By Phil Jarratt
I was in two minds about timing our visit to La Saladita with the Mexi Log Fest, partly because I wanted to surf as many of those long-peeling lefts as I possibly could over a week, and partly because I don’t want to get a reputation as a white-haired international logger/hipster groupie.
This is a quite reasonable concern, since over the last 12 months I’ve been at the Nine Foot & Single in Bali, the Gliding Barnacles in Portugal and, of course, the Noosa Surf Festival. Would another logger on the calendar make me look a bit too much like George Fairbanks, James A Michener’s rather pathetic 60-something narrator in The Drifters, who follows a bunch of young hippies around Europe and Africa, apparently getting his rocks off watching from a safe distance as they experiment with sex, drugs and the zeitgeist?
But then I walked into Mexi HQ at Lourdes’s tantina on the beach and event founder Israel Preciado gave me a big man-hug, pressed a cold beer into my fist and said, “Welcome to our little party, so glad you finally made it!”
Our compromise was to let the Mexi get a head of steam going, then arrive midway through it and stay on for some sessions after the event crowd had dispersed, but Izzy immediately put me at my ease by inviting me to join in the somewhat confusingly-named “Judges’ Relief” at the end of every day’s competition. With old Malibu mate Jimmy Gamboa wearing the head judge sombrero, this might have meant anything, but it turned out to be a full hour of exclusive use of the point for judges, commentators, event staff and old ring-ins like myself.
And as the week wore on, the surf got bigger and better. I expected the competitors and the public to hang the rules and paddle out on top of us, but there was a respectful obedience, and with Noosa festival regulars like Matty “Waxhead” Chonowski and Ambrose McNeill, and California pals like Kassia Meador and Jen Smith among the better surfers in the water and happy to share the good ones, I got my few keepers every session, before taking my crook back to the beer tent.
This was Izzy Preciado’s fifth running of the Mexi Log Fest, a little event that’s been growing in global prestige at a remarkable rate. And why wouldn’t it! I’d rate the La Saladita point as one of my top three longboard lefts in the world, and easily the longest. When La Saladita pumps, as it did last week, you can take off up the line from Lourdes’s tantina and kickout on the sand about 400 metres down the bay in front of Paco’s Bar. That’s another great thing about La Saladita – you can use beers with limes in them as your markers at either end.
So it goes without saying that todo el mundo was in town for the party, Noosa being represented by Emily Lethbridge and adoptee Mason Schremmer, as well as the Jarratts. Out front of Lourdes’s bar the music and the salsa dancing went on until dawn – I know, I could hear it from my bed at Corky’s Casa up the beach a half-kilometre – but the serious competitors must have had the ear plugs in, because there were some amazing performances all day long, from first heat at first light.
Our Em and the Waxhead were unlucky not to progress beyond the quarters, but the competition at the pointy end was fierce, with some amazing surfing in the overhead screamers from Kaniela Stewart, Tom Payne and Kevin Skvarna in the men’s, and Chloe Calmon, Honolua Blomfield and Kass Meador in the women’s. In the end, it was Hawaii all the way, with Kani Stewart just gliding over Noah Shimabakuru in the men’s and Honno Blomfield taking it away from Chloe by using her North Shore smarts on the biggest set waves.
And then it was back to the tequila and the salsa dancing. Viva Mexi Fest!
Although I once spent a week trying to work out which tiny end bit of the world’s biggest close-out it was safe to ride at Puerto Escondido on the Oaxaca coast, until last week I’d never been to the beautiful and historic city that gives the coast and the state its name.
We were meeting up with friends who got there a day or two before us, and they messaged me: “Wow! Oaxaca, just wow!” It may have been the mescal, or maybe just the excitement, but as soon as we checked into our elegant little bed and breakfast between the Jardin Etnobotanico and the majestic Santo Domingo Church and wandered a few blocks to the pedestrian thoroughfare of Calle Alcala, the wow factor became unavoidable.
Colour, movement and excitement around every corner, everywhere you look. I love just about everything about Mexico, but here in Oaxaca, there’s a happy collision of culture, style, great architecture, music, and above all else, fun that is totally contagious. The first thing I did in Oaxaca was find a rooftop bar with a good view. The second thing I did was order a couple of super-sized margaritas. The third thing I did was extend our stay by a few days.
Since then we’ve happily wandered the streets morning and night, catching pop-up orchestral concerts, amazing parades and brilliant buskers, and escaped the heat of the day inside the cool stone walls of the many incredible museums. Last night on a rooftop overlooking the mountains, we farewelled our friends with a feast of chapulines, the local edible grasshoppers, washed down with local wine, while a duo serenaded us with beautiful harmonies backed by guitar and violin.
Great night. Great town.