MEXICO DOES CHONO

A wave hunting mission through Mexico was on my mind months before the journey began, in fact years. An iconic road trip in a timeless destination, influenced by photo spreads in magazines, films and internet clips amalgamated to booking a ticket to the wave rich country.

Leading up to the trip, I received a verbal invite to road trip down the coast with 3 of Mexico’s finest surfers- Israel Preciado, Lola Mignot and Carlos Rocha with the destination being La Saladita, to coincide with the Mexi Log Fest, the world’s largest gathering traditional longboarders.

With a 15 hour drive ahead of us and no plans other than arriving before the contest date, it left us a few weeks to explore the West Coast… my dreams were about to become reality.

Preparing for the trip, I knew there were two crucial elements that would make or break my experience. The first being my quiver of surfboards - a Noserider, Rincon and Emma Pin were the unanimous contenders. The other was a solid 4wd to handle the unpredictable terrain, which my buddy Israel had organised in his hometown of Sayulita in Mainland Mexico. Israel is the brains behind the Mexi Log Fest, but he knows how to have fun so I knew the next few weeks were about to be some of the most memorable of my life!  

It had been quite a few years since flying into a non-English speaking country, but any cultural shock was doused the second I arrived in Sayulita. Unpacking my bags at Lola’s family hotel ‘Casa Love’ and walking downstairs into the busy laneway, Margaritas and nachos greeted me at a beachside bar with familiar faces making me feel so welcome. Straight out the front, a peeling right hander looked oh so appetising in the afternoon sunlight, I finished my beer, waxed up my Noserider and surfed perfect logging waves light headed with a full stomach… I was in Mexico and it felt great!

Sayulita is a domestic tourist mecca; everyone seems to be in party mode with smiles aplenty and people sun baking on the black sand beaches. After a full day of surfing the focus turns to the tacos stands and dance floors. Not too dissimilar to Byron Bay, Sayulita is filled with colourful vibes emitted by the locals and tourists alike, a sense of creativity and culture fills the air and the narrow laneways are filled with arts and crafts stalls. It feels like a comfortable vortex I could get used too, alas the trip has just started and new south swell was filling in fast… time to cruise.

Israel turned up to ‘Casa Love’ well before dawn, we pack the truck with contest gear and boards stacked sky high, we set off before sunrise in anticipation for the next stop. Knowing the conditions are favourable at nearly every reef and point along the way, the anticipation of the first surf and what we are going to find is bugging me nearly as much as the 300 or so speed bumps along the way! The landscape changes as much as the music genre’s in the Sayulita bars. Mainland Mexico is a lot more rugged than the coastal routes of Australia, for a surfer this means constantly scanning for potential setups.

Venturing south toward the next destination, the dusty cactus-lined roads are broken up between river passes, rainforest valleys and jagged mountains. My mind is on the edge of boredom without the sight of water but with every twist and turn my eyes would gaze into the approaching terrain, wondering if there is another empty lineup visible through those tree’s or down the steep cliff…usually, there was. Left-hand point breaks aplenty, empty beach break peaks and in parts a largely desolate coastal beach front where the possibilities for surf potential are endless.

My favourite red trunks, no leash and tropical wax were part of my daily surf routine. The Rincon was my go to board for the morning sessions- proving itself as a great all rounder. The long period swell can really affect the consistency and size of waves, coupled with a stiff offshore wind it was essential to have some weight in the board to trim through the unpredictable lineup. As the morning sun would start to rise over the brown, dusty mountain range, the wind would fade and shorter boards became the option. We were in no rush to hunt longboard waves, after all, we have the next week to find logging waves!

 


After a few weeks of solid south swell and multiple stops along the way, we headed for La Saladita. With vague reports about the swell hanging around, stacked lines to the horizon at every twist and turn along the highway confirmed that this swell was relentless… it kept rolling in at the 17 second mark which meant overhead cactus lined point breaks, heaving beach breaks and unpredictable offshore peaks would set the tone for the next week of waves. 

A heavy buildup of dust has developed on the truck, the boards stacked high on the roof racks are brown and finger drawn waves litter the rear windscreen… we pass through dozens of small towns with typically the same layout- a few shacks, a mechanical workshop, a dirt floor family restaurant and an obligatory military checkpoint... oh and a bottle shop of course! With regular stops for amber liquid and roadside tacos, I was surprised to be greeted with so many curious eyes from locals. After learning about the volatile turf wars between cartels, it becomes apparent that these communities are still on high alert - with each checkpoint the authorities question our motives… despite the heavy weaponry during these mandatory searches this actually creates a sense of protection. As surfers, we are generally so far removed from underworld activity and to drive past army tanks and military helicopters it might take a few more trips to become comfortable cruising the highway!