Kurt Rist, WSL Ranked, Southhampton NY, Puerto Escondido.
I'd seen him surf Puerto Escondido.
He stands out in a line up of sharks and pros.
Disciplined, sure footed, solid;
he employs a stark economy of motion
(which is a style unto itself).
And then I saw him out of the water
at the Mexpipe Warriors 2020 Contest.
Off to the side. Quiet. Watching.
And then I caught him on a rainy afternoon
I saw four surfers try.
And none of them made the section.
And then Kurt took off.
He made two sections and kicked out.
Safe as a kitten.
It'd be six months later until I spoke with Kurt.
And it seemed like most of those days
he had a surf board under his arm
or on his head
and he was either coming
or going to the water.
(I know that because
he had to pass by my front porch.)
We chatted by phone and with the beaches closed, I asked:
"So what are you doing now to train?"
"Well," he said, "until now not much"
"Do you run? How do you stay so fit?"
"I just surf."
There's no replacement for the activity of surf.
Some come close,
others work complimentary aspects,
but only Surfing makes the Surfer.
Kurt's 34 but has about two decades of experience working in the surf industry.
He started officially working for his uncle
at Hamptons Surf Corp when he was 16.
And he never quit that job
or lost that job.
And there's something special about that.
It illustrates constancy
(and hints at loyalty).
So tell me about your first time surfing Zicatela:
"It was a solid double overhead, triple overhead."
That's a tricky bit about Playa Zicatela.
It'll be solid double overhead
and sure enough as the tide moves
Triple overhead monsters will appear.
(It's the same on overhead days.
A double overhead set is sure to arrive
if your out there for any period of time.)
"I didn't have a big enough board.
I was inexperienced.
And I went down, deep in Carmelitas."
"I recovered my board and I paddled hard
and I think I ditched.
I really don't like it when they crash right in front of you.
Yeah, I really don't like that."
We let that emotion settle, and we both take a breathe:
"Anyway... I came up and paddled for the next one
and Bamn... right in front of me again...
my leash broke on that one."
"And when I came up
I started sprint swimming for the next one
and right in front of me, Boom!
And I went deep man... yeah... I went deep.
And I come up and I can see everybody just watching"
It's an interesting perspective on both ends
(and I've been on both ends).
The distance is visually deceiving.
And the difference is one person is swimming for their life.
Last August I saw Mark Drewelow
on the wrong side of a Zicatela set.
He seemed so far away.
He was 15 feet below me and 10 yards ashore.
But it looked like miles and felt like a lifetime
And suddenly that space was filled with water
and he was gone.
Mark's a strong survival swimmer.
And when we came off the beach that day he said,
"You just get depleted so fast."
Kurt went on to describe sprint swimming
(swimming for your life while conserving
resources, keeping heart rate low and avoiding panic)
through what were the last four waves of an eight wave set.
Again, not unusual for Playa Zicatela.
And the interesting thing about those 7-8 wave sets
is that they seem to continue to back up from the shore.
Each one just a bit further outside
A little bit more of a Sprint Swim.
After speaking with Kurt Rist, Big Wave Surfer
and reliving his experience at Playa Zicatela.
And in consideration of the physical performance
that Playa Zicatela demands.
It would be ill advised to hold The Bill MIssett Bodysurf Classic
after everyone here has been out of the water for a month.
And no amount of training
can compare to being in the water
and feeling Playa Zicatela.
The Bill Missett Bodysurf Classic
held in Puerto Escondido,
Playa Zicatela is currently Postponed
for Safety Reasons.
The next fortuitous date for the contest:
The Vernal Equinox.
21 June 2020
For more on Kurt Rist and the East Coast New York Surf Scene
take a look at his Webpage:
And his IG @kurtrist
Kurt's Board of Choice:
Legitimos respetos to Jeff "Doc" Lausch, Artist. Shaper.
Coming soon... More with Kurt Rist, "Bored Talk and Horse Shite."
For a comprehensive look at Playa Zicatela
Miguel Diaz West Side tells the day to day visual story.
To have an idea of what May 2020
could look like.
Take a look at his IG or FB from
Even on a bad day at Puerto Escondido...
someone caught the wave of their life.
(and they come from everywhere).
Jaciel Santiago of NNM Project
is a Documentarian telling the story
of Puerto Escondido through his video work.