Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Smiley Smile (Mexico, Part 2)

This is going to sound incredibly trite to most surfers out there, but I'm being honest when I say that I actually played Brian Wilson's "Smile" album on the second morning I was at the Cabo Surf Hotel, standing on my balcony, watching the sun rise over the breaking waves. When the line "Dance Margarita, don't you know that I love you..." came on, the hair stood up on my sunburned neck.

I woke up at 7:00 to beat the crowd, which can get pretty thick at Old Mans, but by the time I finished my cornflakes there were 7 guys in the line-up. The glassy morning conditions and lower tide gave the waves a little more juice, so I traded in the Robert August 8-footer for a 7'4" JC Equalizer thruster. I was tempted to paddle out to "The Rock," a more powerful wave to the north, but decided to try out the spot I was relatively familiar with. It had picked up in size to about 3-4 feet.

The first thing I noticed was that the JC got into waves really easily, and moved MUCH quicker. I was still feeling very stiff going backside on the rights and realized how many things I still had to learn about where to position myself on the waves to get the most speed.

I have to say, besides a constant sensation of surf-bliss (and a burning sensation on my rashy ribs), the predominant emotion I felt in Mexico was one of humility. Everywhere around me--from the little local kids to the bikini-clad girls to the Old Men who gave the spot its name--people were surfing much better than me.

I overheard a couple 10-year-old boys in the pool talking their sponsors and swam over. "I only have one sponsor," said one knee-high grom with a bushy blond hairdo that was going chlorine green in front of my eyes. "But my sister has lots." As if on cue, a thirteen-year-old girl jumped into the pool wearing a Rip Curl rash guard. Her hair had the same green highlights as her kid bro.

When we all started chatting about our boards, she said, "I have lots back home in Santa Barbara."

"Hm," I deduced. "Lots of boards, sponsored, from Santa Barbara... You wouldn't happen to be riding for Al Merrick wouldja?"

"Yep!" she said.

I said, "Would you mind putting an order in for me? Tell Al that you put on a few pounds in Mexico and need something a little bigger." I also made a mental note to keep an eye out for her in the line-up.

Before she got out of the pool, she said, "It's supposed to get big tomorrow. Big south swell is on the way from a hurricane or something."

"Cool!" I said, trying to sound casually enthused, or at least not nervous. "See ya out there!"

That night after my evening surf, I went to the surf shack and traded in the JC for a 5'8" M10 Hogfish. I had been telling all my friends back home that I was going to try a fish, so I thought I might do it in the glassy morning waves when there would be less people in the water that I might injure. As I walked out with the bright blue potato chip under my arm, the Mexican kid I rented it from called after me, "Man, it's gonna be big tomorrow. Good board!"

"Si," I said, a bit more hesitantly.

At 8:00, my wife and I drove into San Jose Del Cabo, to an open-air taqueria called "Hangmans" on the recommendation of fellow blogger Flotsam (kudos!). The restaurant was unforgettable; one of the highlights of our trip. It had funky decor: old puppets, license plates, skeletons, glowing plastic rocking horses, and broken surfboards hung from the walls. A live jazz band played in the corner. On each table were no less than eight saucy condiment bowls for doctoring up the succulent tacos that they grilled under the stars. Just as I settled into a seat and opened the menu, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

"How was your surf today?" I looked up and recognized one of the young Mexican surf instructors from Acapulquito. Something clicked. I had heard a native surfer whistling jazz standards in the line-up earlier and thought it was odd. Now I was face-to-face with the soloist himself. He said his name was Sergio and that his family owned Hangmans. His gray-bearded father (who was also a surfer and also named Sergio) brought the restaurant over from mainland Mexico 11 years ago. This was a favorite hang out for locals, so when Sergio Jr. recommended the cow tongue, I had to oblige. It was as tender as liver, but lacked the dirty flavor of internal organs. It was more like buttery sirloin. I smothered the oblong pieces of meat in chipotle and temped the fate of my bowels.

When we finished our meal and headed toward the door, Sergio said, "See you tomorrow! Good swell coming!"

"So I hear," I said, too tired and full to act macho. "See you then." With that, we drove home and went to bed.

That night, I hardly slept. The sound of the pounding surf and the anticipation of waking up early to beat the crowd had me doing bleary-eyed clock checks every hour on the hour. When I finally rolled out of bed at 6:00AM and threw open the curtain, I realized that the south swell had arrived.

Brian Wilson - "Heroes & Villians"


Connie said...

Geez, Rick! I have got to say, that was like reading a very interesting chapter in a novel and then being forced to put it down against my will. I love your writing. And, your trip sounds awesome, by the way. Hurry up with Chapter 2! I can't wait to hear about the swell!

Slim said...

hey boner, tomorrow's my last day at work (and on the 'net), so hurry up with the rest of the story where you get your ass handed to you trying to take that 5'11 fish right on DOH faces. HA!

PS: I'll be holed up at the coast sun-tues. NW on the way!

Chum said...

I kinda got carried away with that last entry. Slim, talk about killing the suspense! The only part you are wrong about was the size of the fish. It's my height: 5'8".

I'll try to get the next entry up tonight - after all, I'll have more surfing to talk about after this weekend.

Dadio said...

Hey, Chumster, very suspensful. Get on with the story. I haven't talked to you since you've been back from Mexico . Hope all is well.

Whiffleboy said...

Dude, this is torturous. Get on with part 3!!!

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Diane said...

So happy for you, Son. Looks like a ideal trip.