Riding The Circuit

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
Surf Map

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.

Before anything else I should mention that there is an entire other "crew" of locals, Mexican surfers who have their own circuit, in fact they pretty much inhabit their own surfing world - a world in which ultimately we are only visitors, no matter how long we've lived here. It seems that these two surfing cultures don't mix much, for whatever reasons. Except in the water, of course, where recognition comes with time.

Meanwhile, back in gringo surflandia, we talk it over: should we stay here in town and surf the left? Well, the tide's coming in and it might not work for much longer, plus the wind's been early so it might blow out before noon, who knows? Meanwhile the Trailer Park Crew is out there wave-watching most every day - Tom, Darsie, Gary, Terry, all those who claim the trailer park and/or Villas Palmar as seasonal home. Plus a few more of us from the barrio, who wander down on foot, on bikes, with dogs, with boards, with coffee cups, in sweatshirts these chilly days, for the morning check-out.

Does anyone actually surf the right here in town any more? I know there are some local rippers, longboarders, and SUPpers who get out there almost every day and work whatever waves we've got. In my crew and among the people I see on the surfers' highway, I know that Walter and Jackson paddle out here in town on occasion, Mike from Canada gets out there early and late, and Patrick does as well. When it comes to surf, Patrick's a glass half-full kinda guy, who sees fine wine when I see a bottle of ripple. Walter's got a real knack for finding something where there seems to be nothing, surfwise. He sits outside, patient as a spider, and draws a big old wave into his web. Jackson just loves being in the water with a friend or three, and Mike is, like me, seriously surf-addicted. He's a big guy, and I've seen him paddle out, determined to tear it up, in waves so tiny they're slapping his ankles.

If we decide to bail on surfing in town, put on the wheels and ride, the daily circuit generally takes us (a shifting crew of partially-, un-, or marginally-employed Sayuleros including Terry, Nick, Gabby, Jorge, John, Darsie, Mitch, Steve, Julie, and me, and others, with recent arrivals Kirsten and Geordie as well) towards Punta Mita, although there are some locals who swear by San Pancho's barrelly beach break. But most of us circuit riders head towards Punta Mita, a.k.a. "the other side", and the breaks that stretch from the tip of the Punta south and east along the curve of Bahia Banderas' northern half.

Before you hit the Punta, there are waves to be had at certain nameless beaches at the end of dusty nameless roads. When you need to find them you will. At the Punta, you've got Bahia and El Faro, approachable only by boat or a long walk. These places are not on the circuit, for they are a little too difficult to access, although I know Dave Walsh, the guitar-playing hotelier and shortboarder from Anclote, frequently hikes out there for a session and then walks back. Living at Anclote and having a dog to walk, it makes perfect sense. But for those of us coming from Sayulita, not so much. I've done the Bahia boat trip and it's a good one, but expensive, so...Anclote sits behind a wall of condos, out front of a row of beachfront restaurants, jetties, boats, and general beach resort mayhem, with its long, slow rollers offering a pleasant day in the wave s -and with a big swell it can fire like Malibu, as can the usually shapeless lines that form between Faro and Anclote.

Surf Map

East from Anclote there are a couple of sketchy, occasional breaks - Stinkys (a.k.a. Sewers, don't ask why), Las Palmas, and whatever other peaks fire between Anclote and La Lancha on a big swell. Circuit riders frequent La Lancha, of course - between Sayulita surf schools and boatloads from Anclote, the once secret La Lancha has become our local version of a Southern California party wave, with armies of beginners, boogie boarders, shortboarders, and longboarders all fighting for a spot on the wave; down the road apiece lie the wonderful if oft-crowded waves of Burros; in between, there are more mysto peaks from Laguna Verde stretching east, and I'm sure some of them go off on the right combination of swell and direction. After Burros, there are still more less-surfed spots -Pools, Hotels, La Casa del Perro, Enrique's, La Derecha Blanca, nameless or mythical occasional reefs. They say there's a wave at the entrance to the marina at La Cruz, but I don't know anyone who's surfed it at less than 12 feet, and those who ride it large aren't talking. Everything else breaks the circuit, being more than 30 to 40 minutes by car and on foot. This 20-mile stretch is home ground for a ragtag assemblage of Sayulita surfers. And I bet on the right swell we might find sixteen other breaks on the circuit that none of us have ever seen, much less ridden. That's one of the pleasures of not just visiting but living here.