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My Trip to the 2009 Las Escolleras Bodysurfing Contest

One of four pages: Las Escolleras, PreContest, and Contest

Left: Me during the contest - Saturday AM - full picture below (photo: Jerry Caldwell)

Tuesday, April 21 - 3:30 AM: Wake up, make tea, gather the last bits together. Tough time sleeping. I am prepared. 4:30 get on MASSPort bus in Framingham. 6AM flight #1 BOS -> DTW. Get off plane, not much time to get to next one, but, the corridor is fenced off!!! Someone was being chased around the airport by security. We all stood there about 15 minutes until they opended the gate. It seemed to slow every one down a bit. Flight from DTW to MEX was 4-5 hours. Then 3 hours in Mexico City at Benito Jaurez airport. Took the tram from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. All modern. Finally the trip from MEX to ZIH. 1 runway next to the ocean and small but quite modern terminal. Raul & Givonny were there picking up Brandon. I waited for my car - BIG mistake to rent the car - more later!

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Arrive at the Krystal around 5:30 or so. Take the picture on the right and then head for the ocean. It is warm! The locals and to SoCal folks seemed to think is was cold at times. A few waves come in, it is fun, teh a few coome in that I need my fins for! I run up stairs dripping wet and get my Superchannels (See fin heresy below). The waves are coming straight in, so, no shoulders, but, still WAVES in APRIL! I loved having my new superchannels in the ocean... for less than 24 hours! It is GOOD to BE alive!!! Quite dinner in the hotel and then a beer in the bar watching the Stanely Cup playoffs and drinking Negra Modello de Barrille (on draft)

Wednesday 8 AM, meet Raul at Las Escolleras. Saw Brandon on the way out. The waves were building, see page on the precontest swell. We were in the water for 2+ hours. I felt really good. Raul & Brandon are good company in the water. Head back to the hotel, spend too much money on lemonade, and a club sandwich at the Krystal patio/pool/lunch etc, etc. Very nice, but, not cheap. Still lazing around, reading and napping. It was sort of like vacation.
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At 4:30 or so Brandon & I head back. The waves in front of the hotel are crunching. At L.E. things are intense. Raul say they were easily 3m (10 ft). Anyway, there are perhaps a handful of times I have ridden bigger waves in Hawai'i. That moment, the first time you commit to a big wave in a new place. My heart beats harder now just thinking about it. We stayed in for a good long time. I was starting to get tired, but I stayed in because, it was the peak of the swell according to the models. I take another giant, slide down to the bottom and get out a bit and then boom it lands behind me. Into the washing machines and the brand new superchannel on my right foot gets sucked off so fast. So, that was interesting. I'm on the inside, the set is still coming in. I have one fin. Just dive in with the waves. Accept getting tossed around as long as you are moving towards the shore. Not too bad - 30 yeards maybe. Glad I've been training for 3 months. Brandon and Raul come in after another 10-15 minutes. For dinner, Brandon and I got to the Surf & Turf tacos place. The first of several visits.

Left: Viper V7, my trusty old Planas and my new Mares SuperChannels, one of which was lost to Atlacamani image tyingFinsOn.jpg

Thursday moring 8AM aagin and Las Escolleras. The first time I try the Viper V7s in the surf. The seem great. Still not quite as fast as the superchannels, but, very fine. The waves are down a bit from Wednesday evening. So, the three of us head to Barra de Potosi. First we stop at city hall for a permit needed for venders at the contest. And then down to the market for some shoelaces to tie on my vipers.

To the right: me tying on my vipers during the contest. (photo: Tim Hankins)

Driving south from Zihuatanejo was like driving thru time. At first it starts to look like a rural downtown from the 1950's or so, then the newer 4 lane road to the airport is from the 90's. Turning off that goes thru little villages from various ages - each with a series of speed bumps. Turning off the road to Acapulco (200 km) at Los Lianitos to drive thru modern argriculture buildings and ancient roadside stores selling beer. It seems that the fairly new road carries farm equipment and surfers to Barra de Potosi.

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The beach is quite wide and around to the left it opens to a lagoon and the hugs a ridge out to a point. This is not the ideal beach for the thumpers that are hitting in front of the hotel, but it is beautiful with waves that can carry you to the left for quite a bit. This would be so cool with the right swell. The tide was going out and the flow out of the lagoon carried some large light blue jelly fish. Many tens of them when I went by and hundreds when Raul and Brandon went by a few minutes laters, or so they say :-)

After the second swim of the day, we ate lunch in one of the many enramada restaurants. An enramada is a building with woven palm leaves to provide shade. It was very, very pleasant to be in the shade, eating great food with a pitcher of lemodade, gazing out at the beach and the waves. This was a trip worth making, even if the waves were not what I had hoped. The pictures to the left and below are from Raul and feature Bruce Robbins, his wife and Raul's daughter.
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The enramada in back has a more serious roof.
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Every meal offers a chance to look at local crafts.
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Checkout the hammock in back. (4 photos: Raul Monroy)

Thursday afternoon, trying to capture the feeling of the waves from the Krystal...Tim & Jerry took some more compelling pictures of the monsters in front of the hotel which are on the pre-contest page. There were two sets that came in while I was eating breakfast Thursday morning that had to be close to 4m. Anyway, it really was dangerous and no swimming surf - even for me, altho, if I were really desparate...

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Toe In Surf :-)Another shot
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Except for Tuesday when I got there,
the black flag flew everyday.
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The hotel guests seemed happy in large pool with islands

Thursday afternoon I went down to L.E. about 4:30 again. I was probably only in for 45 mins. Raul and then Brandon came when I was coming out. I had had the Vipers on for the thrid swim and they were starting to rub the outside on my feet. The contact points are totally different than the Mares fins. Anyway, I did not want to risk blisters, so, I went back to the hotel. Meanwhile, it seems all of the other gringos eventually made it down there. I watched hockey and put up the first batch of pictures until folks got back to the hotel. Dinner with Brandon, Bill, Mike and Tim with the basketball playoffs going on and a groups of Bulls fans nearby. image jchLasEscollerasZoom.jpg

Friday, two swims, morning and afternoon at L.E. Good sized waves. Another club sandwich on the Krystal deck for lunch. Liking the Vipers more and more.

Registration event. At about ?? I head for the bus. Brandon and Mark G are just heading out to Las Escolleras. Nobody at the hotel wants to give me infomation about the bus. Interesting. So, I head out alone. Mark J and Jerry and Dulci and Rich catch up. Raul has promised that everyone knows where La Jungla is, so, no problem. On the bus, nobody knows. Keep asking. Finally, someone knows about where it is. I have a map I printed out from a bitmap. (No good maps!!) Ask here, ask there. Finally, we get off one stop too late. Downtown Zihuatanejo must be quite old with narrow streets and an old world feel. The registration bash has very cheap beer. Videos and last year, Pipeline, the Wedge and other bodysurfing events is playing. Mingling with the other contestents is fun. Signing a waiver in Spanish is kind of interesting. Jerry, Dulci, Rich and I wander around Paseo do Pescador and out onto the pier. Back to La Jungla for a few speeches. Bruce Robbins represents the Americans. Mark and I go to Porto di Mare, a very nouvelle cuisine Italian restaurant with Augustine, a very charismatic the Maitre d' and head waiter. And they have Negra Modello! It was not cheap by local standards, but it was well worth it. A cab ride back and early to bed. image jchLasEscolleras09.jpg

Contest. I'm in the 8th heat, so I have time for breakfast. The American breakfast: eggs, fruit, toast and rolls. Mark G and Brandon scoot by to make it to the first heat. Mark J. joins me for coffee. We make the 15 minute walk at a reasonable pace just as the first heat is going in. The waves are still respectable, not like Wednesday, but they are a good size. The 8th heat runs around 10 AM. You can see two of the waves I got on the left. I am not good at tricks (dolphin takeoff and spinners, so, my strategy is just to take the biggest waves I can and catch them as cleanly as I can and for some ride them in. The judges seemed to appreciate this stratgy. So, I advanced. That's as much as I was hoping for. Raul tells me I go again in 2 hours. Should I go back to the hotel? Bill offers to loan me $$ and sunscreen and it is nice in the shade of the tent. I stay. For the second round, I am in a heat with Bruce Robbins. They call our names and two others. Bruce & I head out. My beany comes loose and it is driving me crazy. Bruce is getting some great rides, but, the other two contestents do not show up. They blow the whistle early and we both advance! Yeah!!

Dinner with Bill, Tim, Mike, Mark G. & Brandon. Mark G has become a Surf & Turf Taco enthusiast. We head there and have a prime table out near the entrance. They are hurting for customers and lavish attention on us. I finally have a Sol. First mention of "pig flu". After dinner we scoot by a wedding reception and hang out on the beach for a bit discussing whether bodysurfers are a tribe or form a community - a false dichotomy, but, fun none the less. I take the computer down to the bar, have 2 Negra Modellos and read up on the epidemic. Send email to the Ixtapa consulary. In bed at 11PM, but, the loud music next door keeps me up for a while. image comingOut.jpg

Sunday. I'm up early, wait for coffee and the continental breakfast. Mark G joins me for coffee. We head down together and we are in the first heat together. Still some waves near the jetty. Just enough fairly large ones come in for me to get some decent waves. I ride a few of them way in. Mark G and I advance to the SEMI-Finals. This is a bit of a lark. They run some body boarding semi finals and then we go again. I'm in with Rich Caldwell and Carlos Rios. I come in 3rd, but, only two advance. I did much better than I thought I would. Quite a bit had to do with the luck of getting in the right heats. and I think the judges liked my style more than they might in California. It is great to advance, but, the experience of being with "my people" and being in the warm warm water (At least warm to ME!) made it worthwhile. Certainly, being there when the swell hit was a huge part of the experience!!!

More on car renting. The quote was 225 for 6 days. OK. Then insurance, which I usually decline since we are covered, but, in Mexico, I got the high deductible insurance. So, not it is $360 or so, but, what they do not tell you is that there are taxes and airport taxes that brought it up to $500. That was before I had to bribe the guy to ignore this incredibly minor scratch that was marked on the sheet but not in exactly the right spot. Grim. So, here it the deal for transport in Ixtapa & Zihautanejo - It is 7 pesos to take the bus from Ixtapa to Zwatt, 70 pesos to rent a car, one conversation with a cab driver indicated that for 700 pesos you could be driven round trip for a day. I paid 7000 pesos before the bribe. sigh.

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Finish writing my post cards. No box. I ask one of the security people. No ides, but, an one comes over and nicely says she will take them. I give them to her. She hesitates. Is she looking for a tip? Who knows. 10 days later and they have not arrived. Double sigh.The plane is an hour delayed. There was an earthquake and they need to check the runways in Mexico City. That seems like it should effect all fo the planes, but, no. When I do get off the plane with 15 minutes to make it to the next plane, it says on time. I should have stopped at Mexicana Click, but, stupidly I tried to make it. The tram is not running. Everyone is wearing masks, but, nobody is wearing an N95 mask. Most of them look like they are just for decoration. I get to Delta/NWA. Too late. You can buy a ticket to Atlanta for $500. Back to Mexicana. The agent looks and looks. Finally I say, I'll go to NYC. That's good because there is no way to get to Boston. Mexicana has a flight to NYC in 2 hours. I take it without event. Rent a car at 10:55 PM, and arrive home exactly 1 week, to the hour, after I left home.

Who is Atlacamani

On the beach of Ixtapa, at the end is Las Escolleras, which translates as "breakwater". (fonetic: Lahss Ess KOH yer ahss ( ll -> y ).

Last Update: 2009.05.07 YON