Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Counter Point (Punta Roca, Pt. 2)
As I mentioned before, on our last day of the El Salvador trip we weren't so lucky. Our luck, in this case, had less to do with bodily harm or broken boards than the plain fact that we couldn't get waves. The swell we'd been watching for weeks had finally moved in — and so did every local Salvadorian shredder, as well as a group of traveling American pros we'd been trying to avoid all week. They happened to be traveling through the same tour outfit as ours, but our guides were doing their best to keep us out of each others' way. We'd been assured that the pros were going to surf somewhere else Saturday morning, but the gravitational pull of Punta Roca proved too strong and they paddled out at the point minutes after us under the watchful eyes of their photographer's and videographer's telephoto lenses.
With the six professionals and the 30+ locals and other traveling surfers in the lineup (Saturday draws surfers from around the country), the scene was pretty hectic. The "rules" we'd learned from our guide didn't seem to apply anymore, with the American pros sitting deeper than anyone and taking off on anything. I remember set waves coming through with three guys dropping in, their white wakes trailing like jetstreams behind, threatening to cross as they streaked back up the face and under the lip.
The chief local — the dude in the top picture above — wasn't having it at first. He blatantly dropped in on guys one after another, picking them off like an assassin, forcing them to straighten out and bail with their tiny boards flicked out ahead to keep them away from the maelstrom. But the pros got their waves, as did the locals, who made up for any lack of acrobatic trickery with flowing power turns and critical drops that exhibited years of experience at Punta Roca.
And there were barrels to be had. Plenty. I saw one wave were the same local pictured stood straight up inside the gut of a bomb and dragged his fingers along the roof, smiling and hooting the whole way. To be sitting in such close proximity to these massive, perfectly shaped waves – sometimes just catchting a glimpse over the ledge at a rider speeding under a thick lip — was a rare treat. It was a ringside seat at a world-class sporting event. But I couldn't help but dream about breaks in El Salvador's East, where the waves may have been less perfect, but where it was just me and my two friends alone on an exotic coast.
In the end, we just paddled in after a couple hours, back down along the point to where it turns into a second break called La Paz. Our motel overlooked this break and for the previous four days and it was always mushy — a great option for longboarders, but we had no incentive to try it. This day though, the increase in swell gave it some size and punch. Waves would wrap from the outside rocks (the end of Punta Roca) all the way into the bay to the sand. We rode as many of these shoulder-high peelers as our arms would allow, before the 200 yard paddle became too much. Then we exited on the black sand, negociated the cobblestones, climbed the stairs, and walked back through the village to our motel where we packed our bags for home.
Above: My last wave of the trip, trying to make it all the way to the pier at La Paz. Special thanks to our guide (and friend) Joaquin Aragon for shooting the awesome photos above (and many more of us that won't make his portfolio).