Is Puerto Escondido In Danger Of Disappearing? - Stab Mag

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"It's not as good as it used to be. We have swells where it's perfect, but these days, those sessions don't happen very often." Photo by Edwin Morales

Is Puerto Escondido In Danger Of Disappearing?

New film ‘Place Of Thorns’ details how unchecked development is pushing Mexican Pipeline to the brink.

Words by Jack O'Neill Paterson
Reading Time: 2 minutes

If we are able to extract one truth from the plight of human growth, it’s that the modification of the natural world will always have a larger impact than what you’re able to see on the job site.

A year into the pandemic, when the world shut up shop, Puerto Escondido remained open to tourists, and was subsequently lit up on social media as the world’s last refuge for freedom. Libertine Westerners descended upon the town en masse. 

Like many countries across the world, Mexico was going through a COVID-induced economic crisis, so when struggling Puerto locals were offered a quick buck in exchange for their land, they had no choice but to sell to opportunistic buyers. The rich ran through it, mass development ensued, and now the world’s heaviest beach break is beset with sewage and flanked by opulent development.

“It used to be a shipping port for coffee,” Says cinematographer, ex-pro booger, and Puerto Escondido local Edwin Morales. “Unfortunately, there was no actual infrastructure plan for the town to grow this big.”

The story of Puerto Escondido, as explained in the new film “Place of Thorns” by Now Now Media and Monster Energy, is a tale all-too familiar in tropical zones across the world. Money and rapid-growth, in the ways that they so often do, tumble together into a confusing ethical mess. 

“We have all these new changes,” says Coco Nogales. “But it’s still magic and I have a lot of love and gratitude for everyone from here. Thanks to Puerto I am the person I am today.”

In this case, there’s more at stake here than economic instability and untamed human faeces. The large-scale clearing of sand dune vegetation and the construction of a poorly thought-out fishing jetty at the north end of the beach have resulted in the mass buildup of sand on Playa Zicatela, which has significantly decreased the quality of one of the world’s most infamous waves.  

Mexican Pipe is now even more of a glorified shorebreak, and has become substantially heavier in the years since COVID, which, considering the wave’s gory history and the town’s lack of medical resources, is a terrifying prospect. 

Just last year, South African big wave-surfer Matt Bromley was struck in the head by his 9’6” gun after stroking into a 15ft set. The wave clamped and Matt surfaced with a chunk of his skull missing. Matt somehow survived, but the incident is a reminder that the wave is best suited for those with a blazing contempt for their own mortality.

The film features insights from Shane Dorian and Greg Long — and is narrated by AI Morgan Freeman. With a running time of nearly 40 mins, It’s part historical documentary, part surf film, and a full-blown call to action. 

To join the fight to save Puerto, click here.

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