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There is always a story that goes along with a surf trip. I was digging thru stuff tonight and came across this one from 16 years ago. I’d sent it into the boys @LongboardLife way back. Subsequently I sent an 8×10 over to Donald T. in Oceanside and let him know that last board I moved from Oceanside with was put to good use.
Remember the 100 Year Flood? 1998 Hurricane Mitch? We were driving thru Mexico in a VW Bus and were bouncing back and forth between Michoacan and Colima chasing surf. Not any online access back then so we were relying on local fishermen and our own forecasts for planning. The approaching storm gave us a decent swell, some stormy weather and made for an exciting return as it plowed across the continent and merged with a Gulf storm to bring S.Texas some historical flooding.
There are many highlights to a surf trip, most notable of course is finding clean, uncrowded surf conditions and sharing waves with a few close friends. At the same time I’ve always enjoyed meeting the local people and looking at the surroundings through their eyes. Wave count is a priority on these trips, but enjoying the local flavor always makes the trip more memorable for me.
This past October we decided that a late season stealth run to a remote area of Michoacan was in order. We had to say adios to those late season Southern Hemis. We were settling in on the fourth day in a row of killer surf. We had managed 3 sessions on the previous day with ideal conditions and no one else on the point. Day 4 was a bit stormy but delivered a great early dawn session. We bolted early for supplies and were heading North up the coast highway. It began to rain as we passed through a section of the road that snakes along a craggy mountainside. As we rounded a corner on a steep downhill incline, some color caught my eye. It was way down in the ravine along the inside corner of the roadway. I couldn’t believe the scene that was flashing by through the panes in the VW Kombivan. A flash of red, an under carriage with wheels still turning and arms and legs dangling from broken windows. It was out of view in an instant, and it took even longer to put the visual impulses together into something that made sense. I was riding shotgun and issued the STOP! order. Easier said than done! This stretch of road was slippery wet, on a steep incline and there was a big truck bearing down on us from behind. We found an over grown burro trail about 3/4 of a mile down the road to turn into and grabbed all of the loose towels for tourniquets we had on board. All three of us ran back up the hill and approached the edge of the road where the wreck was. For a moment I thought it was just a vision, then we saw some of the jungle undergrowth sheared off and the fresh skid marks over the edge of the ravine. 15 feet down the crumbling embankment there was a red, late model 4 -door Nissan pickup. It was on its flattened roof with only the rear window frame still intact. There was movement inside and one guy outside pulling another body out of the rear window. One of our group slid down the embankment to help, while two of us began to direct traffic which was becoming a problem. By now we had one of the dazed occupants out of the wreckage and up to the roadway. He was coherent and had some serious lacerations that needed stitches. He was able to tell us that there were a total of 5 occupants in the truck, which was launched airborne, upside down off the roadway in a bungled attempt to pass on the slippery hill.
They slid off the road sideways, hit the rain gutter along the edge and flipped on the way over the side. landing square on the roof. Four of the five were able to clear the wreckage. The fifth, a young woman named Lucy, was immobile ,with a back injury. We took the least injured of the men into a nearby town to arrange for help, hoping that a Medical Clinic that we noticed would have adequate facilities for quick action. Wrong! For years we had felt relieved to note that this doctor’s office ,visible along the roadway, was ready and waiting should one of us ever need his services. He couldn’t even suture the cuts on our passenger’s arm and wouldn’t come back to the accident scene to assist with the injured girl. We finally found a hardware store with a cellular phone and called a hospital 90 miles away and arranged for an ambulance. Next we flagged down a truckload of soldiers and asked them to follow us back down the road to the wreck to help. As we got back to the accident scene, all of the other passengers were clear of the wreck and a bit more coherent. The girl had been moved off to the side of the vehicle but was still down the ravine. She was in a great deal of pain on the uneven ground and we needed to get her out of the ravine.
What to do? We took my 9’0″ Takayama Noserider (Hawaiian Pro Designs vintage) popped out the fin and took it down to use as a stretcher. Using some towels and T-shirts we were able to slide it under her, tie her down to it and then carry the whole rig back up the steep incline. She was visibly relieved to get up in the sunlight and air with the rest of her group. Within a few minutes a truck sent from the hardware store had arrived the take her north to meet the ambulance crew as they headed south. The Takayama Noserider was part of the rescue unit and I had little hope of ever seeing it again. It had served me well and had seen some high mileage in memorable surf through the years. I was saying adios old friend. We shook hands all around, the soldiers, the survivors, and the makeshift ambulance drivers. It was a heavy experience and I know that the three of us were reflecting on what had just happened over the last 4 hours as we continued on down the road that day.
Late that same day, we were traveling inland about 60 miles away to complete our supply run. We had just stocked up on food, water and gas and were headed for a fresh fruit “paleta” at our favorite Paleteria. As we rounded the corner I spotted a pickup with a caged hog in the back and an really nice longboard rattling around on top! It was my Takayama Noserider. The guy had just pulled in at a local cantina. We crossed the median and turned back to intercept the driver. I hopped out of the van and walked up to the table and spotted Javier, one of the guys who helped transport Lucy, the girl with the back injury. He had just been treated to a round of beer by his friends and was telling his version of the morning’s incidents. He was beaming when he spotted me and insisted that we join them. There was lots of backslapping and retelling of the days adventure. Javier and crew had gotten the girl up the road to meet the ambulance, she had been treated and was resting comfortably in the hospital. She had a damaged vertebrae but would recover to walk again. He apologized for not getting the board right back to me but had a “terrible thirst” and had to stop for a drink. I told him no problema, I for one understood those priorities. I can’t help thinking that on this last trip we left an impression on the people we made friends with, maybe gringo surfers weren’t so bad after all.
Hasta Luego y buenas olas. tomas