Montezuma’s Revenge

“We were tripping out, and the next thing we know, there were canine units-you name it. Every one of the border-patrol officers came over, pulled all their guns on us, and yelled ‘Get the f-k out of the car!'”-Jason Bennett

You’d have a hard time finding two places more culturally different though environmentally similar than California and Mexico. California, with its bottomless well of money, breast implants, dotcoms, and movie studios, couldn’t seem further away from Mexico’s poverty, Catholicism, bullfights, and homogeneousness. It’s as if one’s a godless spaceship full of rich porn stars and the other a thatch-roofed church packed full of unemployed ex-farmers.These differences make it seem strange that the coast from Los Angeles to Ensenada is almost geographically identical: the mountains, the rivers, the foothills, the beaches, and even the waves all look the same. The only exception might be California’s annoying over-planting of imported palm trees, which happen to grow wild in southern Mex.It may be those topographical similarities that make Mexico seem so accessible to Californians, but it’s the cultural disparities that explain why anyone who’s spent any length of time south of the border has an unhealthy supply of travel horror stories, including tales of corrupt police, projectile vomiting, unsanitary hospitals, and undefined jail sentences. But regardless of the repercussions, rumors of thousands of miles of double-overhead uncrowded beachbreaks and underage drinking lure surfers back to the tequila terrordome year after year.This year we got smart and decided to capitalize on the pain, fear, and amoebic dysentery of others by running eighteen pages of surf photos from Mexico trips this past winter. Also, as a service to future travelers, we asked surfers to tell us some of their least-fond memories of Mex, and we put together a guide to surviving the experience-because difference is all good and fine until a cop tells you he wants 50 bucks or you’re going to jail.®ComprendÇ?-Joel

One time while surfing my home break, a whale came up and bumped my board with its snout. I asked the whale why it had chosen to bump me and he calmly replied, “Your a sitting in a pool of my urine.” I smiled and asked the whale where he learned how to talk. He just looked back with a big whale grin and said, “I learned to talk by listening to all the surfers having conversations between sets, dude.” I was shocked; I had no idea whales were eavesdropping in on us the whole time. I asked the whale his name, and he said it was “Hugh.” But it sounded like he was messing with me, so I asked him his last name. He said it was “Ghassole.” I knew he was screwing with me, and just as I was about to say something to him, he disappeared underwater. I’ll never forget my encounter with Hugh the whale. Every time I strike up a stupid conversation with a fellow surfer in the water, I have to pause and smile, because I know Hugh is listening and laughing-thinking that humans are idiots.-C.C.