May 2008 marked my second surf trip to Mexico, and I felt prepared. I had just completed a Spanish course, was well exercised and conditioned, and knew the waves I would be contending with. But during my first surf of the trip, I was not prepared to chat in the line-up with two guys from California who lost their friend to a Great White two days prior.
We talked about the various breaks in the area and they told me why I should not surf Troncones. They were sharing waves with their friend there a few sessions ago, and now he was gone. I had no words to speak, only sullen silence until finally, I said I respected them for getting back in the ocean. I wasn’t sure if I would be brave enough to do the same. I told them I was sorry.
“He would have wanted us to finish out the trip. We’re surfing for him.” They were the first ones in the water and the last ones out.
We slept in cabanas on a remote beach that offered a stellar view of the left point. The calming repetition of the ocean’s pulse never left our heads. “Never seen a shark in these waters, but been chased out by a crocodile,” my friend Craig had told me ruminating in disbelief on the attack. “It’s what happens when the squid disappear from California”
Early one grey morning, I pulled myself out of bed to peek at the waves. The point reeled and only two other people were out. I remembered it was the California boys’ last morning and knew it had to be them in the water.
When I got to the outside, I realized we were still the only ones out. The waves were thundering in bigger than they had before.
“WHEWWWW!” I shrilled as I watched them take turns on the set waves. These waves were the biggest I’d surfed so far in my life, being easily double overhead. I kept holding back. I watched the boys in awe as they disappeared into the wave and then reappeared twenty seconds later way down the beach. At one point, I was in the perfect spot to ride the approaching mountain of water, and they both yelled for me. I knew I couldn’t think about it, no hesitation allowed. Just go for it.
“GOOO!” One of the boys cried.
“Yah, yah, yah, get it!” The other one screamed.
Their encouragement gave me the confidence I lacked. I paddled boldly in full force and threw my body into the wedge of the wave and made the drop. I flew down the seamless, peeling left. I carved up and down the face, racing faster than ever. I cut back to the pitching mouth of the wave and continued sailing down the line. The biggest rush of adrenaline I’d ever experienced pulsed through my veins as I paddled back out, yearning for another wave just like that. Even though I caught more waves that day, I knew they called me into the best wave I ever rode in Mexico. I was in love with Mexico and the endless walls of water produced by point breaks.
A few weeks after I returned to Florida, a newspaper reported three other shark attacks that occurred in the days after I left. Bruce Grimes, a surfer, artist, and board shaper from central Florida was one. He was attacked at Playa Linda, a beach where I had surfed alone for hours. For some unexplainable reason, scientists found that a cold water current flowed south from California bringing many giant squid. The great whites and tiger sharks were in hot pursuit of their prey, making mainland Mexico dining grounds for countless hefty predators.
I keep a bit of proof of what happened when the squid disappeared from California that spring of 2008. It’s a laminated newspaper story with Bruce’s photo. Proof, so when memories take flight in my mind and the colors and sounds of fact and fiction begin to mingle as they often do over time, that the facts are preserved. I hear the cobblestones calling, beckoning, luring me back.