Tag Archives: surf

Surf Etiquette – Is It Still a Thing?

By Randy Redmon

To the casual observer, watching surfers out in the water looks a bit disorganized, but for surfers, it is anything but. There are actually unwritten rules out in the water. These rules are called “Surf Etiquette” and if they are respected, you will see that everybody will get their fair share of waves.
Every surf spot throughout the world has its own special vibe (rules/etiquette). There are, however, some rules of surf etiquette that all must respect and the quicker you learn them, the less drama you will encounter during your surfing experience.

So, what are some of the common universal etiquette rules? Well let’s frame them as “things that you shouldn’t do”:

  1. Probably one of the most important things to remember: never show up to a new surf break with a group of surfers and paddle out all as one group. This is considered rude. If you must travel in a group, break up into small groups of 1-3 and paddle out in intervals.
  2. Read the room! It’s easy to see who the dominant surfers are (a.k.a. local surfers). These folks deserve respect and get the right of way. Remember, this is their turf and you are a visitor. Take the scrap waves and don’t insist on the set waves. This will go a long way in gaining the respect of the locals. Yes, this may take some time, but once you have gained that respect, they might possibly invite you to the sweet spot of the takeoff.
  3. Don’t snake! Snaking is where a surfer will paddle out and maneuver in and around the group of surfers that have already been waiting, to try to get into position before the rest. Some try to do this nonchalantly, but pretty much everybody knows what they are doing. So be patient. Take your spot in the back of the pack and wait your turn.
  4. Do not paddle out into the drop zone. Watch the waves and the surfers getting into position and take a wide berth to stay out of their way. Always keep an eye out for incoming surfers.
  5. Do not drop in on other surfers. The surfer who’s closest to the peak has the right of way. What’s the peak? That’s where the wave is starting to break, so watch for this and your surrounding surfers. If you are dropping in, always look to the way you’re going to ensure this is actually your wave and that you are not dropping in on someone else. Yes, accidents do happen and you may drop in on someone, but a simple apology goes a long way. Learn from your mistake, but don’t do it twice in one session.
  6. Do not be obnoxious. Be friendly in the lineup! That does not mean being overly friendly, but a genuine smile goes a long way! A word of caution: eyeballing or scanning your fellow surfers can give off the wrong signal, even if you don’t mean it to. Surfing is a selfish sport and everybody is out for their own wave and pleasure. On the flip side, however, it’s important to be conscious of other surfer’s situations around you. Everyone needs to watch out for the others because when things go wrong, it can go wrong real fast. This is especially the case in bigger surf.

The bottom line: if we all remember basic surf etiquette and observe the local “vibe,” you will have done your part to add to a surf environment that’s friendly and not hostile. And this is true even before you hit the beach. Respect the surrounding community.

If we all do our part, we are supporting a beautiful and healthy sport that can be life-changing. All it takes is getting that one good wave that you’ll remember for the rest of the night and beyond. So make sure that happens with the support of your fellow surfers and without any hard feelings.

Soft-Top, Hard-Top – Which One and Why?

By Randy Redmon

How did soft-top surfboards enter the world scene of surfing?

Let’s flash back to 2006. Soft-top surfboards first became available at Costco and were manufactured out of Taiwan by a company called AGIT Global. Even at the approximate retail price of $120 USD, Costco’s soft-top brand, called Wavestorm, was not exactly flying off the shelves. Why? Back then, soft-top surfboards were considered only for “newbie” beginners and kooks! In ten years, however, Costco had sold over half a million Wavestorms, was set to sell over 100,000 in 2015, and anticipated ever-increasing sales.

What Changed?

Jamie O’Brien is responsible for that! Jamie O’Brien is a popular professional free surfer from the North Shore of Hawaii. Side point … the North Shore is very respected in the “surf world” for its incredible and dangerous wave, the Banzai Pipeline. So what did this very experienced, well known and respected Pro Surfer do? Well, on one episode of his 19-season YouTuber video series, Who is JOB, O’Brien actually goes to a Costco and buys a Wavestorm soft-top surfboard as a joke. He asked the cashier, who didn’t recognize him as a professional surfer, that if he broke the board would he able to bring it back for a refund. Being Costco, she replied, “Yes, as long as you have the receipt.” Off went O’Brien with this cheap beginner board to the world-famous Banzai pipeline to surf!

What happened??

It was unreal! O’Brien’s performance was awesome and he fell in love with that soft top surfboard. Those who watched him at the pipeline, as well as the viewers of his video series, were convinced. and the soft-top surfboard’s popularity was born! Wavestorms did indeed fly off the shelves at every Costco in America – and the price jumped from $120 USD to $250 USD.

To meet the demand and to capitalize on the massive popularity of soft-top surfboards, new manufacturers started springing up. One such manufacturer, Catch Surf, is now a Jamie O’Brien sponsor and even has a special “Jamie O’Brien Collection.”

So now you know the history of the soft-top surfboard – what does that mean to you?

The soft-top surfboard is an excellent, and recommended, choice for all beginner surfers. I personally believe it has sharply reduced the number of injuries for both beginner surfers, as well as other surfers who may be hit by a wayward board while a beginner is learning. As a very experienced surfer, with over 50 years of experience, I feel that anyone who wants to learn to surf should start on a soft-top surfboard. This will help them to comfortably and safely learn the basics of surfing, as well as the etiquette of surfing.

There is, however, a word of caution. You will find it hard to gain respect in the world of surfing, and be accepted as a common surfer, if you stay on a soft top surfboard. Why? It is too easy to get comfortable and stay comfortable on a soft-top. The soft-top makes it much easier to get waves.

Does that mean Pro Surfers don’t use soft-top surfboards? The answer is that they do, but often it’s a novelty for them, almost tongue-in-cheek, as well being entertaining for them. It is never their go-to choice for surfboard.

On to the Hard-Top Surfboard, or Hardboard

After you have learned the basics of surfing and have caught your share of bluewater waves, it is time to move to a hardboard surfboard. What’s the difference? Soft-top surfboards are made with an EPS foam core wrapped in either fiberglass or a synthetic wrap with a soft, dentable ethylene-vinyl acetate sheet on top. In contrast, hardboards are generally constructed of a Styrofoam blank with a wood stringer and fiberglass overlay.

So what’s the advantage of a hardboard surfboard? First, there is no better feeling than catching a wave on a hardboard surfboard … this is basically how it should be, as that is the original way to surf. Second, this type of surfing will take you to another level and challenge your abilities as a surfer!

The Long and the Short of It

The next decision you need to make is whether you want to surf on a longboard or a short board. There’s no right or wrong decision. Whether you choose a classic longboard style of surfing, or the more radical, high-performance world of short boarding, either will be an expression of your own personal surfing style and what you enjoy. No one style is better than another, it’s a matter of preference.

At the end of the day, soft-top surfboards will always have place in the world of surfing. They have opened up this incredible sport and made it accessible to a much wider audience than ever before. So thank you, Jamie O’Brien, for having the guts to pull off one of the greatest jokes in surfing history – it has 100% changed the surfing landscape.

Are you interested in surfing or do you still consider yourself a beginner? I encourage you to come down to the Huatulco Surf Company shop in Tangolunda, Huatulco. Our very knowledgable and experienced team would love to support you in your surfing journey!

The Lure of Hawaiian Shirts

By Randy Redmon

Although the actual origin of this colorful shirt is kind of hard to find, the aloha shirt first appeared in Hawaii sometime between 1920 and 1930. Japanese women started making shirts from the same fabric that they used to make kimonos. The shirts started to get very popular with tourists in Hawaii at the time, but they really started taking off when they hit the mainland in about 1931.

In the 1930s, America was going through some pretty harsh times, a lot of folks were out of work, others struggled just to make ends meet. With hardship and anxiety riddling the country, people craved something happy – enter the Hawaiian shirt! The shirt became super en vogue, which seems a bit odd, because this was also when the superhero emerged. The Hawaiian shirt seemed to be in sharp contrast to the superhero mentality, but that didn’t seem to affect the explosive popularity of the flowery garment.

You have to be careful, though, these shirts can be addicting – some people have five or six of them in their closets. The shirt just seems to bring you back to a happier time, a warmer time. Hawaii can be everywhere, anywhere, even here in Huatulco! It is so fun to see peoples’ faces when they climb our spiral staircase to the second floor where our array of vintage Hawaiian shirts is displayed. You can’t help but have a smile on your face when you see these colorful gems.

Randy Redmon runs the Huatulco Surf Co., located in Tangolunda, Huatulco.

World Surf League Visits Mexico for the 2020-21 Championship Tour

By Julie Etra

We all know about the pipeline at Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, and some of the surf spots just to the east of Huatulco, including La Bocana and Playa El Mojon. A bit farther east is Barra de la Cruz, known almost as much for its wildlife conservation activities as for its surfing.

The 2020-21 Tour (2020 canceled for COVID-19)

In August of this year, Barra de la Cruz hosted the Corona Open Mexico tournament, part of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour. The Corona Open is an international competition, featuring professional surfers from France, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Italy, and the United States, all being countries with good surf. The World Surf League, the governing body of professional surfers, started out in the 1960s, going through multiple organizational and name changes until it became the WSL in 2015, when it was acquired by an investor group with surfing and media interests. The majority backer is the American billionaire Dirk Ziff, an indication that surfing has now become serious and profitable business. The fact that surfing made the Tokyo Olympics this year doesn’t hurt!

Competition in Barra is completely different from what goes on in Puerto Escondido, famous for its huge waves that attract thrill-seeking adrenaline surf junkies. I am told this by my daughter-in-law Joycelyn Turk (aka Joy), who knows much more about surfing than I do. Joy is a “Tica,” living in Costa Rica as a professional chef and avid surfer, and has surfed, up close and in person, Zicatela, Mojon, and Barra. Barra has a “point break” wave, where the wave comes off a headland or point, while the famous Playa Zicatela is a “beach break” that forms huge waves off the ocean floor.

The WSL competition is very intense and difficult to manage due to tournament protocols and the unpredictability of both the surf and the surfers. This is the first year that competitors overlap during heats, with two paddling out about five minutes before the two previous surfers are still in competition. The competitors paddling out must give priority to the pair in the final minutes of their heat, meaning the second pair has to give way to any wave either of the previous competitors has taken.

The championships at Barra de la Cruz were swept by the Australians. For the men’s tourney, Jack Robinson approached Barra ‘”correctly,” by sitting in the critical position outside the farthest rock, where the wave can be bigger and starts off with a “dredging barrel.” For the women’s tournament, seven-time women’s world champion Stephanie Gilmore narrowly won against Hawaii’s Malia Manuel.

Winning the WSL Championship

In 2021, the WSL is offering each of the winners (one man, one woman) of the entire tour a prize of $100,000. In addition the WSL has a prize pool of over $1 million, which is divided by competitive ranking among all competitors during each event.

The finals of this year’s WSL tour took place September 9-17 at Lower Trestles Beach in San Clemente, California; the men’s competition was won by Gabriel Medina of Brazil, who took fifth place in Barra, while American Carissa Moore, also fifth in Barra, took the women’s title.

According to the WSL, judging is on a scale of 1-10. The surfer’s performance on each wave is scored by five judges on five characteristics: difficulty; speed, power, and flow; and different assessments of the surfer’s maneuvers. The highest and lowest scores are dropped, and the three remaining scores are averaged. Then the two highest-scoring performances combine to become the surfer’s “heat total.”

The competition begins with 100 participants, male and female; occasional vacancies are filled with “wild card” competitors, which is how Huatulqueñan Regi (Regina Perez Paoli) was able to compete this year (more about Regi: https://www.montecito.mx/razones/surfing-huatulco – her scores were not available when this was written).

Why Did the Tour Come to Barra de la Cruz?
So, the next obvious question is WHY BARRA? The break, of course, the infrastructure to support the event and its large staffing and entourage, and – very important – COVID-19. Other potential host countries had less friendly protocols during the pandemic, with tourism and foreign arrivals curtailed or prohibited, although Joy and I viewed websites shouting RED status for COVID-19 in Huatulco, “LEY SECA!” (limits on alcohol sales), “50% occupancy!”

Interview with a Surfer
Naturally, to further my education on surfing, I took advantage of Joy’s visit to interview her on the topic.

How long have you been surfing? 22 years. It’s wild. All because of my friend Neal McCombs. We met in Carlsbad, California, where he and his family taught me how to surf. North County San Diego has a lot to offer surf-wise – something for everyone. I grew up in Tahoe so it was a natural transition from snowboarding to surfing, but still it took years to actually understand and be decent in the sport. I moved to New York City to work in Michelin kitchens and become a professional chef. While I was there, I was surfing at Rockaway in the city and out on Long Island in Montauk, before The Surf Lodge [a Montauk hotel/restaurant] opened, before it was as trendy as it is now. That’s also where I met another close friend, Danny DiMauro, who heavily influenced my surfing style.

Where is your favorite surf spot? That’s a hard question to answer. I have to say overall, five minutes from my house [in Costa Rica] is the break I’m at every day, all my friends are there, and the vibe is great (most of the time) and it’s always different. Some days it’s big and nasty, some days it’s small and playful, and almost every day it’s head-high for me because I’m short. Pavones would be a close second in Costa Rica because it is only a day of driving to get there and the second-longest left-hand wave in the world.

Tell me about Barra de la Cruz. Depending on the day, it can be very technical, starts off fast, and if it’s the right swell direction there’s potential to get some pretty serious barrel action both on the outside and on the inside of the wave. It can also be scary if there are large swells with overhead and double overhead waves. The current gets really strong during those moments and it’s hard to stay in position. And you have to get behind the rock and avoid falling into the rocks. If you are more to the inside of the rock, the takeoff is easier but that doesn’t mean it’s not intense.

The locals can be pretty territorial. which is normal for surfers, particularly in Mexico, which is completely understandable and ok, as long as you are respectful and give a friendly hello. It is a little different for women, we can get away with a little more, but we really have to prove ourselves. And we sometimes have to fight a little harder to get a good wave if there are a lot of people in the lineup. It has been my experience that, all too often, men will assume you can’t handle certain waves or that women can’t surf as well as men. So, you had better go when it’s your turn or you will forever be at the back of the line.

And other surf spots along the coast? Mojon is a gem. There are a lot of these gems along the coast. I cannot stress enough how important it is to speak Spanish or at least try. It goes a long way with the locals both in the water and on land. Also, really important, if you want to surf the more remote beaches, hire a guide. That will take you to hidden spots, get you some great waves and feed the local economy that depends on surf tourism. I have heard that Lalo with Surf Tours Salina Cruz is excellent.

I know this article is about Mexico and the competition, but where else have you surfed?
Most of Central America with the exception of Honduras because there’s not a whole lot of surf there.

Drew (my media naranja) and I met in Las Manzanas, Nicaragua, located on the Emerald Coast of the Pacific 45 minutes northwest of Chinandega. There’s lots of remote surfing up there, but none of the breaks really had names then. I was shocked to see another person in the surf and in true surfer fashion we thought the same thing at the same time “Who the f*** are you?”

El Tunco and Las Flores in El Salvador. The setup in Las Flores is very similar to Barra De la Cruz.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama, goes off during wet season and has a well-known big wave break called Silverbacks, and then lots of other breaks off the various islands that you can only get to by boat taxi.

Chile has Chicama and Los Lobos. both epic world-famous lefts, Chicama being the longest left in the world (makes goofy footers happy) at 2.2 kilometers from start to finish.

And then there’s Indonesia and the Maldives and South Africa. So many waves, so little time.

To see almost an hour’s worth of the WSL tournament in Barra de la Cruz, check out this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJOKVxFHo8Y.