Early on the morning of March 3, 2015, Mark Healey found himself standing in the sand at Puerto Escondido. He had a neon yellow gun under his arm and his inflation vest was snug against his chest. An offshore breeze tickled the back of his neck, and the air was cool, but warming quickly. Staring out at the ocean, Healey knew his gamble had paid off: the waves that poured into the Mexican Pipeline were huge.
He had just surfed a contest in Chile, and after watching the forecast while he was there, booked a ticket directly to Mexico — but he almost didn’t go to Puerto. He had two tickets booked for the same time, one to Pascuales and one to Puerto Escondido, because he thought the swell might simply close out Puerto Escondido. He was all set to surf Pascuales, but something tugged at his brain to go another direction. “At the last minute, deep down,” he told The Inertia a few days afterwards, “I knew I had to go to Puerto.”
On that morning, Healey took his time getting out into the lineup. He saw the waves he wanted, but most of the waves coming through were, as he suspected, closing out or moving too fast to paddle into. After about 20 minutes of paddling out from the harbor, a wave appeared.
“From my experiences there in the past,” he said, “I know you really have to hold that line. The waves were so big they would feather like they were going to break for about two hundred yards, so from where I had to sit to actually catch a wave, it would look like I was going to get caught inside. I knew all that and had already made my mind up I was going to get one. Next thing I knew I was putting my head down and paddling my ass off.”
As it turned out, he was paddling his ass off to get into one of — if not the — biggest waves ever surfed at Puerto Escondido. “Your instinct on big paddle waves like that is to get down the line because it’s moving around forty miles an hour,” he remembered, “but you have to give the wave time to shape up, see what it’s going to do, and pick your line based on that. Well, it didn’t barrel. At that point, I realized the wall was too long for me to make so I got up high and tight and just dove under the lip. I got absolutely obliterated. I barely got back up for a breath before taking the next one on the head. And those next three waves were even bigger. I eventually took a handful more on the head and luckily that just deposited me on the beach. It was a proper thrashing.”
Editor’s Note: Read Mark Healey’s full account of the wave here.
Learn to push yourself, keep calm, and manage fear in heavy surf with Mark Healey’s Guide to Heavy Water.