Then there was that time someone shot a big-budget movie scene, at this isolated beach in Mexico. This little beach pueblo, nestled at the base of the gnar mountains of Michoacan, was once a secret spot for risk-taking surfers. But after a couple decades, as the sport rose in popularity, the crowds eventually hit hard Continue reading Shooting A Movie Scene In Michoacan
It’s been 8 years since I traveled and surfed mainland Mexico. Back then, I took so many photos and concentrated on getting those pics to the surfers, as well as Surfermag.com, that I wound up with a ton of outtakes. I always pushed forward and just stashed them all on back up discs. Now, after all those years, I’ve decided to spend some time weaving those old pics onto this site. Continue reading Breaking Open The Shoe Box Photos
Woke up and found the morning lineup had some fresh people out. You never know who filters in during the night. Well, you used to back when it was a small, concentrated camp area. But also back in the day no one took the mountain road at night, but I digress. I see someone new out there laying hard tail turns and surfing hard on the back foot. Powerful and buckets on head high waves. Continue reading Random Encounters in Mexico: Sepp Bruhwiler and Shannon Brown.
Words and Photos by Chuck Turkington
You should have been here tomorrow. That’s all I can say to all my Texas buddies that split after new year’s. Yeah, I know…not all of us are able to take vacations based on swell maps but what a difference a little west makes in a north swell. At least it wasn’t flat during anyone’s visit.
After surfing head high and under for almost a month, some size finally found it’s way down here. Nothing crazy, but it did take away 30 feet of beach right in front of my camp. Should be exciting for me if another sizeable swell hits. I may have to move…
It was, i think, about the third day after a new swell…maybe second…i dunno… anyway, it was the on the downgrade but still HH. Small enough though that some of the people that stayed out of the water the day before because of “bad tamales”, suddenly felt fine and were chargin morning high tide.
As the day went on, the tide went out but size was about the same. Plenty more people scratch for the line up. Basically by lunch time, if the winds are good and it’s the trailing edge of a swell anyone that got shitfaced drunk because it was too big or mysteriously “sick” or even just flat out said, “no way mang!” They all felt confident enough to head out today.
I was kicked back in the shade on the beach and I snapped a quick shot or two of the mid-morning session and kept the camera nearby. At around 2 or three (the hottest time of day and there’s still people out!) I see a friggin’ MACKING set explode way outside of the line-up. I grabbed for my camera and snapped a couple rush shots as the set just unloaded, out of nowhere, onto the full range of funboarders, blue-crushers, and a couple toasted and surfed out tweakers. it cleaned ’em all up. Sent them all to the beach!
What would you do with an old thruster that has tail cancer? I’m not sure about you, but Paolo Schulte bought one for 100 pesos, scooped out the damaged tail and center skeg, sealed it and surfed it!
I first met Schulte sometime in December, somewhere in Mexico. He basically ripped and knew the spot very well. Anytime the point got too crowded or fat with tide movement, I often found him gambling with barrels on the beach break. We were both at the same spot for quite awhile and eventually became friends. I watched him surf a few different boards and he ripped on all of them. He’s on those boards in a few other photo galleries in this site, but this story is all about his open-minded approach to staying in the curl…even if it’s odd looking. And also, the guy has a hell of a sense of humor. I could never tell if he was going to bust an air with intense focus or just try to make me laugh while screaming out of a tube ride.
When you’re a long-timer, and surfing nearly daily sessions, a small quiver really starts to get beat to shit. So in order to save the good boards for the good swells, but to keep up the water time, some people start surfing on older, uglier, and stranger boards than normal. Especially those that aren’t rich or have ten perfect boards that look like they’ve never been used. The unsponsored, but core guys, will surf anthing that floats.
I first noticed Schulte was surfing a different board when I saw it flipping over and getting tossed in front of the foam as he was swimming in after it. Someone grabbed it for him before it hit the rocks and he paddled back out. A few days later, it happened to be me that grabbed it for him. It was then that I noticed why he wasn’t using a leash. There was no place for one! I was looking at a strange twin fin with a C-shaped tail. It was yellowed with age and taking on water from recent times when no one was there to keep it from hitting the rocks. I put it on the sand and continued to head out. We waved at each other and I made a mental note to ask him about the board later on.
When I got the scoop about the amputed fin and gutted tail cancer, I was still left a little confused. But when he told me how much he paid for it, I understood. The question wasn’t, why? It was more like, why not? It floats and it turns…what more do you need? For the price of two meals, anyone can score a board. Whether it’s rideable or not is totally up to you.
Words and Photos by Chuck Turkington
Early in January, I ran into Frank Floyd and his crew of Texas rippers. Joining Nathan, Micah and J.R. was Jaime, formely of Sayulita but currently living on Kauai. This group of B.H.P. rippers are still borderline drinking age, but yet the beaches in Central Mexico are old stomping grounds for them. The surf was small when they hit up this spot, but they got plenty of shack time at a different beach for most of their trip. Having seen them surf overhead before, I only could only wish that there would have been some size in the water while they were here. Oh well…they rip the small kine too!
Photos by Chuck Turkington
Photos by Chuck Turkington
Check out tons of photos of surfers like Adan Hernandez, Dylan Southworth, Flaco, Jorge, Enoc, Diego Cadena, Tigre and quite a few visiting rippers!
Another trip down south!
A good longtime friend of mine, Steve Vineyard, and I took a trip to our favorite southern surf spot. Steve only had two weeks and then he had to head back to the “cold” southern Texas Winter on South Padre Island. But since I’ve become a beach bum in training, and photographer/writer, I had the resources to stay for a couple months. Enough time to soak in the sun and waves!
When we first arrived, surf was already decent size. Coming from South Texas, anything over chest high is “big”. Being that I was there to photograph the surfers, I spotted the talent rigth away. Aside from the usual local talent, the only standout was Dillon Horst, from San Luis de Obispo. Of course, I didn’t know his name when I snapped this shot, but I made it a point to find out the next day or two…
I prepped for this surf trip to Mexico same as I did the last one. Actually heading north to Austin to help varnish a Chris-Craft yacht and make some travel cash. Anyone who knows about old wood boats knows how much maintenance and constant work those money pits need. Well, lucky for me that other man’s pit was part of my travel purse to a warm mountainous land by the sea. My friend Brian and I had worked on this boat before, and completed the same trip. He usually stays for about three months and I’ve only been able to hang for about two or three weeks. This time was going to be different for me. Finally, I had a solid month to spare and would dedicate myself to photograph the trip.
Right after lunch on December 29th, 2004 we left the Austin area and headed south. We spent the afternoon driving to Laredo and making all our last minute phone calls. Most were to Murph, to hassle him for not making the journey with us. After crossing the bridge though, our cell phones were stashed deep in the glove box and forgotten about.
The night time drive through the Mexican desert was just as uneventful as it would be in the day time, except for a particular train crossing. Luckily there was a road sign for the upcoming crossing, but no lights. I slowed to about 40, everything just looked black ahead. Suddenly I spotted a dim flashlight swinging back and forth, a man standing by the road. Then I saw the train. I had to slam on the brakes, and the guy with flashlight looked like he was just about to decide whether or not to jump back. Then, since my idle truck was now providing lights for the area, the guy with the flashlight jumped on the slow moving train. I suppose he made his way to the front to dismount at the next crossing and swing his flashlight like a pendelum in the black desert night. After that incident, we drove for a few more hours and decided to rest up outside of Zacatecas.
Shortly after dawn, we were on our way again and had perfect timing to hit Dos Burros for some brunch. Might as well get a fine meal because that mountain road outside of Guadalajara could make it the last burrito! Conquering the winding path up to the city was not as much of a challenge as finding the right periferico though. One road can make navigating that city an experience of exhaust fumes in standstill traffic, or exhaust fumes in speeding traffic. Asking the right person on the side of the road allowed us the latter and in a short while we cleared the city.
The last leg of the trip was ahead of us and remaining daylight looked promising. We pushed through the Colima mountains and hit the state line sometime around early evening. After that it was just a blur of coconut trees along the road and we pulled in to our first camp spot. I had been working toward this moment for over a month. Before internet sites with updated swell maps, this moment was even more intense because there was no telling what would be found. One thing is for sure, it’s usually bigger in anticipating thoughts.
The swell I was looking at was nothing like what my mind had created along the drive. It wasn’t a shock and I was still grinning with stoke because I knew I had so much yet to see. I had a month to roam the Michoacan coast, what was not to like? It was a good time to get the camp dialed in and make all the social rounds to various others. Lots of people from all over the world, but also a strong presence of Texas surfers.
One of those hot winter days, I was having the daily lazy siesta in my hammock, when a white truck drove by and parked near the river mouth. Shortly after that I see a few guys head out front for an afternoon session in the blazing sun. One guy was just hammering the waves out there. Spray was flying high and he carved with pure style. I checked the truck to see Texas plates. Turned out to be Justin Jalufka and his friends. When they came in, we talked and made plans for a shoot the next morning.
The swell didn’t get any bigger overnight but that didn’t slow Justin and his crew down at all. They had already been surfing other spots before they came here and had to leave soon. As long as it was rideable, they were going to get wet and soak in the remaining water time their trip allowed for.
Justin simply killed it out there. His surfing definitely stood out from the crowd, and crowded it was! At chest high, plenty of people filled the line up. The weekend after Justin left turned out to be the most crowded of all. Surf had come up to head high and I counted 60 people in the water at one time. Whoa, that wasn’t what I was looking for at all. Brian and I packed our gear and headed south.
Just a few hours down the road we came to Brian’s second home. A break he first visited some twenty years ago. He had a full quiver stashed at Sophia’s house so we made that our first stop. When we arrived at her home we came across her immediate family preparing for a party. Something big must have happened because they had slaughtered a cow for it and enough food was being prepared that would feed a small army. The smell of fresh beef on the grill, a cold beer in my hand and a perfect left within walking distance lent me feelings of Heaven on Earth. But we had to be on our way, after at least three tacos of course, because by the looks of things it was fixing to get very crowded with incoming family. Brian led the way to the storage area and just to the left of the door my eye caught an artistic object. It was a hand-made cross hanging on a support pole. Brian noticed me looking and pointed out that Harpoon Barry made that. He said Barry used to hang out here a lot. I’d like to think that the late Barry Welsh joined us for that evening’s surf session.
Almost a week went by before some size came in, but when it did the break just lit up. After a tell tale afternoon that a swell was building, the following dawn session had only the best few surfers in the water. Nothing thins a crowd like double overhead grinders. And this place didn’t have a crowd to begin with. Only a handful of surfers in the water that morning and the local heavies stood out as the true masters. Watching them surf was inspirational yet left me feeling extremely humble. Watching guys like Jorge and Flaco drop in deep, race down the line to carve a roundhouse and charge the sickest pits to a re-entry was jaw dropping. The show didn’t last long because the wind changed onshore quickly and the size wasn’t there the next morning.
It was almost another week before more size came in. A southwest swell was pushing in at two foot overhead. It was a nice manageable size, but hollow and thick enough to command plenty of respect. I had already seen a few broken boards the past couple of weeks. One kid snapped his board on it’s first paddle out. He said he never even rode it. He paddled into the early morning stiff offshores, sketched his bottom turn and next he was swimming in to look for the other half. It was a beautiful wave, but with a slip it could turn ugly fast. I stayed a few more days then drove back up north to greet an incoming WNW swell that was hitting 12-16 ft. on the virtual buoy report.
Back at the first camp I found that Mike(Miguel) was still hanging out. I told him of the updated internet information (this is how the rumors start). He already knew from a phone call to his son, who he said just might come down. I hung my hammock next to his and we waited Michoacan style for another day until the swell hit. Junior didn’t make it down, he wound up doing tow-in off the Baja coast.
When the swell hit, it hit hard and fast. In two days Mike, and English surfer Kieren Evans and I drove to three spots in the immediate area looking for perfect conditions. We found that the best surf was back with the crowd because that place just picks up any swell out there. It wasn’t clean perfection, but in the early morning hours it was close enough. The regular offshore morning winds swept up 15′ faces and tossed spray far beyond the back. The lefts were working well and I was out of film. It was time to retire the camera and spend the rest of my trip paddling into warm blue waves with some of my friends.
Mexico has always been a Texas surfer’s backyard playground. Some places hold art pieces created by some of us. Old boards and new boards left or sold. Sometimes it’s stories of triumphs or hardships, left behind to be brought up someday as the local asks, “You’re from Texas? Do you know, …?” And then there were a few places where the locals didn’t care where I was from. I got the stinkeye because of my camera equipment several times. I wanted no problems so I was not shy in talking to them. Basically asking if it was okay that I photograph the wave. The expected request was delivered with a warm smile. All that was asked was that I do not name the spot. No problem, because some of the places already are packing over fifty in the line up. Being a surfer myself, I was easily convinced that we should get our knowledge of where to go from our surfing family. Ask another surfer, if he’s from Texas he’ll be able to tell you all about surfing Michoacan.