Oaxaca Dreams 2011

Here is a video slideshow from our summer Oaxaca adventure. One of my best surf trips ever.

Advertisements

Spring Surf and Endless Summer Adventures

My Southwest Surf column from May 11, 2011:

I paddled out this morning at around 8 a.m.

From the end of Elm Avenue the surf looked fun. After watching a glassy and clean 3’ set roll in next to the pier with left and right corners, I put on my wetsuit and grabbed my board.

Unfortunately it was one of those days in which it looked much better than it was. After catching a few waves on the north and south sides of the pier I caught a wave in.

The surf was horrible.

Sometimes spring can bring consistent and surfable waves up and down the beach that break all day. A plethora of wind swells can come together to create A-frames up and down the beach.

Add either

Beach camp in Baja.

southerly and northerly sideshore winds and you have the classic springtime surf scenario.

Unfortunately the lack of any large swells this winter has meant that the bottom along the beach is almost uniformly flat. That is not a good sign for the south swell season. No inshore holes can mean long lines and closeouts.

The only good news is that the water is warm. It has been close to two years since we’ve experienced water in the normal range. With temperatures hovering in the low 60s’, it is time to dust off the springsuit or short-arm fullsuit.

So while Southern California can be so-so in the spring, destinations to the south, in the southern hemisphere and across the globe, are receiving lots and lots of southern ground swells.

A reef slab somewhere in NSW, Australia.

So get out the map and plan a trip to either a warm water or cold-water summer surf destination.

Your best bets for the south swell season include:

Baja: South of the Border vets know that early season southern hemis consistently pound the East Cape and places like Scorpion Bay and Punta Abreojos.

Mainland Mexico: If you like long lefts, head to Sinaloa and northern Guerrero. If you are into getting giant barrels, surf either Pascuales or Puerto Escondido.  Michoacan offers up cobblestone rivermouths like La Ticla and Nexpa, but Narco-violence can make travel there sketchy.

Surf camp in 1982 at at La Ticla, Michoacan.

South America: Lots of cold-water power is on tap in Chile and Peru during their winter. Southern groundswells offer up consistent and overhead waves. There are waves everywhere and few crowds.

Indonesia: Perfect waves, tropical waters and non-stop surf. What more do you need?

Hawaii: Warm water, lots of surf and Aloha. We’re heading to Kauai and the South Shore of Oahu in August. For me, even the leftover waves in the Islands are fun.

Australia and New Zealand: If you want rugged coastlines, friendly people, insane waves of every variety and tons of wildlife and national parks then head Down Under.

Beachie in NSW, Australia.

South Africa: This is arguably the coolest surf destination on the planet. Where else can you see elephants, lions, wildebeests and surf J-Bay.

So get off the couch and start learning why there is nothing better than spending a few days or weeks surfing perfect waves somewhere on a coast that is not your own.

Sexing it up at TEDx America’s Finest City

I spoke on Tuesday at the TEDx America’s Finest City forum at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The venue was amazing, the surf was firing, the lineup of speakers was incredible. The organizers did a great job of attempting to bring together a “new” San Diego. I was honored to be invited to participate and to be able to speak about WilDCOAST campaigns.

Me and Grant Barrett of Public Radio's "A Way with Words." Photo: TEDxAFC

My talked was titled: Sex, Soccer and El Santo: The New Rules for Communicating about the Coast and Ocean. Photo: TEDxAFC

As always our "Don't Eat Sea Turtle" campaign poster went over very well. Photo: TEDxAFC

I always wanted to be one of those TED guys--with the headphone microphones in a blue shirt talking about "cool" stuff. Photo: TEDxAFC

The theme of the event was "Get your fix." Photo: TEDxAFC

Baja Tales

Israel scores a good one on the East Cape.

From my IBPatch Southwest Surf Column of April 27, 2011:

There is a lot of speculation these days on whether it is safe or not to travel south of the border. To ease concerns and dispel some of the myths, Surfline recently did an interview with me, Sean Collins and Gary Linden on how to stay safe while surfing and traveling in Baja.

Due to the ongoing drug war in northern Baja, the justified concern over safety for traveling surfers has meant that those of us who cross the border find a lot of uncrowded waves. More importantly we meet lots of friendly people, camp on white-sand beaches with perfect waves, and enjoy the warm, clean water.

Lots of IB surf families are veterans of Mexico—and especially Baja—travel. The Johnson surfing clan, Daren, Terri and Josh, took a trip with a couple of extra IB groms over Spring Break.

Israel, Daniel and Josh on the East Cape.

“Baja was fun,” said Terri. “On the way south, the guys stopped at the Wall and Conejo (Terri flew down). Neither place was epic. The Wall was flat and Conejo was windy, though they did get a few waves at Conejo.

“Then we surfed a few days in Todos Santos where it was peaky and fun – water was warm and clean. Spent most of the next week on the East Cape where we caught loads of waves with warm water and surfing in trunks. Coming home Daren and the boys surfed Scorpion Bay and Alejandro’s. Small waves but the groms still had fun.”

According to Terri,  “I saw more sea turtles of all sizes on the East Cape than I’ve ever seen down that way before. Even had a big one pop up right in front of me as I was paddling into a wave at Nine Palms.”

Daniel hits the lip on the East Cape.

I am looking forward to taking a family surf safari with the Johnsons to the fabled point breaks of Oaxaca in June. Should be a blast.

Daren and I both share the same philosophy about surfing with our children. We both know that we are lucky to have even a chance to spend so much fun time with them now. Because in a few years they will be grown up and off on adventures of their own.

Last year Daren and I sat on an East Cape beach watching our sons surf perfect right point waves. I nodded in agreement as Daren said, “I have as much fun watching the boys ride waves as I do surfing.”

The Merrills—Steve, Julie and Cheyne—are also hardcore Baja vets. Expert fishermen and surfers, Steve and Cheyne are as likely to score great waves and big fish. Their Spring Break expedition to the Cape Region landed both.

“Steve and Cheyne caught some great surf in San Jose del Cabo,” said Julie. “We did not have time to surf the day we arrived, but over the next two days, there were six-foot waves coming in at regular intervals. For three hours each day, between around 12:30-4:00, there were only six guys out, and that included Steve and Cheyne in the line up.

“On the third day the surf was flat and blown out so we made our way to the East Cape and checked in at Rancho Leonero, a fishing resort,” Julie reported. “It’s very quiet there and very laid back, much different from the hustle and crowds of Cabo San Lucas.

“We took a panga out the next day and caught bonita, cabrilla, pampano, and yellowtail. The hotel cooked our catch for us and we shared it with as many people as we could. It tasted incredible and we ate until we couldn’t eat another bite. Already we are talking about our next trip to Baja and have already started planning our summer road trip. Can’t wait!”

So what are you waiting for? See you in Baja!

Fighting Mega Projects in Guerrero

When we arrived in Zihuatanejo a few weeks,  we learned about plans by FONATUR, Mexico’s tourism development agency to build a new mega-tourism project on top of the Barra de Potosi mangrove wetland and coastal area. Here is the video of our press conference denouncing the project.

Cold Water Blues in Canada

My Imperial Beach Patch Southwest Surf Column for April 13, 2010:

The water temperature and the weather weren’t that bad. Really. The ocean temp was in the high 40s and the air was in the mid-to-high 40s. Springtime conditions.

Even with the warmer weather, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hit the water at Chesterman Beach, one of the most popular surfing beaches on Vancouver Island.

But as I waded through the whitewater, I realized that it wasn’t going to be that bad.

Of course I was covered from head to toe in rubber—hood, gloves, booties and my 4-3-2 Matuse Tumo suit. So I was toasty.

As I paddled through the whitewater to catch some of the fun 3- to 4-foot sideshore peaks, I realized that the lineup was virtually empty with the exception of a tight group of five local surfers, who were all shredding.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was Pete Devries, Canada’s hottest surfer (who appears on the cover of the latest issue of Surfer magazine, and who happens to ride boards shaped by Jay Novak), and his band of local shredders.

Devries, who is sponsored by Hurley, pulled big snaps, airs and slashing roundhouse cutbacks in the small but rippable waves.

I joined the crew, who were at the northern end of Chesterman, and was greeted with smiles and friendly waves. I was even given a wave or two.

After about an hour, I returned to the beach to find Emily, my wife, who had gone for a walk while I was in the water. The long beach was filled with beginner surfers who didn’t seem to mind the cold conditions.

Emily and I had traveled to Vancouver Island to attend the 25th Annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival so I could give a couple of talks on coastal conservation in Baja and promote my new book, Wild Sea.

Between my surf sessions, we took walks among the desolate dunes and forests of Pacific Rim National Park and wandered the streets of Tofino, a former fishing and logging town that was named “the best surf town in North America,” according to Outside magazine.

I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place to spend quality time with Emily, who in the past suffered through surf safaris that involved spending more time hunkering down out of the wind in Baja (we lived there for three years) than enjoying the beach.

At the Wildside Grill, hands down the world’s best and coolest surf eatery, Emily and I scarfed down amazing fish tacos, fresh seafood chowder, and the best salmon burgers I have ever eaten. Wildside is owned by commercial fisherman Jeff Mikus and longtime surfer and chef Jesse Blake. While waiting for my order, I traded mainland Mexico stories with Jesse, who is familiar with the rivermouth waves of Guerrero and Michoacan.

Wildside chef and surfer Jesse Blake.

The following day, after I surfed empty offshore 3- to 5-foot right reforms at Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Emily and I ate fresh salmon at the more rustic and surf-themed Shelter in Tofino. The food and views of snowy peaks from the restaurant behind the island-studded Tofino Inlet were priceless.

That afternoon after giving a talk, the surf came up. I paddled out at Wickaninnish expecting mellow overhead waves. Instead I realized that I had underestimated the size and power of the new swell. The sets were 6- to 8-foot and were breaking with a lot of power. Pete and his merry men were ripping the well overhead peaks.

I was trying to figure out the lineup that reminded me of being caught in the middle of the Sloughs. While I caught a few peaks, the cold water found an entryway between the sleeves of my wetsuit and my gloves. By my third wave, I was really cold and my body was shutting down. I caught a set wave in and was humbled by the ability of local surfers and their dedication to surfing in a region where surfing isn’t that easy.

The next day, Emily and I headed back over the snowy mountain pass to take the ferry to Vancouver. We agreed that Tofino and Vancouver Island were definitely worth returning to.

Thanks to the beautiful Water’s Edge Resort for their hospitality and the Pacific Rim Whale Festival for their invitation to speak at the festival. Another excellent local restaurant that is fisherman owned and supplied is the Offshore Seafood Restaurant in Ucluelet. A big mahalo to the local surfers who keep the true spirit of surfing alive in the cold waters of the North Pacific. We flew Alaska Airlines to Vancouver from San Diego and I was charged $60 roundtrip for board fees—not too bad.

Baja Travel Update: My Interview in Surfline

# 53           Los Cabos 3559

Image by Carlos Villamayor via Flickr

Surfline published this interview with me, Sean Collins and Gary Linden

(who had the Green Lantern surfshop in Imperial Beach when I was a kid)

on tips for staying safe in Baja. I’ve just included my interview:

The tragic and ongoing Narco-war South of the Border has many potential visiting surfers on edge, unsure whether to make the trek south — and if so, how to minimize chances of ending up in a dangerous situation. With this in mind, Surfline asked three frequent and longtime Mexico travelers for advice — on when to go, where to go, and how to stay safe. Many of the suggestions are the same as they’ve been since the ’50s. Some are new. All are worth a quick read if you’re thinking about a trip. 

Note: this is NOT an exhaustive list on avoiding the perils and pitfalls of travel to Baja. (Nor does it even begin to bring up the issues involved in travel to Mainland Mexico.) It is three very well-qualified surfers’ perspectives. For those serious and concerned, there are a series of useful related links at the bottom of this feature. For those who have stories and/or advice, please leave them in the comments below. –Marcus Sanders

Baja surfing

Image by Dom Edwards via Flickr

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an organization that works in both California and Mexico to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems. He is the author of the new book, Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias. He has been traveling throughout Baja California and in Mexico since 1972. Here are his thoughts:

The security situation has improved significantly since 2007 when a string of robberies and assaults against surfers and a Baja 1000 race crew resulted in most surfers abandoning the idea of traveling to Baja. Over the past three years, the Mexican government spent a lot of time and resources making the highway in Northern Baja safer and overall things are much better than they were. Southern Baja, along with Oaxaca, is considered one of the safest areas in Mexico.

Baja surfing - Larry

Image by Dom Edwards via Flickr

Overall, the level of crime has decreased in Baja. Really, most of the violence and problems are concentrated in Tijuana. Don’t travel through there at night. I travel to Ensenada a lot to surf San Miguel and visit the WiLDCOAST office there and haven’t had any problems or talked to anyone who has had problems recently.

The risk is greatest for surfers who believe that Baja California is like it used to be and they don’t need to take any precautions when traveling there. Bummer is, that Baja has become just like any other area in the developing world where there are problems with crime. Being clueless in Baja is no longer an option. But if surfers are careful and avoid hanging out in areas like Tijuana, most likely they’re going to have a great time South of the Border.

Baja surf

Image by Dom Edwards via Flickr

Camping anywhere in Northern Baja should be done in established camping areas or surf spots where you are not alone and potentially a target for criminals. The increase in the use of crystal meth in Northern Baja, especially anywhere in the area of San Quintin and Colonet, means that there is a greater chance of having problems if you are camping on an isolated part of the coast. South of El Rosario things are generally fine. I spend a lot of time camping and surfing the most isolated part of the coast between Guerrero Negro and El Rosario and haven’t had a single problem. Last summer I took my kids on a 2,970 mile round trip tour of Baja and hit most of the peninsula’s great surf spots. Everyone was super friendly and helpful, we didn’t have any problems at all, and caught some great waves.

Baja surf

Image by Dom Edwards via Flickr

But Baja is back in a big way and surfers need to show that we care about Baja and demonstrate that our tourism dollars are an important source of revenues for Mexico. The more we show that surfing has a positive impact on the economy in Baja and the rest of Mexico, the easier it is for organizations like WiLDCOAST to convince Mexican authorities to conserve coastal areas that have great waves. Surfers have a lot to contribute to Mexico. We have made great friendships, have influenced the development of surfing in Mexico, and have had a positive impact on communities such as San Juanico, Punta Abreojos, Todos Santos, Puerto Escondito, Saladita, Sayulita and the East Cape.

“The risk is greatest for surfers who believe that Baja California is like it used to be and they don’t need to take any precautions when traveling there.”
–Serge Dedina, executive director, WiLDCOAST
The road runs the entire length of the Baja Ca...

Image via Wikipedia

+++


USEFUL LINKS:

How safe is Mexico? Data on U.S. citizen deaths from the U.S. State Dept — Comprehensive feature by Fodors, posted March 11, 2011.

Is Mexico safe for Spring Break? — USA Today travel section, posted March 9th, 2011.

US State Department Mexico Travel Warning — Updated September 2010

+++

LOCAL RESOURCES

Baja Crime Hotline: 866-201-5060 — To report a crime or if you need help.

Green Angels
The Green Angels are similar to the AAA in the U.S. The Green Angels are a government paid bilingual crew that patrol the toll roads throughout Mexico every day in green trucks, carrying tools and spare parts, looking for motorists in trouble. The Angeles Verdes will provide mechanical assistance, first aid, basic supplies, and towing. The services they provide are FREE of charge unless your vehicle needs parts or fuel. If for some reason you need assistance call “060” (Mexico’s version of 911) or pull to the side of the road and lift your hood, this will signal the Green Angels that you need assistance or contact them Toll Free 24 hours seven days a week at:
Baja California Highways Emergency Toll Free Numbers:
* 01 800 990 3900: Tijuana – Ensenada & El Hongo – La Rumorosa Toll Roads
* 01 800 888 0911: Tijuana – Tecate Toll Road

US EMBASSY LOCATION:
The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc; telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may contact the Embassy by e-mail or visit the Embassy website.

In addition to the Embassy, there are several United States consulates and consular agencies located throughout Mexico, listed below.

CONSULATES:
Guadalajara: Progreso 175, Col. Americana; telephone (52) (333) 268-2100.
Tijuana: Avenida Tapachula 96, Col. Hipodromo; telephone (52) (664) 622-7400.

CONSULAR AGENCIES:
Acapulco: Hotel Continental Emporio, Costera Miguel Aleman 121 – Local 14; telephone (52)(744) 484-0300 or (52)(744) 469-0556.
Cabo San Lucas: Blvd. Marina Local C-4, Plaza Nautica, Col. Centro; telephone (52) (624) 143-3566.
Cancun: Plaza Caracol Two, Second Level, No. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulkan, Km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera; telephone (52)(998) 883-0272.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: Hotel Fontan, Blvd. Ixtapa; telephone (52)(755) 553-2100.
Mazatlan: Hotel Playa Mazatlán,Playa Gaviotas #202, Zona Dorada; telephone (52) (669) 916-5889.
Oaxaca: Macedonio Alcala No. 407, Interior 20; telephone (52) (951) 514-3054 (52) or (951) 516-2853.
Piedras Negras: Abasolo 211, Local #3, Col. Centro; telephone (52) (878) 782-5586 or (878) 782-8664.
Playa del Carmen: The Palapa, Calle 1 Sur, between Avenida 15 and Avenida 20; telephone (52)(984) 873-0303.
Puerto Vallarta: Paseo de Los Cocoteros #85 Sur, Paradise Plaza – Local L-7, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit C.P.; telephone (52)(322) 222-0069.
Reynosa: Calle Monterrey #390, Esq. Sinaloa, Col. Rodríguez; telephone: (52)(899) 923-9331

MORE SURF NEWS
SURFLINE HOME PAGE

Blue Ocean Tour in Southern Baja

 

From April 2-7 I will be touring the Cape Region of Baja California to show the Blue Ocean Film Festival “Blue on Tour” ocean documentaries and give talks on my book Wild Sea.

APRIL  2nd:  San Jose Organic Farmers Market, 10am-2:00pm

APRIL 2nd:  TBD

APRIL 3rd:  Los Barriles Art Festival, Hotel Palmas De Cortez Los Barriles

APRIL 3rd: Vinorama Country Club, East Cape, 6pm

APRIL 4th: DREAMS Spa and Resort, @ 6:00pm

APRIL 6th: Sculpture Francisco Merino Galeria @ 6:30pm

APRIL 7th: La Esquina, Todos Santos @ 7:00pm

When I am there I look forward to seeing old friends, making new friends, and surfing the crystal clear blue water of the East Cape and Todos Santos–two of my favorite places in Baja.

 

Surfing Guerrero

In between what were very long days in the Mexican state of Guerrero last week during my Wild Sea/Blue on Tour trip, Ben McCue and I managed to snag a few waves along what is a very undersurfed region of Mexico. Thanks to Pato, Cat, Lainie, Mike and Kristy for being such great surf hosts. And to Ben for being such a great conservation and surfing colleague.

 

We scored 3-5' fun waves at Playa Bonfil just south of Acapulco. This was our last morning and the only morning we surfed there (the day before was probably better but we had to leave our hotel very early for a TV interview). Acapulco is the largest coastal city in Mexico and allegedly has a large surfing population of surfers and only one other guy was out. Mainland beachbreaks have a special quality--hollow, crisp with lots of power--that you just don't find anywhere else. Photo: Ben McCue.

 

Ben and I pulled into the first available parking/beach access at Playa Bonfil. We parked in front a palapa that was also a sea turtle conservation camp and found these two WILDCOAST stickers pegged to their sign (the Santo sticker is ours).

Saladita. When it is bigger this is a fun wave for me. When it is smaller it is a Malibu style longboard wave or the perfect place for a fish or a mini-Simmons. This besides 1st point at Scorpion Bay and San Blas is about the best beginners wave on the Mexico coast

Pato, an activist from Michoacan now working in Saladita on agricultural and communty development ripping it up at a rivermouth we surfed one day. Pato is a super dedicated surfer/activist and a great guy to surf with. Photo: Cat Slatinskly

Pato gets another one. Pato and I surfed this spot with just a few people out. Reminded me of the Sloughs shorebreak when it is good. Photo: Cat Slatinskly

Me on my 6'6" Novak quad--this board worked great everywhere. Cobblestone rivermouth breaks are my favorite type of wave--they are so playful and versatile. Lefts and rights. My first mainland Mexico trip was back in 1982 at a rivermouth break further north up the coast. Photo: Cat Slatinsky.

Kristy Murphy of Siren Surf Adventures on a 5'10" Novak mini-Simmon's hybrid. Kristy is a former Women's Lonbboarding World Champion and she rips. She spends most of the winter in this area. Photo: Cat Slatinsky.

Here's Ben McCue working on his power snaps. Ben grew up in Santa Cruz and was like a little kid in a candy store on these left points. Photo: Cat Slatinsky.

Pato head a really nice power style, typical among Mexican surfers used to surfing good waves by themselves (his style reminded me of Ismael Arce of Punta Abreojos). The surf was about 3-5' with some 6' sets that came through later in the day. Photo: Cat Slatinskly.

Kristy setting up for a big cutback. Photo: Cat Slatinsky.

Photo: Cat Slatinsky.

Ben going right. Photo: Cat Slatinsky.

When we left, the surf was picking up and the lineup was almost empty. Classic mainland! Photo: Cat Slatinsky.

Wild Sea on Tour in Guerrero, Mexico

Last week, I toured the southern Mexico state of Guerrero as part of the Blue Ocean Film Festival “Blue on Tour” and my Wild Sea book tour. Ben McCue accompanied me and Sergio Flores and Natalia Parra of WiLDCOAST. Natalia and Sergio are our Southern Mexico Pacific coordinators. We gave talks, press conferences and showed ocean related films in Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Troncones and Saladita.

On our second to last day we met activists attempting to stop the Mexican Tourism Agency, FONATUR, from building a new mega-resort and cruise ship terminal at Barra de Potosi, a stunningly beautiful mangrove lagoon, beach and headland where leatherback sea turtles nest and humpbacks can be found offshore. Of course the local fishing community of 600 residents at Barra are adamantly opposed to the project and have barely been consulted about it, even thought FONATUR received a concession to build there.

A special thanks to Sergio and Natalia, Cat and Kristy of Siren Surf Adventures, Fortaleza Lounge and Theater of Acapulco, Lourdes of Lourdes Bungalows in Saladita, the Instituto Tecnologico de la Costa Grande, Pato, Roberto of Roberto’s Bistro, and Mike and Lainie Johnstone.

 

Ben McCue in Acapulco talking to an estimated crowd of over 200. Our presentation went over very well.

WiLDCOAST'S Natalia Parra talks to the Acapulco press about the plight of sea turtles in Guerrero.

A local restaurant owner talks to the crowd about the importance of coastal protection.

At Saladita I was lucky to meet Alan Weisbecker, author of "In Search of Captain Zero."

Lourdes, who hosted our presentation at Saladita for the Mexican and American communities there. Lourdes is a surfer and a pioneer in Mexico in surfing tourism.

My talk at Saladita. More than 60 people were in attendance. I couldn't think of a nicer place to give a talk--on a beachfront palapa, watching the sun set over a "reverse Malibu" point break.

Ben, Lourdes, Cat Slatinskly, me, Pato, and Kritsty Murphy. Cat and Kristy of Siren Surf Adventures from my hometown of Imperial Beach organized the events in Saladita and Troncones and hosted us there. Pato is a local activist.

Before the event in Troncones at Roberto's Bistro, Roberto arranged the release of olive ridley sea turtles. He manages a sea turtle nesting beach camp there too.

Children releasing sea turtles.

Roberto and his local sea turtle conservation team. These kids were so passionate about saving sea turtles and protecting the environment.

Ben and me with activists from Barra de Potosi who are opposed to the proposal by FONATUR to build a new mega-resort there.

%d bloggers like this: