Back in the summer of 2006, one of the best professional surfing events ever was held. It was in Barra de la Cruz, Mexico and it was one for the books. But the CT hasn’t visited since. Then, a few months ago, the World Surf League announced with much fanfare that it would once again be holding a tour stop in Barra de la Cruz. But as Puerto Escondido Coronavirus cases surge nearby, a shadow has been cast over the chances of the contest running (more on that in a minute).
While the 2006 contest is of course in the history books, it’s worth quickly revisiting. It was the second Rip Curl Search event — the first was held the year prior at St. Leu, Reunion Island — and the location was simply billed as “somewhere in Mexico.”
But that Search event was Barra de la Cruz, the tiny village less than a hundred miles southeast of Puerto Escondido, and the funneling right hander put on a wave display with a quality seldom seen in a pro surfing. Andy Irons won, Mick Fanning compared it to Kirra, Kelly Slater said it was better than Snapper, and Barra officially landed on every surfer’s bucket list.
Now, more than a decade after that famed event, Barra is back. Billed the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver, the announcement was a rare case in surfing where almost everyone agreed: it’s a good place for a contest. But with COVID cases raging nearby, reports have recently filtered in that beaches are shutting down again and officials are cracking down on surfers.
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According to Today in 24, Mexican officials released a statement informing residents and tourists alike that, “all beaches will be closed, including Puerto Piedra, Bahía Principal, Playa Marinero, Playa Zicatela, and Punta Zicatela.”
The statement went on to prohibit “all types of social, sports, political, cultural and religious gatherings,” as well as “the reduction of capacity in commercial spaces, restaurants and public transport, and the establishment of the mandatory use of a mask.”
While Barra is a few hours from the areas being shut down, the news is very much on the minds of WSL organizers. By now, however, they’re getting used to switching gears at the last minute, and as of this reporting, they have a plan. It will be a closed event, contained within a bubble — which, as it turns out, has been the plan all along.
“Due to COVID-19 and out of an abundance of caution, the Corona Open Mexico presented by Quiksilver will be closed to the public and fans will not have access to the event site in Barra de la Cruz,” a WSL spokesperson told me. “…the health and safety of our athletes, staff, and the local community are of the utmost importance and the WSL has a robust set of procedures in place to keep everyone safe.”
Since the Coronavirus goalposts are ever-shifting, each WSL event has its own set of procedures. “These plans are unique to each tour stop,” the spokesperson continued. “In Mexico, [the plans] will include testing for athletes and essential staff, masks and strict physical distancing measures, temperature checks, and minimal personnel on-site.”
So while only time will tell what happens at the first WSL event in Barra de la Cruz since that storied one in 2006, the World Surf League hopes that by planning for any and all eventualities, the show will go on.