Thurnesday – La Lancha
It was time to step up.
We were each getting up pretty easily and riding waves into the beach. The Chica Surfista had her running route down, my spanish was becoming muy buen, and we met a couple more great bartenders here in Punta Mita. Maybe a little more on that later. We even kind of sometimes knew what time it was. And the Chica even laughed when we saw a Chihuahua trying to saddle up a pit bull but couldn’t get past the knee joint.
It was time to go to a real surfing break.
La Lancha is a point break a little more than a 5 minute drive outside of Punta Mita. It’s the kind of place you think about when you think of a surfing spot: rocky landscape, surfers bobbing up and down in the water, random surfer stuff laying around on the beach. It also has a beach break that beginners can ride without having to get in the way of real surfers. It’s the real deal and the reason you would travel all the way to Mexico. But, this being Mexico, there’s a little catch.
According to my spanish translator app “la lancha” means “the boat.” Not so. It actually means “5 minute walk to the beach down a mud caked path through a rain forest populated with any number of bugs you wish you never knew existed but the ones you are certain that exist are the thousands of mosquitos that are flying around and biting you relentlessly that you can’t swat away because you’re carrying a surfboard and you’re afraid of falling and never being able to get out of the mud because it’s so thick and you really start to think you’re the guy in the boat who was sent to get Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now” except instead of bullets and arrows mosquitos have been sent to kill you and you’ll never see your kids again and why in the hell am I doing this.” Yeah, I wish I would have known this when I tried my translator. I better get my money back.
So our man Jesse has taught us to gather ourselves when we get to the beach and spend time looking out at the ocean evaluating the waves. Look for where the waves are breaking. See when the sets are coming in and get a feel for their rhythm. I only pretended to do this. Instead I took a deep breath, took in my surroundings, and then tried my best to figure out where in the hell a helicopter could land to get me out of there so that I didn’t have to walk back to the car. Then I wondered how much it was going to cost me. Not that I wasn’t going to pay any amount. I just needed to know so I could start to figure out how many pesos it was since I always freeze at the cash register and when the clerk says “two pesos” and I say “Lo siento, no hablo espanol” and she repeats “two pesos” and everyone in line laughs well the whole pesos thing is a problem “Okay let’s get in the water.” What? What?
Oh, and by the way, there was no chance I was going to look at the Chica Surfista. You know how a dog always looks away when it knows it’s in trouble? Exactly.
With my helicopter plan foiled I strapped on my leash, grabbed my board and headed into the water. The difference between La Lancha and Higuera Blanca was pretty significant. At La Lancha we needed to know and use the skills Jesse had talked to us about and you really got a sense of the ocean’s power. One of the first things Jesse taught us was knowing how to either push up or turtle roll when a wave is coming at you. A push up is self-explanatory and it basically keeps the wave from smacking you in the face. When it doesn’t look like you can push up and get over the wave and the wave is going to break on you then you need to turtle roll. Now, the Chica had been a little freaked out when Jesse was going over the whole bottom of the ocean thing. When he explained the turtle roll I kind of hesitated. The turtle roll isn’t hard to understand. Before the wave breaks you grab the board by the rails and flip over so you’re under the board as the wave goes over you. So the concept is pretty simple. What isn’t simple is the reaction your mind has to being instructed to do something completely opposite of what a million years of evolution have taught it to do. Ok, let me get this straight. I have a potential safety issue in the water and the solution is to capsize myself? Huh. That’s like your mom yelling at you to run faster with scissors or your driving instructor passing you a cold one.
But it works and a couple of times at La Lancha I needed it. The waves were bigger and longer which meant the rides were faster and longer as well. That’s the fun part. It also means the paddling is much, much harder and the wipeouts just a little more hairy.
The folks at Wildmex give us a rash guard, which is basically like a skin tight athletic shirt, to put on each day. It’s not mandatory but it’s a pretty good idea unless you don’t care if your nipples are scraped off the rest of your chest. At La Lancha I noticed another couple with the same rash guards and realized they were also there learning to surf.
Here’s the thing about surfers – they’re in great shape. I mean great shape. Old or young they’re almost all ripped. I’m not, and neither was this guy. If I was going to leave Mexico with any pride left I was at least going to out surf the only other guy like me out there.
Who knows if I did. In the end it doesn’t really matter. What did matter was that the imaginary competition in my mind covered up some of the fatigue I was feeling in my body. After a brief break for some water I paddled back out but my arms felt like cement. I had a goal of five more waves and then I’d be done. I caught one wave but fell over pretty quickly because I was just too tired. Pissed, I paddled out again. This time I caught my best wave of the trip and rode it all the way into the beach.
I would have walked an hour in that jungle for that one ride.