score the big beach break barrels that reports were hinting at. While dozens of skis zipped around the lineup, Perillo and a small squad of purists fought currents and stiff offshores, and stroked their way into some long, perfect tubes. We rang Dillon to talk about the recent barrage of swell, and the one barrel he isn’t likely to forget.
So tell me about that swell. You bolted down just for the day, or were you down there for the whole run?
We left really early that morning from Costa Mesa. I don't usually trust anyone with forecasts, but I have some friends in San Diego that surf down there all the time, and they thought it was the best bet because of the winds. That makes the biggest difference down there. I’d surfed Rincon the day before. It was good, but it wasn't that big, so I was a little skeptical. Every time I go down to Baja, I get skunked and just end up getting drunk. Actually, last time I went down there, I got arrested at a carnival.
What the hell did you do?
We weren't any getting waves, and Ensenada has this massive annual festival that people come from all over for. I was drinking a little bit—not drunk, just a little buzzed—and I had to take a piss. A friend and I went looking for a urinal, and we found one, I let him go first, but I couldn't hold it, so I pissed behind it. Before I knew it, five cops were on me. They threw me in a holding cell and took whatever money I had in my wallet, which was like $25. But I shouldn't have been pissing behind a urinal, so whatever.
[Laughs.] So you had some reservations going down there?
Honestly, my head was spinning from the election, and I was kind of nervous to go down there. I was expecting total disorder. But it was as peaceful as it had ever been. But anyway, we went down that morning. I won't say where, but we got there early and it was pretty big. I'd never surfed there before, and it just looked impossible to catch a wave. It looked amazing, but one would come in 200 yards to the left, and the next wave would be 200 yards to the right. No one was catching waves. I stood there for 30 minutes, trying to decide if we should go somewhere else, but finally I realized we couldn't leave waves like that. We had to give it a try. I paddled out thinking, ‘I'll give it an hour, and if I don't get any waves, I'll go in, and we can drive somewhere else.’ And it actually took me a full hour to get my first wave. We surfed for four hours.
It looks like you were able to pick off a few really beautiful waves. How many good ones were you able to get?
Gosh, I can probably count. One, two, three…maybe six waves? I understand why people love using skis down there, but it's so much more rewarding to paddle.
Tell me about that long barrel. How'd you hunt that thing down?
Everyone paddling was sort of grouped up together, staying close. But the current was so bad, I finally gave up and just drifted away from everyone. You could see the sets from really far out, and I knew one was coming, but I couldn't tell where it was going. At the last second I scrapped over to one that looked really good. It's really hard to tell what those waves are going to do, and a lot of them are just closeouts, but it looked like a perfect wave to me. I probably could have been deeper on the first tube section, but it was coming in at a weird angle and looked like it was just a big wall. I took off thinking I was going to have to get under it, and realized I was kind of in front if it. So I straightened out, pulled in, and got the second-half of the first barrel. I thought it was going to closeout from there, but maybe there was a chance to make the next section. So I just started pumping, tucked my knees in and made it as far as I did, came out and tried to do a cutback. It was the worst cutback I think I've ever done. It's hard for me to do cutbacks on big boards [laughs].
How big of a board were you on?
6'1". I actually don't have a board bigger than a 6'1". I don't really surf big waves, ever.
I love that a 6'1" is a huge board for you.
I rode it at P-Pass last year, actually, and it felt big out there too. I'm not really a big wave or big board guy. I'm not going to surf Mavericks or whatever. I like surfing Ocean Beach, but not for those big swells. I don't want to have to go and get a seven-foot board; I don't think Channel Islands would even make me one. I have limits, and I don't really push it. That day was just below the tipping point. I know it's wasn’t that big of a day—I mean, guys were surfing Jaws the day after that. Those are big waves. But relative for me, that was big. I never have any luck with big barrels around California. So I'm happy. I'm glad I went down there. We surfed a right point in the afternoon, too.
A lot of us felt like we blew that swell, or weren't at the right spot when it was good. If you got Rincon on Wednesday, and that ridiculously barreled on Thursday, I'd say you did alright.
Yeah, I should be more grateful.