The road seemed endless. After ascending the highway along the 7,000-foot elevation pine-covered peaks that separates the valley of Oaxaca in south central Mexico from the Pacific Ocean, I expected a long but easy descent.
I was wrong.
Although we only had about 130 miles to reach the coastal resort town of Huatulco, we had another four hours of the windiest, curviest, scariest two-lane highway imaginable.
Members of Oaxaca’s diverse indigenous communities hiked along the highway that was lined with villages precariously perched among the pines along the steep cliffs.
Women in traditional garb balanced their heavy loads on their heads. Others carried machetes on their way home from work.
The drive was made worse by the simple fact that Darren Johnson and I had spent the previous night on a red-eye flight from Tijuana to Oaxaca. Joey Fallon dropped me and Darren’s families off at the Tijuana airport at 10 in the evening.
Our flight departed Tijuana at 2 a.m. and arrived in Oaxaca, considered one of Mexico’s most traditional and beautiful capital cities, at 8 a.m. After picking up our small rental cars, we made our way southwest to the Pacific.
Josh, 14, was the first to vomit. Darren notified us via walkie-talkie that he had to stop. After a stretch, I found a slight turnoff on the wrong side of the highway next to a tree-covered deep ravine and halted. Darren followed.
As soon as my sons Israel and Daniel exited our Chevy, Israel projectile vomited.
Everyone gets sick on the Oaxaca to Huatulco highway.
Three hours later, after descending from the pine trees into thick coastal rainforest, we found Huatulco. After purchasing supplies and groceries, we finally reached our destination for the next two weeks, a brightly covered beach house tucked away on a remote cove protected by rocky headlands on each side.
The surf was sideshore and about 4-5 feet. Daren, Josh and my two sons claimed the thumping beachbreak peaks in the middle of the cove. I walked down and made a stab at the hollow peaks breaking off the point.
We were all reminded of how the crunching power of the surf in southern Mexico.
The waves pitched quickly and unforgivably.
The next morning the boys woke at dawn to patrol the point, and eventually joined a group of groms from the nearby village.
Israel practiced his Spanish. The local groms were pleased to share hoots when someone inevitably scored a barrel.
When the wind turned offshore in the afternoon the surf picked up considerably and the boys enjoyed another round of hollow zippers.
The next morning it was even bigger. The boys were the first ones out, and I could see them pull into a few choice barrels as I walked down the beach.
The sets were overhead and powerful. I cautiously dropped in on a few shoulders.
The boys charged.
“Josh got a stand up barrel,” Israel yelled.
Darren, a goofy-foot, paddled out. Fit and trim at 45, Darren still surfs like a teenager.
As a set approached, I scrambled to get outside. I caught the biggest wave, managed to make the late drop, raced down the line, straightened out in the soup, then got hammered in the whitewater.
We all came in. It was time to hit Barra.
Barra de la Cruz is considered one of the best places in the world for waves. A sand bottom point that winds down the beach in perfect cylinders, Barra is the subject of countless surf films and has even served as the location of a Rip Curl Pro Search surf contest.
These barrels have become a magnet for surfers worldwide.
After a short drive, I parked the car and the boys jumped out to check the surf.
The waves were perfect and the lineup was crowded. The boys grabbed their gear and raced down the beach eager to sample a few of the waves they day-dreamed about for years.
The long drive down the never-ending highway was worth it.