It’s been a weird season thus far in Puerto Escondido. The only major swell hit a month ago and was accompanied by wonky winds, and since then it’s been sort of touch and go. By any other beach’s scale there have been waves, but Puerto is Puerto, the biggest beachbreak on the planet and one of the only three waves to feature on the Big Wave Tour this year.
In other words, overhead simply isn’t gonna cut it at Zicatela. If it isn’t XL, then it might as well not be breaking. Throw in an ongoing pattern of weird winds and a recent bout of rainstorms, and it hasn’t exactly been business as normal at the Mexican Pipeline.
But things went another level weird this week when crocodiles started popping up in the lineup. You know, Crocodylus acutus, the most widespread of the crocodile species in the Americas, the world’s greatest hunter, and the haunter of nightmares for Costa Rican surfers. A pair of crocs (one of them 10 feet in length) was seen patrolling the lineup right in front of the lifeguard tower at Zicatela this week, and another big one was caught down at La Punta, the lefthand point a kilometer to the south. Puerto is better known for its waves than its reptiles, but with pics popping up on Instagram and crew getting chased out of the water by prehistoric critters, we are left to wonder just where the heck these things are coming from.
As it turns out, saltwater crocs have always been present in southern Mexico. They are actually found on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, as well as in the Caribbean islands and Central America, and as far down as Peru and Venezuela. Maybe we’ve just failed to notice them at Puerto because we were more worried about the beasts detonating on the sandbar just offshore. Or maybe the crocs are just really good at hiding. We got in touch with local marine biologist Ana Banda to see if she could shed more light on these newly noticed local enforcers.
“The C. Acutus has always been here,” said Banda, “but the population appears to be increasing. We as surfers have invaded their space, and they are a somewhat territorial animal. During the rainy season, the lagoons break through and empty into the ocean, and the currents allow them to make their way to the ocean and into the lineup.”
So crocs at Puerto are nothing new, but are they something to be concerned about? While attacks have been known to happen on the Mexican coast, they are relatively rare, and our research has failed to uncover any attacks on surfers. A swimmer was chased by a croc in 2014 on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, but as far as we can tell there haven’t been any attacks on ocean-going people around Puerto, (however, further south in Costa Rica croc attacks have been known to occur). And maybe that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, 20ft kegs exploding on shallow sandbars can drill crocodiles just as easily as they can drill surfers.
So, while you might want to exercise caution when surfing Puerto over the next couple of months, and keep your eye out for oversized reptiles, you should probably save most of your worry for sneaker sets and killer rips. Even without crocodiles in the lineup, Puerto has always been Mexico’s most dangerous surf spot.
Cover shot by Edwin Morales.