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Friday, July 18, 2014

SUPER SESSION July 18, 1999, La Bocana, El Salvador: My Best Barrel EVER

It was fifteen years ago exactly today that I got the best barrel of my life.

Summer of 1999 was a special one for me.  I'd gotten a job the preceding Christmas delivering pizzas, which was a huge and very welcome change from the dread and monotony of busing tables.  I enjoyed going to work.  I would get in the early 90's Nissan pizza truck and, thanks to my portable tape player (which I hid under the seat so I wouldn't get in trouble), I would rock out on my way to Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and throughout Carmel Valley.  It barely felt like work, and I was making and saving wads of cash.

When MiraCosta let out I had made arrangements to get all of my shifts temporarily covered (this way I wouldn't have to earn them back upon returning) and hightailed it to El Salvador.  I had booked a plane ticket leaving May 20th and returning August 12th, about twelve weeks. I brought with me a cool Sunset five-fin yellow board with red rails.  I had been surfing for less than two years at this point, and I could barely go backside.

Before I'd left, I reached out to the best-ranked El Salvador surfing site online.  I emailed the site's admin and said we should surf.  I met him and he seemed nice enough.  He had graduated from Liceo Frances (the French school) while I had gone to Escuela Americana.  What put me off about Condorito almost immediately was his extremely perverted way of speaking, the way he viewed women and treated them like they were there to serve him.  This is unfortunately a common attitude amongst middle-/upper-class people down there.

His unearned cockiness with the opposite sex was offset by something that floored me.  On the way back to the city the first time, a Sunday night, I sat quietly in the car while he drank in the weekly sermon.

When he met Pando they became fast friends and I was immediately ignored by Condorito and to a lesser extent, Pando.

I was not a victim in this "friendship".  On Sundays when Jaime, my former stepfather was at the beach house where Pando and co worked, he and I would take off and surf elsewhere.  I first surfed Kilometro 59 with him and caught my first real (VERY real) right there.

In the early afternoon of July 18, we drove to La Bocana.  I remember there were maybe eight heads out and a Gringo was surfing well.  In what is still my closest call, I duckdived my board, a 6'2" and a little thick (keep in mind I weighed MAYBE 130 at the time) as deep as I could as he started pumping on a wave.  As my foot began to descend into the duckdive, I felt the tiniest of nicks as his fin j u s t tapped the skin between the pad of my big toe and my left foot.  PHEW!

Later in the session, I saw a left coming and I went for it.  It wasn't huge, maybe head-high.  I paddled and struggled to get into it.  As I was crouching down on my front foot I was enveloped in the barrel, completely by accident.  The contrast between full tropical sun and sudden shade was wild. I saw Condorito paddle over the wave, shaking his head in disbelief and smirking.  I was really high in it and decided I needed to take a lower line.  I put some pressure on my heels and the extra speed brought me closer to the lipline and exultation.

As I exited the barrel, the lip hit me forcefully, but at such an angle that it wasn't catastrophic.  I watched as the wave joined with the right and began to closeout and I kicked my board out in front of me.  When I surfaced I let out a primal scream of sheer ecstacy, one that I have yet to apex.

We drove back to Jaime's house and on that particular night, I wasn't bothered by the hypocrisy of Condorito's personality juxtaposed against the raving evangelist crackling though the tinny speakers of his microbus.

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