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Archive for the ‘Surf’ Category

We spent a bit longer in Ticla than we originally anticipated, mostly because we just had no motivation to pack up camp. It turned out to be the right choice after all. Friday night, a couple of gringos with Colorado plates pulled into Ticla and camped next to us just after sunset. As they were walking by I heard them comment on the van and our California plates. I took this as an opportunity to chat them up, being Coloradoans and all. John, Nick and Kelly are all teachers at a school private school in Guadalajara. John and Nick, Denver-ites, have been in Mexico teaching for several years, Kelly for four months. They spend their weekends exploring the beaches and surf breaks of Mexico. We spent several meals, cervezas, and surf sessions kicking it with them and their friends Rodrigo and Lucy from Guadalajara.

Another friend of theirs, a gringo med student, arrived for some surf sessions on Saturday as well. Turns out that this guy was one of the people that got robbed while camping at Ticla. The stories of the armed robberies at Parador Turistica and Amalya’s are ubiquitos in San Diego, everyone has a friend of a friend or knows a guy that was there. But here was a real life participant, so we got the story first hand, under the ramada where it actually happened. There was probably more than one incident, so I can’t deny or confirm specific rumors but the gist of it is that yes, armed robberies (with knives and guns) took place, no one was injured, a Mexican was taken hostage for a couple of hours as a get-away driver, and they took as much money and high dollar items (ipods and the like) as they could. Other lower profile crimes have been occurring at Ticla as well, board and clothing theft, etc., but no one has been hurt. It’s been over a year since any of the major incidents have taken place and there are many rumors that the culprits have been identified and punished. Some say they were initiations for a cartel, local wannabe thugs from nearby Maruata or La Placita and that other rival cartels solved the problem; others think they were kids or crimes of desperation. Regardless it seemed totally surreal being camped there, feeling totally safe, leaving boards out on the racks at night, walking up to town for dinner and back well after dark.

Obviously, Nick, John and company didn’t have too many reservations about coming back to camp here and didn’t seem to overly cautious or scared. Nick it turns out spent a year in Fort Collins for eighth grade and went to Boltz, yes the same Boltz of the aforementioned mug that I have been carting around Mexico. He got a kick out of the Phoenix mug and recognized the names of a few of my brother’s friends. Weird.

Also weird are lizards falling from the sky. We purchased a hammock from one of the beach vendors, which, greatly contributed to our lack of motivation to continue down the road, that, and some fun surf sessions. We spent many hours lounging or reading under the palapa curled up or spread across the hammock. Despite her reluctance to making the initial purchase Natalie wasted away in the thing; until, reading one afternoon, a lizard fell from the roof of the palapa landing in the hammock with her. While she is not normally easily spooked or troubled by things like lizards, being a park ranger and all, this sent her launching from the hammock catapulting the poor lizard, who was probably just as surprised at his fall, across the sand.  I can report that both are unharmed.

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The state of Michoacan is one of the wildest, most undeveloped in all of Mexico. It has a stunning coastline of cliffs and rivermouths, fertile valleys and hillside agriculture. I imagine the drive along Mexico 200 through Michoacan to be amongst the best in the world. It’s incredibly hard to know where to stop and what to see. Luckily our new friends from Guadalajara pointed out a few stops on the map and several that weren’t. Incredibly beautiful beaches with Black Sea Turtle estuaries, ecotourism lodges, fishing villages, camping spots, tiny palapa and enramada restaurants line the curving, treacherous, no shouldered, untrimmed road. In roughly 100 kilometers we stopped at places called Ixtapilla, Palma Sola, La Manzanerilla, La Llirona, El Faro Bucerias, Maruata and we finally are camped for the night at Tizupan, about 50 kilometers north of Rio Nexpa. Some places had surf, others snorkeling, all of them were muey bonita.

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The last couple days we have been camped out at La Ticla, a few kilometers south of Colima along the Michoacan coast. A pretty fun little surf spot with great camping and bungalows/cabañas filled with Canadians (British Columbia), Italians, Canadians (British Columbia), Spider Man (Mexicans), Canadians (British Columbia), some expat Brits, Canadians (British Columbia), a few Texans from the South Padre part, Canadians (British Columbia), and us. Our campsite here is something to behold. It seems that we are manifest destiny campers, how much ever space you give us, we’ll utilize it all. We’ve been spots where we barely had room to put out the awning, totally fine. Currently we are parked along a 30 foot X 10 foot palapa with a concrete and stone patio, lights, electricity (2 prong ungrounded tho), board racks, and a few tables and chairs. We are using it all. It looks like we are camping with 10 people, not 2. We have a dining area, a kitchen area, boards on the racks, laundry strung from end to end. Most Mexicans live more modestly than we are currently camping.

The waves here have been super fun. The first day it never really glassed off so we jusr cooked dinner and kicked it. The next morning it was a couple of feet overhead and built throughout the day, it got a bit heavy when the offshores were up and the bigger of the sets definitely cleaned up the lineup. I was in the water for five to six hours and must have caught close to a hundred waves. This morning it was mellower and had backed off to shoulder to head high but was lined up for 50 to 100 yards. So fun, maybe I’ll drag the camera down around the corner for some surf pics a bit later.

The swell seems to be backing off through the weekend and we have no idea what is in store since we haven’t had internet in over a week. With the swell fading we’ll probably move on south.

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As you roll into Boca de Pascuales you see a couple of hotels, some small palapas, a couple of tiendas and some umbrellas on the beach. About a fifty yards into town, there is a break in the palapa restaurants and you see the surf. Saturday night was definitely the biggest we saw it. Roughly the end of the W-SW swell that we had hoped to pick up in Barra de Navidad. I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget seeing that first wave, some unknown surfer silhouette charging down the face of this gaping, wedging, monster of a wave; a solid 3-4 feet overhead and pounding. I’m certain that Pascuales is the heaviest wave I’ve ever surfed (seen) and supposedly this was the end of the swell. You should’ve have been here yesterday was the going mantra (for you non-surfers, this is always the going mantra as surfing stories and fish stories have a lot in common).

I paddled out the next morning into slightly smaller but still grande waves. All it does is barrel – over and over and over again. For me, there is no shoulder, there is no late take off. No whack on the lip. Just air drop off the peak and hold on until it either swallows me up or I get spit out, arms held high like I just got that perfect 10 you needed to win the world title. Morning number two was slightly smaller still (the pictures are from this day), but still not for the faint of heart. I was in the water at 7:00 and by 8:30 my shoulders were burning but not as much as my stoke. I had managed my way into a couple of meaty ones and lucked into a full cover-up backside barrel. Needing a bit of rest I paddled out the back to recover a bit. A huge roller came right at me, not wanting to look the kook that I am, I turned and jammed my tail into the face, two strokes and to my feet as fast as I could manage, apparently not quite fast enough. I made the drop but the barrel was already cranking over. It picked me up spun me over the falls and then just for fun scooped me a second time.

Wha???? No leash?

The thing about Pascuales is that it is super shallow, maybe only 18 inches in some spots. The wave comes from deep water and smacks the shallow sand bar pitching the lip of the wave over the front on just about any swell from any direction. I must have looked a bit stunned by the time I made it back to the peak. A local asked if I was ok and then a Mexican paddled over and said “poco lento” (a little slow) while holding his thumb and index finger about two centimeters apart. “Are you sure” I asked rhetorically in English, turned and stroked into the next wave that came my way, a smaller left… the other thing about Pascuales is that the backwash off the beach can double up the waves or, worse, pitch a launch ramp about half way down the take-off that sends you uncontrollably hurtling through the air while the face of the wave chases you down for some more punishment.

That was the last wave of the day for me. Natalie and I might walk down the beach in search of a less pitchy wave that we can surf together. We’ll kick it here another day or two and then head south to softer, gentler, kinder, breaks when the next “real” swell fills in.

For the whole set of surf pics check out the flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22504035@N04/sets/72157625420530076/

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We had received some advice to check in at Edgar’s hotel and camp there upon arrival to Pascuales. We drove in and checked it out but it wasn’t exactly set up for the van, lots of tent campers, a board shaper putting halved boards back together, and a fun looking scene, but definitely not the best van camping. We wandered down the road stopping to ask about good spots to camp. One set of surfers suggested a beach palapa where we could plug in to the adjacent hotel for some power. While a great spot, and right in front of the break, the two tons of trash piled under the palapa wasn’t exactly inviting. We then ran into a local gringo named Alan. Alan was about as stoned as could be and still be coherently walking in a straight line and giving advice and directions. He took a look at our rig, our most common conversation starter and suggested that New Zealand Dave had a good spot for us to park around back. “Just head down the road, it’ll turn to sand and then it is the only round palapa in the row.” At the time the directions seemed a little Mexican style, no real turns or landmarks, just “go that way and you’ll figure it out.” Pascuales is a pretty small place though and those directions turned out to be pretty much spot on. We pulled up and Dave was sitting out on his front bench watching the waves roll in as we found to be his usual.

We chatted for a bit and showed him our Raglan sticker on the van, he showed us around to the back where we pulled in the gate and into our accommodations for the next couple days. Kiwi Dave’s was exactly the sort of place I had hoped we’d be staying in all along. A couple of toilets, a shower, a small kitchen with propane burners, hammocks and a ping pong table. Throw in a good book swap library and what more could you want. Dave and his brother Pete have a little plot, fenced off and in process of being officially titled. A bit of a surfer’s paradise.

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Was that last post so amazing that you have decided your next visit to mainland Mex is to Sayulita? Well, if so, I highly recommend the Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows. Run by an old German guy and his Mexican wife the spot takes tent campers and  RVers (full hook ups) and if you’d rather a room; it has cabanas, full hotel rooms, awesome common areas with outdoor showers, ping pong, book exchange, wifi, the works; all right on the beach for super reasonable rates considering the costs elsewhere.

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Que Viven en Sayulita

I haven’t been blogging lately, mostly because we’ve been having too much damn fun. The van is still having the occasional bouts of electrical gremlin-itis but its sufficiently fixed to attack and get rad.

We were, theoretically, waiting in Sayulita before heading south due to the impending arrival of our good buddy Jason. Unfortunately, due to situations out of his control, he had to bail. No worries though, we’ve had a fabulous time here. We have been kicking it with two rather comical gringos from the states, spending our days surfing, 4x4ing, scarfing down the local fare and consuming semi-copious amounts of margaritas.

Jeff, giving the Vanna treatment to the booty.

We ran into Jeff the first day in Sayulita. An anesthesiologist from Durango by way of Aspen, Boulder, and points further removed from Colorado, Jeff was kicking it solo style for a few days so we banded together for some juvenile hilarity. His compañero George, also a Dr. by way of Aspen, who now lives on Kirkwood about 2000 feet down Laurel Canyon from my brother and his family, arrived a day or so later. We had intended to meet him upon his arrival to town ~3:00-ish, but in true latin american time we arrived somewhere around 6:00.

They were incredibly friendly, gregarious, moronic, sophomoric and amazing traveling compatriots. Even after Natalie winged an overhand, full Tecate, at point blank range into Jeff’s grill, causing a substantial amount of bleeding and icing, they still wanted to be friends. Jeff is considering flying back to Zihuatanejo or Manzanillo and going for round 2 with us. I’m sure will catch some slopes or such with him at a later date regardless. George will fully be added into the LA friend rotation and tasty waves with him in SoCal is a definite.

The town break in Sayulita was rumored to have been ruined by the recent floods. Sometime in the past couple months the river flooded, taking out the bridge and main sewer line in town and depositing silt and whatever else got in its way smack in the middle of the wave. The sewer situation is now mostly rectified but the wave has looked pretty meager. So instead, we’ve been packing up the van and driving across the peninsula to the Punta Mita side. It can be a little challenging to find the breaks but they have been pretty fun sessions.

George is totally stoked on my board color choices

A couple of days ago we took a panga out to the point. Unfortunately the Punta Mita point has been developed by private real estate developers, their greed and exclusivity has resulted in limited access to one of the better breaks. So now you have to pay MX$600 for a boat ride to the break. It was well worth it though. The first set we saw fired through the lineup and raced a solid 300 meters. Natalie, riding the Pink Taco II, pulled into one of the bigger set waves of the day, a solid overhead-plus ripper that garnered some cheers from the locals.

Yesterday morning I had decided to Skype into a conference call back in San Diego so Natalie, Jeff and George packed up their rented econobox, stacked the boards to the roof and ventured off to Punta Mita again. The swell is picking up but the general consensus was that it wouldn’t effectively fill in to Nayarit, wrong on several accounts. Prior to my conference call (which I was an hour late for) I paddled out into what looked like head high racers. As the tide shifted and the swell filled in, I realized the rumors of the Sayulita wave’s decline have been greatly exaggerated. Instead of being ruined, the extra sand and silt had transformed the left and the right into a North Shore style, spitting barrel that dumps right into the sand, a punishing shore break, but totally rip-able. It took me a solid 45 minutes to figure out the take off and catch my first one. But after I realized there would be no shoulder take off and the preferred  modus operandi was say fuck-all and air drop into the pit and race the line around the corner so as not to be deposited into the concrete strewn sand, I surfed it alone for at least a half an hour. I must have made it look good because several more boards hit the water pretty quick after I got it figured. Three more waves and I let them have it,

totally stoked. The next sessions were filled with fully frothing locals, apparently it hasn’t been good here in FIVE MONTHS!!! Unfortunately it appears to be totally fickle and when the tide came up again it wasn’t nearly the same size or shape (still fun tho!). The next morning the wave was rideable but not nearly the same. I wish I would have snapped photos when it was good but we were too concerned with frolicking.

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