May 3, 2015, 4:30 a.m. — Pedro Calado awoke to the sound of waves crashing through the streets outside his hotel window, destroying beach kiosks and markets in their path. A wave of anxiety rushed over the Brazilian, and going back to sleep was no longer an option. His thoughts drifted back to when he'd bought his plane tickets to Puerto Escondido—he had convinced himself that no matter how big it got, he would paddle out. So Calado rose from bed, pulled himself together, grabbed his 10'0", and headed to the harbor. After a 2km paddle to the lineup, he watched the sun rise above the horizon as he scratched over some of the biggest sets Puerto Escondido had seen in years.
Tell me about the Playa Zicatela lineup that morning.
There were only a few surfers out, Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Will Skudin, myself, and a couple others, and the sea was rough, really rough. It was very hard to pick the waves to paddle for. I was trying to sit a little further inside to be in position for the waves coming through, but two sets had come through that almost cleaned me up. So I didn't even catch anything before, ahem, the wave.
Paddling in at the takeoff, what was going through your head?
I felt like I was a little delayed when I was paddling into that wave, but I decided it was too late to back out so I had to go anyways. When I started to drop in, I realized the stiff offshore wind was holding me up in the lip of the wave, and that an airdrop was inevitable. But still, in that moment, my board was under my feet and I felt confident. It was the moment the nose of my board dug under the water when my world became hell.
How bad was the beating you copped?
I felt like I was in a nightmare. When I hit the water the first time, I felt my life vest rip. I skipped and tumbled and hit two more times before the wave finally swallowed me. At this point, my life vest was actually almost entirely off of me. I held on to it with all of my strength. Eventually I hit the sand at the bottom, and was able to gather which way was up and to get to the surface. I don't remember how long it was…just that it was way too long.
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How'd you make it back to the beach?
When I finally surfaced from the wipeout, I took two more waves on the head and was pulled by the current back out into the lineup. At this point I was looking for a Jet Ski to pick me up and get me back to the beach, but there weren't any around. My only option was to swim the 2km back to the harbor, back to the spot where I had paddled out.
Once back on dry land, what kind of emotions were running through you? Have you paddled back out yet?
When I got back to my hotel, dragging my broken board, I was really upset and almost embarrassed because earlier in the year I'd had another massive wipeout at Jaws, and all I could think was, "Another wipeout, no way!" Again, I almost died and broke a brand new board, it was rough. But once I started seeing photos and hearing from others that my wave was one of the biggest ever paddled into at Puerto, I actually got really happy! After all, I don't think it was that bad [laughs]. And yes, I will be back out there soon.