Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back from Mexico

Well, more than 3000 miles later, we have returned.

All in all, it was a mixed bag. A whole lot of the unexpected... Like a hurricane, right in the middle of hurricane season.

As a relaxing vacation it was great. As a road trip it was tedious and aggravating at times. As a surf trip it left a whole lot to be desired.

First the vacation:

We stayed at my parents bungalo right on the beach for most nights we were there, with the exception of one when we (unnecessarily) holed up at the main house to wait out the hurricane, and two nights when we (very necessarily) stayed in Vallarta in the same all-inclusive hotel where we had our honeymoon.

That was pretty nice.

As for the road trip, well... We've been very lucky on our previous trips, I guess, and we were due for some hassles. They started about 15 minutes into mexico when the cop pulled us over to see how much he could shake us down for, "gonna have to impound your car till morning"... Then continued as we were searched at nearly every single military checkpoint, and we subject to attempted screwings at a number of Pemex stations. All typical mexico travel hassles, but I think that since we were traveling during the "off" season for tourism, we were particularly obvious targets with our texas plates.

And the surf, ah the surf...

I caught waves at a couple of places I've never surfed before, both within 15 minutes of home. That was neat. Other than that, it was pretty poor, surf-wise. The old standbys and always-breaking spots were utterly failing to work for me on this trip. Even Ticla and Sayulita were not working. Countless hours and liters of gas trying to track down some waves.

The first spot I surfed was at the opposite end of the beach from La Manzanilla. I could literally see my parents house from the lineup. In all my years of living there, and all the trips I've made over there to get thumped by the closeouts, I've never seen a surfable peak happening. For some reason though, we decided to roll in there on the day before the hurricane just to check it out. Only got one photo before it started to rain again. Fun little session.

Next one was the day after the hurricane. Johnny said we should go check out this spot just south that I'd never surfed before. It takes a big swell to make it work, like at least three meters, and I caught it just barely breaking. It was an off-road adventure requiring my best 4X4 skills, and the rain had washed away part of the road, so we had to hike the last 30 minutes in. It was worth it though. It wasn't breaking all the way through, the swell wasn't quite big enough, but on the sets I was getting a fun little peak and room for a few turns before it totally mushed out. The best part was I had it totally to myself, and got to appreciate the amazing beauty and color of this location as the sun would burst through the clouds from time to time. At one point a huge (HUGE!) sea turtle surfaced about three meters away from me and I nearly shit myself as my brain tried to process what I had seen. It was anything but perfect, however this was the best session of the whole trip, and it was glorious. The angle of the photos from the vantage point of the cliff make it look flatter and smaller than it was, but it was a bit mushy any way you look at it. A ton o' fun, just the same.

And yes, I did kook-out, on at least one occasion.

Lastly was a certain break in Colima known for great barrels... That, and breaking boards and bodies. It doesn't need to be named because if you can ride it, you probably already know about it... And if, like me, you have no business being out there, then you don't need to know where it is.

This place scared the everloving shit out of me.

We first stopped there on a whim after our three-hour road trip to a normally VERY consistent (and very popular) rivermouth in Michoacan proved to be a total bust thanks to some chop and a post-hurricane wide-open flowing river. Since it is well known that this spot runs bigger than anywhere else on the same swell thanks to an undersea trench, I thought it might be worth hitting up for the evening glassoff.

It never did glass-off, but I paddled out anyway, since I was here. After a long (LONG) paddle, I made it almost all the way out. Then I got drilled by a set. So hard that it peeled the velcro back on my leash and took my board to the beach for me. Had to swim back in, sans board.

Got back to the beach and scooped up my board and my bruised pride, walked up to where my wife was sitting and said, "well that was fun, can we go now?"

No, she said, I needed to get back on that horse.

So I paddled back out. This time it was easier. The sets were still huge, the currents were INSANE, and my butt was puckering. Even with the wind onshore, and the lip a bit crumbly, it is a pretty heavy wave. Finally, after a good twenty minutes of sheer survival mode, I found my small "Get me the fuck out of here" wave, and rode that sucker to the beach. I won't say I "rode" this spot, but at least I caught a wave there.

As if that weren't enough...

Johnny said I needed to see this place when the conditions were clean, so as to appreciate it better, and maybe even catch a barrel before I left mexico. So we made the dawn patrol trip back out there on the day before I left. Everywhere else up the coast the sets were coming in at shoulder-high, but here it was DOH if it was an inch. Didn't look that big from the beach, though. The smaller waves looked almost managable, so I followed Juan in and started making the paddle. Probably should have known better.

I was sure I had made it out when the clean-up set came. With a two-foot thick lip zeroing in on my head, I dove as deep as I could. Not deep enough though. The impact blew my hands off the rails and wrenched my board away. As I churned, I waited for that familiar pull on my ankle to lead me back to the surface. It never came. I finally popped up and took stock. My leash had parted right at the board, and I was treading water in the impact zone. The rest of the set was coming. I had to make the sickening decision to swim out further to as not to be caught directly under one of these monsters. I made it under the next wave, but was pulled towards shore enough to where I was right in the wrong spot for the following wave.

That moment, that wave, was the most scared I have ever been while surfing. The guys watching from the beach called it 4 meters. I took it right on the head, got thumped on the sandbar, then held down and washed for what seemed like forever. It was actually a relief when I bounced off the bottom again, becuase it gave me a direction and something to push off from to find the surface again. Coming up and getting that breath of air, trying to tread water in the soup, realizing I was in real danger, and having to make that concerted force of effort to fight back panic was a real "take stock" kind of moment. Like, "this is why I don't go out of my way to surf heavy waves". Duh.

I took two more smaller waves, each giving me an additional pounding, before I was washed out of the danger zone. Then I had to swim back in, but somehow that part didn't seem so bad after the way I had just gotten my ass handed to me.

I hit the beach and I was done. I'll leave that wave for the pros, and much respect to those that ride it. It is real and it is heavy, and I'll take my DOH wave anywhere else any time, thank you very much. I'm glad I caught at least one wave there, but I'll never say that I've "ridden" that wave, because for just a brief moment, that sucker owned my ass.

The trip back was more of the same, 23 hours of driving, hassles and rain showers.

But I am more relaxed than when I left here. :)


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