Behind the Lens

Todd Glaser recalls an epic season in Puerto Escondido

Jesse Merle-Jones, in the shot that made the cover of the 2012 Photo Annual. Photo: Glaser

The reason for putting out a Photo Annual every year is obvious. We have the best surf photographers on earth, and our office is flooded with more incredible images than we could ever cram into 12 issues. It’s a great problem to have. For the 2012 edition, our photogs went from the frigid waters of the Norway to the scorching heat of Mainland Mexico, and everywhere in between. In the first of a four-part series by our staff photographers, Todd Glaser breaks down the waves, people, and moments that made his summer in Puerto Escondido one to remember (He nabbed himself the cover down there as well). Read his words below, then pick up the 2012 Photo Annual for more stellar images.

“Puerto Escondido is one of the best, most consistent beachbreaks in the world during the summer months when the South Pacific storms send swells to Mainland Mexico. When these swells hit the underwater canyon that sits outside of the sandbars in Puerto, the swells refract off of seafloor, both increasing the size and improving the shape. Generally, the early mornings have a strong offshore breeze due to the drastic air-to-sea temperature differences. As the land heats up around 10 a.m., the wind tends to switch and stays strong until the next morning. These offshores are essential for the shape and cleanliness of the waves. I think that's what attracts some of the best big-wave surfers in the world. In the summer when there aren't a lot of places to find quality big waves, Puerto lets those guys stay sharp. It's really a great training ground for Hawaii in the winter, and vice versa. I think this was one of the better seasons I've seen down in Puerto. There were three really big swells that came through one after another starting in July. Generally the season starts in May and goes all the way through September, but this year the best swells were just back-to-back.”

“Shooting in warm water definitely has its benefits, especially when the waves are big because it takes away the element of losing energy to stay warm, as you would in cold water. That definitely makes you feel more relaxed, but at the same time it can still be difficult. As a beachbreak, Puerto has a lot of water moving and a lot of currents, so it can be difficult to line up. It’s totally different from shooting a reef like Pipe where you know where it will break and where to sit. In Puerto, one minute you may be in still water and then an overhead set will break on your head and you'll get rolled around and end up in a rip, getting dragged a quarter mile out to sea. Sometimes a rip current can be your best friend and get you out a bad situation, other times you can be a couple of feet from shore and the current will sweep you off your feet, and back out you go. The currents in Puerto are no joke.”

“I spend a lot of time with the Long brothers--Greg and Rusty. Over the years they've made Puerto a second home for themselves, and they've spent months on end down there and have it pretty wired. From places to eat, where and when to paddle out, you name it, and they've thought about it over and over again. Derek Dunfee and I have been going down there for quite a few years together too. I am always impressed by how well the local guys surf down there. Oscar Moncada and Angelo Lozano--they always seem to be in the best spot for the best sets of the day. Some of the other local surfers like Coco Nogales are always getting amazing waves out there too, as well as the former lifeguards like Jose, Roger, and Cheko Ramirez. Those guys helped pave the way for surfers from Puerto Escondido, and they're on it everyday it's breaking.”

“There are two images from the season that really stand out for me. One is a shot of Rusty Long that we got really early in the morning at Carmelitas Right on the North end of the beach. It was the second wave of the set, and I remember it because of the way the sun was coming up and filling the barrel. Rusty pulled into the tube and as he was coming out, the wave sucked out all of the water beneath him and he fell and hit his face on the bottom. That wave was special because the light in the barrel was so pretty, but it sucks that Rusty ended up with a black eye for it.”

“Another photo I was really happy with was one of Rusty's brother Greg. It was the day that he caught the wave that would win the Wave of the Summer contest. Greg woke up really early--something like 4 a.m.--and he went down to the beach, and I was up early so I went with him. He ran out to the harbor in the dark by himself and jumped in the water in the twilight. I shot a photo of him at a slower shutter speed--about a quarter of a second--and I think it's a kind of special moment because he's paddling out in the dark by himself when the waves are so big that you need to paddle from the harbor just to make it out. I think that shot kind of speaks to Greg's commitment. The early bird gets the worm.”

The barrel that cost him a black eye. Rusty Long, Puerto Escondido. Photo: Glaser

Greg Long, first up and first out in Puerto. Photo: Glaser