Your Next Trip: A Salina Cruz Long Weekend

posted by / Magazine / July 24, 2014

Noa Deane, far from being over the hill. Photo: Morgan Maassen

Noa Deane, far from being over the hill. Photo: Morgan Maassen

Let this serve as a reminder: Your weekends are valuable. Invest wisely. Photo: Jimmicane

Let this serve as a reminder: Your weekends are valuable. Invest wisely. Photo: Jimmicane

Dane Reynolds and Mick Fanning eat sandbars like this for breakfast. What kind of wisecrack you got for that, Happy Gilmore? Photo: Jimmicane

Dane Reynolds and Mick Fanning eat sandbars like this for breakfast. What kind of wisecrack you got for that, Happy Gilmore? Photo: Jimmicane

“Strike mission” is such a militant, rigid term. You’re not crossing the border for a tactical assault, you’re going because you saw a Southern Hemi swell en route to Salina Cruz and you’re calling in sick on Wednesday night for a long weekend of draining right tubes. You’ve given your mediocre home break, loving wife and office job more than ample face time. It’s time to do you. It’s time to hurt your hips from crouching in 80-degree, sand-bottomed dream-pits — not your office chair. It’s time for Salina Cruz, and four days is all you’ll need. Don’t waste ‘em seeing anything but the inside of a reeling right tube. The ruins at Chichen Itza can wait for the Mrs.
–Beau Flemister

At a glance
Best airline: Delta or AeroMexico (Average $650 roundtrip from LAX)
Best swell: South-Southwest
Best months: April-October
Best boards: Just bring a couple standard shortboards. Unless it’s going to be massive, in which case bring a slight step-up.

Before I book, what conditions am I looking for? Like most sand bottomed breaks, the dispersion and amount of arena is a consideration, but if you’re going in the summer (and you should), somewhere will be good. Besides that, you want a sizeable south swell between 190 and 220 degrees and south-southwest winds. If it’s blowing hard north, it’s best to wait for another window.

Where am I going, exactly? Fly into the town of Huatulco (HUX) located in the state of Oaxaca and a (pre-booked) shuttle from the surf camp will take you the two-hour drive to the city of Salina Cruz, where you’ll be staying. It’s at this point that you relinquish control and let your camp guides bring you to one of the dozen right pointbreaks and a few choice beachbreaks.

Is it really that good? Is John John Florence good at Pipe? Is To Catch A Predator creepy? Have you seen Dusty Payne’s part in Lost Atlas? The place is full of 100-yard hollow and rippable right points. Unless you’re a picky goofyfoot with something against your backside (see: Ry Craike), then yeah, it’s that good. Stall for thick-lipped kegs, perfect your tight arcs and punt when the wind blows slightly onshore. It’s an any-footer’s fantasyland.

If I’m dropping two grand, will I surf all day? If you’ve got it in you. Commonly, you, the guide and whoever else is at the camp will get up before dawn and log a solid multi-hour morning session. The winds usually come up after 11, and you can still surf, but that brutal Oaxacan heat will have you running for cover. And a cold Modelo.

Surely there are others with the same dream. There sure are. But the beauty of Salina Cruz, as opposed to its neighbor Puerto Escondido to the north, is the sheer number of wave options. If you’re driving along the sand and one spot is too crowded, the point or jetty or beachbreak just around the corner is usually another option.

And if I’m jonesing to go left? You should’ve gone to Indo. Kidding. But there is a beachbreak an hour south and another one in town that attracts a lot of swell and turns on when the wind switches.

I heard surf camps are the only option — that true? Pretty much. The camps and their guides run the show down there while it is theoretically possible to access the breaks on your own, you don’t know which obscure dirt alley to turn down, where it’s OK to drive on the beach and where it’s not. And even if you did figure it out, the vibes from the locals, who make their living helping you score, wouldn’t be worth the few bucks saved and hours wasted .

OK, so surf camp it is. Which one? Use your Google machine to connect you with the fine folks at Las Palmeras Surf Camp, Casa El Mirador or Punta Escondida Tours. The earlier you book, the better. Enjoy.

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  • Justin Cote

    Delta and AeroMexico suck, fly out of Tijuana on Interjet—tickets are cheaper and board fly free.

  • skyhart

    I just got back from Cabo (Shipwrecks, Lovers Beach, etc.) and airfare from LAX is under $400. Flew AirTran and had a pretty decent experience.

  • Santiago Marquez Z

    I am local from salina cruz, surfing magazine and waterways go make your bussines to another place

  • CCRider

    I just got back from an “all-inclusive” 7-day trip to a surf camp in Salina Cruz. It’s an interesting story that involves a knife threat. Here are some highlights:
    1. Owner of surf camp never there – in Tijuana all week on “family business”. Taken care of by two teenagers totally over their heads.
    2. Breakfast and lunch every day: sliced cantaloupe, bananas, and apples bought at Walmart. Dinner was greasy/cold/cooked by teenagers. Fruit doesn’t cut it if you’re surfing all day.
    3. Driver habitually late, rude, gas tank empty, running errands before taking us to beach, would eat mangos I scavenged for ourselves to eat while we were out surfing.
    4. Often no running water at house/compound.
    5. Survived for a week by buying peanuts and raisins and cookies and gatorade from Oxxo (local 7-11 type). I lost ten pounds. I’m already skinny.
    6. Fellow surfer left 1/2way thru due to conditions. Threatened by owner over phone from Tijuana to BE STABBED if he didn’t shell up $50 owed (after not getting fed, after giving gas money to driver himself, etc.). He paid the $50. I nibbled on my peanuts quietly for the remainder of stay.
    7. Almost missed our flight when driver took truck for a joyride in the morning and showed up an hour late again.
    8. Bilingual guides promised – reality: zero English spoken. Surprised at how much Spanish I was able to pull out of my ass when needed.
    9. Surf was unreal. It’s true – point after point after point, each one better than the next. When I was in the water nothing else mattered. One day we surfed a rincon-sized point all to ourselves. All day.
    10. In process of filing a claim with PayPal for “fraudulent business”. Hope to get some money back.
    TIPS: Only pay 10% up front to reserve your spot at a surf camp. Call the guys and talk to them to get a feel for the place. This is Mexico – everything is negotiable. Aeromexico charged $40 per board bag round trip. Or, get topo maps, a 4×4, and drive yourself. It’s not that hard.

  • Carlos G Lascurain

    Im starting to believe that Surfing magazine does get a cut from Waterways. And when did surfers become such pussies that they need to be picked up at the airport, have wifi, A/C and satellite TV everywhere they go? If you are one of these surf tourists you deserve to and will get ripped off everywhere you go! Bottom lime, this is an awesome area of the world that fortunately has not yet been developed except for a few camps close to some of the points (No fancy website, no reservations, no AC, no wifi, no TV ) where you get awesome food grown/caught in the area, a bed and good vibes. As opposed to Waterways staying locally will have a positive impact on the town around the spots you surf. I was there recently and most people don’t like the Waterways tours because they even bring their own food/beer, no $ stays behind for the locals. This area might may have been a bit rugged 10 years ago but now most of the spots even have signs. Go have an adventure!

  • tony

    who has 2 grand to spend on mexico, thats an indo trip at that point. if I’m going to mexico i want to spend as little as possible

  • the original ruler

    waterways is a joke, don’t believe the hype!!!

  • jesse kinsella

    another Mexican scam, don’t waste your money$

  • Mark

    epic story. guess it pays to go with the legit camps through wavehunters and waterways. I stayed with Cesar and had an opposite experience. paid out the ass for it though…

  • Mark

    Also I was there for 5 nights and got far from epic waves. A few head high days, and one flat day. No reeling points like the videos. Just mushy long points. FYI, don’t go unless there is a bombing south swell.

  • MAC

    cesar is a Taliban like narco that does not surf and is hated by locals! Stop feeding the enemy look for surf on your own, get to know the locals.The entire Mexican coast has epic surf on good swells.

  • freerider

    Right on Carlos, have surfers turned into such pansified wimps-they can’t even plan their own surf trip. Wifi, a/c, tv–give me a break. My best surf trips were solo trips to Baja and Mainland Mex in my VW van. My entertainment–waves and a good book. Wouldn’t trade those days for anything. Dude- could tell you some stories too. Good advice you gave them-get off the beaten track-have an adventure. Would’t stay at a surf camp if you paid me, especially Waterways

  • Santiago Marquez Z

    Your recommendation are perfect to the owner of the camp, and if you want a perfect attention check all the options in the market,there are some local surfers that meet all the requirements, With which camp did you came?
    And yes the problem if you came alone, be careful because as you say is Mexico

  • cogerme

    The more I think about it this “article” has to be a parody, a joke on the”surf camps” and their clients. As Carlos already mentioned, what happened to surfers these days, that they need a guide and a babysitter.

    This reads like something straight out of Travel and Leisure magazine, which makes me think that has to be the point, right?. Maybe next time you could recommend the best golf courses and your favorite foodie destinations, cuz you can’t hit up Hawaii every night, right?

  • ninja86

    I’ve been twice now. Went second time because I thought I might get it better. Both times went in rented 4×4, explored every hidden point. Winds are super fickle, the sand disappears and turns the waves to mush for weeks at a time. SO much work to get anywhere, impossible to get out of the heat. You do get the occasional epic session but it’s usually packed with surf tour muppets. The few local guys that surf are cool, they generally have run of the breaks. Some lovely families in the small towns. Salina Cruz itself is a complete shithole oil shipping centre. I got more waves in crowded El Sal. Better off going to Oaxaca city eating drinking and dancing!

  • bennett

    on the mark, i went in 2012, and stayed at caesars , it sucked big time, the locals will end up spoiling their own area in time, if it was me i would pick a different location and don’t waste your hard earned money here.

  • freerider

    By the way– wasn’t Salinas a some what unknown point-until the Rip Curl
    Search Event and the magazines exploited it to the masses?

  • FLA904

    ive been everywhere,lived at sunset bch for years and know my shit! SALINA CRUZ IS EPIC! To me a surf camp is a safe place to crash and keep your stuff and eat nada mas. FREERIDER you are a kook! THIS “SURF TOURIST” WILL SHRED ON YOU KOOK. FLA904

  • Scott Rego

    There are truly good waves to be found in Salina Cruz. It is not necessary to hire a guide! As long as you speak good Spanish the local people from the villages will point you in the right direction. Finding a 4×4 rental is difficult but not impossible. Most of the point breaks are not secret anymore….Thanks to all the surf camps, the whole world is finding out about them. I found the spots on my own and as of today have not told anyone else how to get to them. I guess soul surfing is forgotten these days. Greed and money from the camps has been the talk these days. Blame all the surf camps for the crowded line ups!!

  • Javi

    Which camp were you with?