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SHANNON SWITZER

CHANGES

Liz may not have gotten as deep inside the big barrels as she wished, but she got a lot of other great rides such as this one.

about how much I'd changed since sailing away from San Diego on January 30. I was more confident, more content, and emotionally more stable. I thought about all the people who had helped me realize my dream — Barry, Marty, my parents, and perfect strangers who had seen the determination and lust in my eyes. I thought about how hard I'd worked and how exhausted I'd been. But I also thought about my father having worked so hard for the last 15 years, still having not achieved his dream, which is to improve the way cancer patients are treated. I began to feel some guilt at having been able to realize my dream while others hadn't yet been able to realize theirs. I wanted everyone to be able to feel the joy that I was feeling. Then what

SHANNON SWITZER

Surfers travel from all over the world to ride Puerto Escondido tubes such as this one. Mainland Puerto Escondido, not the one in Baja.

looked like torpedos outlined in the phosphoresence rocketed toward Swell's bow from the starboard quarter, shattering my moment of introspection. Dolphins! They were my magical company for half an hour, washing away the guilt that had started to come over me. Fifty-two hours out of Zihua, we tidied up the boat to look smart when pulling into Puerto Escondido. This is really two little towns divided by a pile of surf-beaten rocks. Regular tourists from all over the world come to enjoy the calm waters of one side of the bay, while surfers from all over the world come to challenge themselves in the violent surf on the other side of the bay. The 'Mexican Pipeline' is not for novices or the faint of heart, for when the thick lip of the wave pitches forward onto the flats, riders can be smashed into the sand, their boards broken in half, their confidence shattered. I'd surfed Puerto Escondido before, and with the knowledge of an approaching swell, was both exãted and frightened. After a childlike afternoon of playing in the street with a group of youngsters, and then hosting an ice cream party for them, everything was different the next morning. I was on a mission to ride the barrels of the Mexican Pipeline. For after surfing for 10 years, riding inside of barrels was one element of the sport that I had yet to master. I would joke with my surf buddies that I was on the 'Dodgers' — the 'Barrel Dodgers'. That's because I would somehow always find myself in the wrong part of the wave to get inside the tube. So for some time I'd been hellbent on the idea of retiring my dodger jersey, and Puerto Escondido was the place to do it. Such an attempt was not without risks, as I knew that I could get caught up in the lip of a monster, feather

helplessly for a few seconds, and be subjected to some severe punishment. For example, my friend Nicole and I always made fun of the word 'undertow', believing it to be the comical name for what was really just a rip current. But after a couple of days at Puerto Escondido, I was a believer in undertow. For when I tried to dive beneath a 10-foot wall of whitewater — as I normally would on my way to the beach — I would end up in currents that left me feeling as though I were an ant that had fallen into a jacuzzi. A quicker and safer way to get ashore turned out to be jumping up into the wall of whitewater and letting it 'rag doll' me to shore. Puerto Escondido turned out to be the place where Shannon, just 22, found her surfing niche. She's such a strong swimmer that despite only two years of surfing, she felt relaxed in the huge waves. One big afternoon, Pablo lent her his 7'6" pintail rhino chaser. I'd been biting my nails off in the internet café, and emerged into the bright mid-afternoon sun to see

Profile for Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Latitude 38 August 2006  

The August 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.

Latitude 38 August 2006  

The August 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.