Jamie Mitchell was a bit nervous about having the fourth heat of the day. With the 9:00 a.m. start to the opening round of the Puerto Escondido Challenge, and 75-minute long heats to boot, Mitchell and his fellow Heat 4 competitors didn't hit the water until 12:45 p.m. which, in Puerto time, is playing with fire. The ferocious Mexican wave is famous for blowing out early.
Fortunately for Mitchell, conditions held. In fact, Puerto Escondido was in camera-ready mode the moment he hit the water. "The tide was dropping, the winds stayed glassy and the swell was peaking," Mitchell explained. "I think we scored the best conditions of the day."
The scores reflected that, too. Greg Long, who won the first heat of the day with a 20.01 total, would have finished in 5th place had he earned that score in Mitchell's heat. Scores climbed all day long as the swell filled in.
Mitchell, who ended with the day's highest total of 29.03, opened with a long righthand cavern through which he traveled a good distance. He emerged after making it through a giant section, but his board tracked up the face upon exit, and he was ejected before he could come out clean.
Now, in most events an incomplete ride is costly. The punishment by judges is brutal. But in big-wave events "bravado" is part of the scoring criteria, so the tables are completely turned. In fact, Mitchell was awarded solid points for every foot he traveled in that giant tube.
It's a good thing too, because making it out of massive Puerto pits was not easy today. Several competitors advanced thanks to sheer guts, pulling into massive black holes knowing full well that the odds of escape were non-existent.
Puerto Escondido is a punishing wave, as Makuakai Rothman knows all too well. The Hawaiian had to take a little nap on the beach midway through his heat after getting slammed in the impact zone which, by the way, is often the larger penalty for not making it out of the tube. And while water security is keeping a close eye on competitors and ready to spring into action with rescue sleds, even they can't get them out of trouble immediately when sets are pounding them.
Rothman, much to the crowd's delight, paddled back out and came back firing with some solid scores and a commanding heat win over Pedro Calado, Carlos Burle and local charger Angelo Lozano.
"This is my second time to Mexico and the waves are really fun," said Rothman. "The local boys charge."
They do indeed. All six of the Mexican surfers put in solid performances today, earning huge cheers from the crowd. In the end, Rogercin Ramirez and Jimel Corzo earned trips to the Semifinals.
Corzo pushed Mitchell to the limit too. His 24.3 total was the fourth-highest of the entire day, and he looks very dangerous heading into the next round.
While Greg Long and Will Skudin were the other impressive Round One heat winners, Mitchell stole the show Friday. After earning a 9.03 for his oh-so-close righthand tube, he delighted the judges and fans with an incredible backside barrel that included some tricky navigating to get out of. The ride earned him a perfect 10.0 from every judge, and secured him the day's most impressive win.
"It was an historic day," Mitchell said. "Incredible surf and incredible barrels."
SF1 Greg Long, Albee Layer, Kai Lenny, Will Skudin, Grant Baker, Rogercin Ramirez
SF2 Makuakai Rothman, Pedro Calado, Carlos Burle, Jamie Mitchell, Jimel Corzo, Rusty Long
NEXT CALL: June 25, 2016, 7:30 a.m. CDT