Since the dawn of time, Southern California surfers have looked to one magical place for their fix of waves and Coronas – a majestic land where every beer comes with a free lap dance and every taco vender will send you to the emergency room. This little slice of heaven is known by many as Mexico.
California surfers have ventured down south for years for a quick getaway from the grind of the crowded waves that we deal with on a daily basis. Once you cross the border, it’s a completely different world. There are hardly any local surfers south of the border, so you often find yourself surfing with only your friends and maybe a few of your fellow wave-starved Californians. The caliber of waves within a two-hour drive from the border is ridiculous, with spots like Baja Malibu and K38 just a stone’s throw off the highway.
Californians have basked in the warmth of this wonderful surf mecca for decades, but recently this Mexican dream turned into a nightmare for a few unfortunate travelers. Three surfers from San Diego’s North County experienced disaster in late August when they were on the toll road toward the San Ysidro border crossing. They were pulled over by a convoy of armed gunmen that had flashing lights on their cars to resemble the Tijuana police. Thinking that they were being pulled over by Mexico’s finest, they had no idea what was actually in store for them. The gunmen robbed them and then pulled the surfers from their trucks and made them kneel, in an execution-style manner, while they stole their trucks and left the surfers on the side of the road without even enough money for a street taco. Even if they had scored the most epic Baja Malibu barrels that day, I would still consider that trip a bust.
This type of theft has been happening with frightening frequency in Baja, and our southern neighbor has seen a steep decline in American tourism because of it. Everyone knows that Mexico has always been sketchy, but this is a whole new level, even for Mexico. Surfers have always been prepared for the standard Mexican shakedown – the kind where you get pulled over for going 60 in a 45, even though you know you were going 40. Then the cop will tell you that you can pay your ticket by mail, or the fee will be half as much if you give it to him in cash. This is common practice for Mexican police. They want their beer money, and you just want to get out of there and into a bar or to the beach. When this happens, you never feel like you are in danger, but with these new malicious Mexican carjackers, the danger is all too real.
The truth of the matter is, however, that surfers are a rare breed. We tend to simply ignore consequences when it comes to good surf. This is why every hardcore surfer at UCSB misses all their classes when the waves are good, with complete disregard for how it may affect their grades. It’s like how this weekend I knew the water was polluted, but I saw a few fun waves in front of my house, so I paddled out anyway, and now I have the flu. Do surfers know that Mexico is dangerous? Yes. Is that going to stop them from going south to surf? Of course not.