Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Counter Point (Punta Roca, Pt. 1)

Punta Roca is a right-hand point break that can deliver long, spoke-like bombs that explode over a shoreline of cobblestones and jagged lava rocks. Along the 400-yard walk to the point, you pass a wall sprayed with local graffiti (behind which lies an ominous graveyard) and tiptoe through debris scattered among the wobbly stones. When you finally reach the jumpoff spot, you get a court-side view of the wave, which at times seems to be breaking right on the boulders. On a good day, the sight of the swells lining up and falling like dominoes — precisely spaced with razor-sharp edges — is nothing short of "perfecto."

Perfecto. That's what our guide Joaquin called it over the last couple days of our El Salvador trip, when the long-awaited swell finally started filling in. The first time we surfed it was Friday morning. The photo on top is my first wave, on a board I'd never ridden, after having just been thrown backwards across the rocks on my shaky entry. The sun hadn't even risen yet. It was 6am.

The reason we were out so early was because when this place works, it gets crowded fast. As you can imagine, the local surfers and bodyboarders aren't so fond of alien invasions, as is the case with any other world-class wave. Joaquin briefed us the night before, drawing a map on his hand: "The main peak is here," he said, pointing to a spot near his fingertip, "but we'll be sitting here." He tapped a spot closer to his palm. "Anyway, if you sit out there and you don't know this wave at low tide, you won't make the section and you WILL end up on the rocks."

So we followed his directions carefully the next day: how to time the entry (kind of), where to be, where not to be. For the first hour, we were among only 5 other surfers and our trio got quite a few waves. It was only a matter of time before the number of surfers doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled. And the locals did what locals do anywhere: they paddled around the new faces and got any waves they wanted. And we behaved ourselves, sat where we were told, and got some wide-swinging rights that felt as if there were 10,000 horses sprinting shoulder-to-shoulder behind the 8-foot green faces.

One of our boards was snapped like a toothpick, but we all paddled in three hours later with good rides under our belts and smiles on our faces. The next day we weren't so lucky.


rye said...

looksand reads like fun, with a little sprinkle of uneasiness found on a waves closer to home. must say i am a little apprehensions awaiting your next post, hope all are healthy. in other news Hurricane Bill dished up some fun slides. be safe

Quiver said...

I'm glad to hear someone describe the same approach to surfing new breaks that I take. Get on it early and when the locals arrive, pick up the leftovers. Do that for a day or two and at most places you can move right into the pack and be accepted as a respectful surfer. Sounds like you're trip was paid for in just this one session of great waves.