When I moved here a few years ago with my family, the first friends we made came from two subcultures of the Sayulita community: Costa Verde International School parents, and surfers. There were a few characters who bridged the gap between those two worlds, as I did. One such character was Nick Sherman, whose wife Treva taught art at the school, whose daughter Astrid was in my daughter Jade's class, and with whom I quickly developed a pretty good friendship, based on the CVIS experience but also based on surfing.
Big Wednesday came to Sayulita on August 31st, followed by Big Thursday on September 1st. I've been surfing here for ten or 12 years now and I have never SURFED SCARED in Sayulita until last week, when the predicted giant southwest swell showed up, and was actually bigger that predicted.
When I moved here and started surfing La Lancha two years ago, it was a bit of an adventure. The road from Sayulita to Punta Mita was paved but sketchy, occasionally washed out (as it still is), there were checkpoints manned by various police forces, not all of them entirely on the up-and-up; once you got there, a razor-wire-topped fence, occasionally surly security guards, bugs, snakes, mud, and a rocky road heated to the steaming point all added up to a bit of risky business. Or so we liked to think.
Summer has arrived and wanderlust has set in. While Justin, the writer for this column, is in the Pacific Northwest, my family and I are traveling southward in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca for the month of July. Our objectives were to explore inland Mexico while writing stories and taking photos for my husband's online business, www.cuponismo.com. Within the first 24 hours of travel, we felt an overwhelming urge to head directly to the coast, so, we bee-lined to Puerto Escondido.
There is NOWHERE I would rather be than out in the beautiful waves of Sayulita, but alas, here I am in Berkeley, California, visiting friends and family. I was given a look at the waves "back home" courtesy of Paul Van Vleck, who posted some great photos of this week's swell in Sayulita on Facebook. I asked him to share a few with readers of this column, so that those of you who aren't in Sayulita can share my pain--the pain of missing a beautiful swell.
Last year, my first year in Sayulita, I made friends with a couple of other Costa Verde International School parents, and ended up surfing with them a lot. We surfed almost every day, it seemed, as the fall/winter/spring season of 2009-2010 offered up week after week of solid swell. Living here in Sayulita, with lots of good surf in the neighborhood, I got my dormant surfing mojo back fast, and I have been getting better ever since.
Here on Wednesday, June 1, I'm on my way home at last, and can report that all the reports about the impossibly bad weather in the Northwest are true - this has been the crappiest spring following the worst winter in the collective memory of almost everybody I know in Seattle
In the age of the Internet, coupled with modern buoy and weather tracking systems, NOAA satellites and the like, it would seem the days are gone when people used to show up with only good luck to catch perfect surf. The days when it was all about timing; you just had to be there to catch those perfect days. The charts now are predicting a big swell for this week and they've been predicting this for about 6 days. A group of surfers who are well acquainted with Justin's surf column were sent an email sometime late last week asking to cover his El Sayulero surf column for the week while he is away.
I had bowed out of writing a Surf column this week, due to a couple of things. Not much surf, too many words, and...my wife took a fall a few days ago, wrenched her knee, and has been laid up. So I've been nursing her along, and I have not been on any "surfing safaris" or anywhere else by car except to see a doctor deep in Vallarta. So I'd written off surfing and written off writing about it this week.
Being veterans of, well, only one Semana Santa in Sayulita, we elected to beat it out of town and fled to Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque, where we looked at great stuff we didn't need and couldn't afford, saw some exciting art shows and ate in some cool restaurants, went to the fabu Guadalajara zoo and generally did the urbane urban thing. It was fun, but the pavement was hot and the wind was hotter, and even emptied-out for Easter, Guadalajara felt crowded and busy and well, urban. The Big City.
Sayulita's own Costa Verde International School held its fourth annual Surfathon last Friday, April 15th, and with some sweet little mid-sized waves rolling in, warm, sunny weather, and a busy, pre-Santa Semana day at the beach, a rollicking good time was had by all - and over $12000 was raised by more than 50 sponsored surfing kids, parents, and teachers.
For better or worse, in the past decade Sayulita has become one of Mexico's renowned surfing towns. For whatever reasons, though our in-town wave is rarely spectacular, Sayulita has produced national surfing champions and international competitors, and is or has been home to a couple of dozen world class surfers.
That is the question facing surfers these days. By paddle I refer not to prone paddling a surfboard with arm power but to paddling after waves on a stand up paddleboard, hereafter referred to (for brevity's sake) as a SUP.
Over the past few months on a couple of occasions I have been forced by circumstances to use my own photos to illustrate this column. This is unfortunate because while I am a pretty good surfer and I understand the art and sport of it well enough to get what makes a surf photo good, I really don't know how to shoot one. I get too close, or more often, not close enough because I don't want to get whacked.
Recently it has been brought to my attention that in my zeal to talk about surfing in Sayulita and Nayarit, I have overstepped some boundaries with regard to giving out information on how to get to certain spots that may not be secret in the strictest sense of the word, but are still not on the general surfing radar map. I have had some discussions, heated and otherwise, about this subject with the occasional emailer, and at this point I've had enough, and so...mea culpa.
Well, the contest was OK. We'd like to say it was great, because the turn-out was huge, the competitors were stellar, the plan went according to plan, and everyone had a good old time getting their picture taken with surfing and paddling legend Gerry Lopez, who spread his cheerful vibes up and down the beach all weekend.
First, before we talk about the fabulous upcoming-this-very-weekend Sayulita surfing contest: people, fall to your knees or prostrate yourselves or do your dervish dance to honor whatever god(s) you favor, Jesus, Buddha, Rama, Yahweh, Neptune, Olokun, Pan, whoever, wake ‘em and shake ‘em and tell ‘em to get on the job and send us some waves. The Second Annual Punta Sayulita Longboard & Stand-up Paddleboard Classic is just a few days away-and we need some surf!
Those of us who surf and live in Sayulita are wired into an informal circuit. Everyday, various discussions take place via email, telephone, or at the beach, where we gather, gazing at the morning waves and calculating, speculating, guessing which of the spots will go off. Then we make our moves.
Mazatlan is too far away to make the usual Sayulita surf map, so forgive this digression, but...in 1948, my parents, wanderers both, met in Mazatlan at the Hotel Freeman on the Avenida de las Olas Altas, at a party thrown by the Mexican author Octavio Paz, to honor the visiting American "celebrity" Margaret Sanger, in town to promote the new idea of birth control. My Dad was in his mid-thirties, a writer down from LA to find his voice; my mom, 22 years old, was an adventurous girl from a small town in Texas, a college dropout wandering alone in Mexico.