Fernando Stalla: What a Surfer Sounds Like

Fernando Stalla Mexican Pipeline Pan American Games Rogue SUP
Loose hands on the tiller. Photo by Angel Salinas
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Fernando Stalla is preparing for the Pan American Games 2019 in Lima this week, where he’ll represent Mexico as an elite SUP Racer.

He rides for Rogue SUP and has just finished the Tahiti SUP Tour 2019.  Last week, he met with the President of Mexico. But, those are just details.

First time I met Fernando, seven meters bombs dropped behind us as we sat for the Rules And Safety Meeting for the 2018 Tube Riding Contest: Puerto Escondido Mexico, a.k.a. Mexpipe.  One of the 10 heaviest waves in the world.

He didn’t look nervous at all.

I sure was and I wasn’t even going to get wet.

Fernando Stalla Mexico
Loose hands on the tiller. Photo by Angel Salinas

Fernando Stalla:  From Mex Pipe to PanAm Games

After two days of overhead Sup Surfing competition, Fernando and I stood in the Winner’s Lineup.

I stuffed the 1st place prize money in my back pocket, adjusted the poncho and breathed through my wrestling mask as people took pictures.

I viewed the world through 22 aperture and everything was in focus.

Fernando’s daughter was up there with her dad who’d won a very worthy 2nd Place.  She’s a pre-verbal toddler.  They read emotions and energy and can’t feign anything.

She didn’t like me on sight which makes a sound case for good judgment on her part.

I thought the mask was cool up until that point.

She baby-birded under Fernando’s wing, but kept a watchful on me.

Fernando Stalla Rogue SUP Mexican Pipleline Pan American Games
Toe Strength. Photo by Angel Salinas.

Who Can You Trust?  Joining the Peruvian Family in Mexico

A few minutes later, I was unmasked and we were all walking away from the stage and the sand and back to the street. Hard reality.

I had to find Barto Cerrutti, the 1st Place Winner and hand over his money. People had seen him that morning but nobody knew where he was, or lived, or his phone number.  (I later learned Barto ditched the presentation and decided to catch the last of the swell.)

And although I had only spoke with Barto for a few minutes the day before, when the announcer said, “Is there any family here that will represent Barto?”

“Right here,” is what I called out.  That’s how I joined the Peruvian Family in Puerto by answering the question, “Can you trust him with money?”

On the sand that morning I said to Fernando, “You know what story I see here… it’s a love story.”

Because that’s all I felt from his family. That’s all I saw of him, his wife and his daughter  across 3 days and 14 hours on the beach under strong sun conditions with toddler in tow. They were like three little Fonzies the whole time.

He nodded. I continued, “I think there are heroes and there are writers. I know which one I am.”

He asked, “Are you calling me a hero?”  And he cocked his head.

The dubious tone lumped me into the category of folk who may worship him for any number of a long list of worship-worthy attributes.

(I’m no one’s fan. That much I know.)

Last article I read on him about broke my heart.  It started with his “Long flowing hair.”  The word “cascading” may have been used and I threw up a little in my mouth.

The most notable quality about Fernando was to glimpse the culture of his family.  The love.

As we trudged through deep soft sand his daughter, in pink, was double-timing it in small steps before her momma picked her up.

I said, “I think we’re all heroes one way or another… you are to her anyway.”  And I nodded to his daughter.

Because it was easy to see and easy to say.

I needed a short answer as to why I believe we’re all heroes without a Joseph Campbell dialogue ensuing.  It’s not three minute walking conversation.

Fernando Stalla Mexican Pipeline Rogue SUP
Fernando Stalla, Mexico. Photo by Angel Salinas.

The Difference Between Heroes and Writers

We parted where the pavement turns to sand. A good place to leave it. Like we never existed outside of it. Just another day at the beach.

It took me a week or so to chisel down my answer for him and for myself:
“A hero is a person who inspires us. They create an energy that wasn’t there a moment ago, but now it is, like magic.”

I wrote to Fernando and told him.  Here is what he had to say:

Los héroes vienen de todos los tamaños y colores solo hay que abrir el corazón y dejar que nos rescaten de nuestras luchas internas.”

Translation:  “Heroes come in all sizes and colors. We just have to open our hearts and allow them to rescue us from our internal struggles.”

That’s what a surfer sounds like.

This is the first of the series on Fernando Stalla, Mexican SUP Surfer, Rogue Rider, on the road to the Olympics and currently competing in the Pan American Games 2019, Peru.



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John P. Murphy loves, writes, reads, sleeps, swims, runs, paints, builds dry stack stone walls and shapes wooden handplanes. He used to chase butterflies. He is author of three novels and the ongoing series, "Profiles from Puerto Escondido." You'll find him on IG @jpmwrites www.jpmwrites.com Additional articles by John P. Murphy include: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/avocados-and-superglue-a-day-in-the-life-of-kalani-lattanzi https://www.surfertoday.com/bodyboarding/roxel-perez-mom-wife-and-big-wave-bodyboarder https://www.surfertoday.com/bodyboarding/reflections-on-a-big-wave-surf-contest https://www.surfertoday.com/kiteboarding/riding-a-kite-at-puerto-escondido-in-double-overhead-surf https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/bodysurfing-with-mark-drewelow-at-puerto-escondido