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Strike mission to Puerto: Big wave surfer Scotty Bredesen credits Joe Bark with ‘having my back’

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Scotty Bredesen in a do-or-die position at Puerto Escondido. Photo by Paco Calleta

by Ed Solt

Scotty Bredesen has the waterman lifestyle on lockdown. He puts in the hours wearing the red trunks of an LA County Lifeguard all summer long to save up for his big wave exploits. This season, his yearly winter trip was to Puerto Escondido, Mexico’s premier big wave break.

“It was a very unspectacular summer season for giant south swell,” said Bredesen, a Peninsula native in his 11th season as an LA County Lifeguard.

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Bredesen, 29, comes from a South Bay surfing family. His father, Chris Sr., is a legendary surfer, a retired LA County Lifeguard, member of the Haggertys Surf Club and Hap Jacobs Surf Team and in the ‘60s surfed for Greg Noll. His older brother, Chris Jr., was seen all through the pages of the now defunct Longboard Magazine during the magazine’s heyday 15 years ago with his progressive longboarding style. Chris Jr. is also on the Hap Jacobs Surf Team and a LA County Lifeguard.

Scotty traces his big wave obsession back to when he was a nine year old Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard.

“JG’s laid the foundation for my life. It’s the reason I became a LA County Lifeguard. Becoming a lifeguard shaped me into being a complete waterman,” he said. “I grew up looking up to my dad and Uncle Wally Millican. I see myself emulating lifeguard captain Tom Seth when I’m older, having a loving family and being in shape.”

Bredesen’s Puerto Escondido sessions began six years ago. He groveled at the bottom of the Puerto Escondido hierarchy, scavenging for leftovers and pulling into deadly closeouts to earn respect. Bredesen flew into Puerto armed with a quiver of surfboards, including his go-to 9-foot-1 ”gunrunner,” shaped by fellow Peninsulan Joe Bark. Bredesen credits Bark’s worldwide, big wave proven shape with giving him confidence in hefty conditions.

“Your surfboard is the last thing you want to worry about in big surf,” Bredesen said. “Joe’s one of the best glassers and shapers in the world. I always see his boards at the top big wave breaks. He’s always believed in me and had my back. He’s showed me a new love for the ocean.”

Bredesen setting up for a “kegging” barrel. Photo by Buho Jarquin

This year’s Puerto Escondido swell peaked on Friday, September 13.

“Puerto was solid and pretty walled up, but there was some diamonds in the rough,” Bredesen told  Surfline.com. “Puerto is my favorite place in the world — it’s very humbling and really tests your ability as a surfer and waterman.”

Puerto’s only other XXL day happened during the World Surf League’s Puerto Escondido Challenge, the first event of the Big Wave Tour (BWT). The contest limited surfing to BWT contestants, who included Palos Verdes’ Nic Vaughan and Hermosa Beach’s Trevor Carlson.

“I look up to guys on the BWT, like Nic Vaughan and Jamie Mitchell, who both have been so supportive and encouraging. To surf on the BWT is one of my goals, but is not why I surf big waves,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. It’s all about the experience, the love of surfing. I want to earn my spot on the BWT outright and go about it the right way by charging hard and being humble. I want everyone involved to believe that I deserve it and leave no doubt in anyone’s mind.”

There was actually someone deeper than Bredesen who couldn’t get into this left. Bredesen quickly dropped into late. Bredesen described this more as a “pocket ride.” Photo by Buho Jarquin

Vaughan believes Bredesen is primed and ready to take on the big wave scene.

“Scotty and I have been great friends and charging partners together for the last few years, scoring some of the most memorable and adrenaline-provoking surf sessions of both of our lives,” Vaughan said. “Our travels have taken us up and down the North American West Coast, to big Mavericks as well as frigid 20-foot, open ocean shark-inhabited secret spots; to the Hawaiian Islands, scoring triple overhead Sunset with no one around and that same afternoon, back to Pipeline bombs; and down to the heavy beachbreaks of Mainland Mexico, Pascuale’s and Puerto Escondido, where we’ve shared a number of “harbor paddle-out” sized days.”

A triple overhead screamer. Photo by Buho Jarquin

“Scotty is a hard charging stud with such a positive outlook on life,” Vaughan said. “He’s someone who pushes me, whether it’s during our training sessions or out on the biggest days of the year. I’m stoked to call him my friend.”

Last September’s Friday the 13th session was described by Puerto Escondido locals as one of the best evening sessions ever. After a morning’s surf-a-thon, Bredesen went out for his second session.

“For an hour it went perfectly off shore and some amazing waves were on tap,” he said. “The big swell broke up the bottom and made the sand good.”

Bredesen said he scored some great waves but still didn’t get that “10” Puerto wave that he’s dreamed about.

“I’m seeking the biggest tube of my life. I want to be as deep as possible and to come out of the barrel as it is spitting its guts out so hard it stings my eyes and face. The adrenaline is second to none — it’s the best feeling on earth,” he said. “The chase of my perfect wave is why I do it. One day, I will finally catch it.” PEN

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