Under the Mexican Sun

Chloé Houdre

Translation Imogen Barneaud

I love Mexico. It’s a home away from home. When I grew up, I spent a few months there. I hadn’t been back for ten years and I was very excited to return for a surf trip.

I had already surfed La Punta, south of Puerto Escondido, but at the time, I was just a beginner and it wasn’t the main purpose of my trip. This time, things were different: we were meeting up with friends with the idea to catch as many waves possible!

Surfing as a couple is great, but you have to agree on the spots you’re going to visit. With Arnaud (Darrigade), one of the best surfers in Les Landes, we don’t usually enjoy the same waves. He gets stoked on powerful beach breaks with hollow faces and I much prefer gentle reefs and mellow waves that peel forever. The great thing about Mexico is that we could have both!

Arnaud Darrigade

In our 5 week trip, we weren’t interested in bombing down the coast to try all the surf spots, because it’s not our way of travelling. Instead, we prefer to take our time and absorb the atmosphere, create habits and make our new destination feel like home. Most people can’t avoid visiting the cultural attractions like the pyramids, but as it wasn’t our first visit, we decided to skip the tourist attractions and focus exclusively on finding new surf spots.

With the exception of our return ticket, we didn’t have a fixed travel itinerary. This time we would play it by ear, be free, and let the waves and the forecasts dictate our destinations.

We started our trip on the Pacific coast and focused on Arnaud’s first choice. We stayed there for two weeks. Arnaud was determined not to miss the two consecutive swells that were forecasted. Apart from palm trees and black sandy beaches with treacherous waves crashing brutally on the shore, there wasn’t much for me to do, so I found it hard to kill time. Some of the days stretched out a bit too much, especially in the heat, as it dissuaded me to do anything.

Luckily, I found happiness between both swells, as we went to visit the state next door, Michoacan. I found the most perfect point break that was a left: I loved it!

I spent every day surfing, from dawn till dusk. It was pure bliss. We stayed in tiny casitas right on the beach and between sessions we drank mango juice and took naps in our hammock. There wasn’t any Wifi but we couldn’t care less. In the evening, we’d light a bonfire on the beach, drink piña coladas and release paper lanterns into the sky.

After these first weeks of exploring remote places, far from city life, with straightforward accommodation, we decided to spend a week further North in a small Mexican seaside town called Sayulita.

I had heard a lot about Sayulita and I really dreamed of visiting. I wasn’t interested in the waves per se, as I was told that they weren’t very good and way too crowded. What I did want though, was to experience the atmosphere of the town, the crafts and the culture. I had a real crush on this place, even though it was packed with tourists.

I had booked a room in a colourful pink hotel on the heights of the village. Every morning, we’d go down to the village for breakfast, check the waves and then go back to our hotel to collect our surfboards. There were lovely little waves every day and the wind hardly picked up in the afternoon. We could go surfing at practically any time of day.

I’m not going to lie: the waves are packed with surfers. Sometimes it gets complicated in the lineup, but there are plenty of spots elsewhere. We went exploring other waves. We even found a private wave with a security guard who carefully writes your name down. If you’re not on the list and you haven’t got your own equipment, there is no way you’re getting past him. It’s impossible to negotiate.

In the evening, what’s nice about Sayulita is the fact that there are masses of little restaurants to eat dinner after the sun goes down, and the baby turtles have returned to the sea. As we were visiting just before Christmas, there were traditional celebrations and street parties everywhere. It was amazing!

Mexico has an immense cultural heritage and in every state, the traditions and the celebrations are unique. That is one of the reasons why Mexico has a special place in my heart. The people are extremely generous and their joie de vivre is contagious. Mexican food is so tasty that you have to make sure you don’t overdo it, as the calories clock up fast.

Mexico is a beautiful country waiting to be discovered, whether you’re a surfer or not. The size of the country is not to be underestimated. I would recommend choosing a specific area to avoid spending your holiday on a bus.

Bon voyage!

PS : In terms of safety, Mexico can be a dangerous place. You have to be cautious, pay attention to the people you meet and the places you visit. You cannot count on the police if you get into trouble, so I would advise not getting into trouble in the first place! But if you plan to stick to the touristy places, the risks are minimal.

Chloe is the creator of the brand Pantai Pantai  www.pantai-pantai.com