Surfing in Puerto Escondido

 Suring in Puerto Escondido at Playa Zicatela with Oasis Surf School. 

As much as I like shopping adventures, I need to balance consumption with immersion in nature. Having grown up doing all sorts of extreme outdoor sports in Lake Tahoe, I have to get back to nature every once in a while for some grounding.

This in mind, we built in time for my newly discovered love: surfing.

To get to Puerto Escondido we had to take the smallest plane I’ve ever been on that I wasn’t also jumping out of. Single propeller, one pilot. I nervously ate Ruffles con queso, hoping it wouldn’t be my last meal. For the first time in my life, I anxiously awaited some kind of safety announcement or instructions before take-off, but we didn’t even get so much as a "hello" or "welcome" from the pilot. That aside, the flight ended up being incredibly peaceful and beautiful. We flew so close to the mountains you could clearly see everything in the landscape.

Just so everyone knows, I suck at surfing. That is, I’m learning, and it seems to take a long time to get good at this sport in both technique and ability to read ever-changing wave conditions. I had surfed a dozen or so times before last year, as an almost unavoidable consequence of having grown up in California. But I never enjoyed it until I started taking lessons with my surfing bestie in NYC, of all places, at the Rockaways.

Everything I read about surfing in Puerto Escondido kind of scared the s***t out of me. It was more a list of where NOT to surf. This is because Puerto Escondido is home to one of the most infamous and gnarly beach breaks in the world: Zicatela.

 Playa Zicatela, on a really calm day. 

Playa Zicatela, on a really calm day. 

So, of course, our surf instructors took us straight to Zicatela on our first day out. This time of year, however, the waves are manageable, if not still frightening for novices. They were certainly the biggest waves we had been on yet in our nascent surfing lives. Paddling out was exhausting and, once out, your stomach got a little queasy feeling the mountains of water rolling in towards the beach to break, and to possibly break you. I also didn’t know at first that there were dolphins there (there are), and found myself staring down a mysterious fin as I sat like a duck, all alone on the outside. 

 Zicatela. Surfing buddy in background.

Zicatela. Surfing buddy in background.

Miraculously, however, we were able to get some waves and actually ride them! This is, in large part, due to our instructor, a local guy who we dubbed the “wave whisperer” for his indecipherable ability to read seemingly imperceptible waves on the horizon and scout out the best ones for us. Needless to say, we decided we’d go back again the next day, and the next day, etc.

 Surfing Zicatela with an old school stance. 

Surfing Zicatela with an old school stance. 

Hands down, the best day I’ve had surfing to date was at a point break called La Punta. Our instructors said we should go for the bigger wave right off the point. Intimidated at first, my surf buddy and I both got our first waves and were hooked. They were big (for us), but they were perfect and mellow, slowly peeling away from the point. The water was otherwise placid, and there were flying fish and pelicans within reach. Magic.

La Punta is also a big backpacker destination. It’s pretty rustic, everything situated off a main, dirt road. I imagine it’s what Tulum used to be like before it blew up. We had a great dinner around a candlelit, wood table in the sand that night at Lychee. 

--Jess, Founder & Principal Shopper, Le Mondeur