ADVENTURE | The Scenic Route to Salina

The quest to surf every worthwhile wave along Mexico’s West Coast

By Kyle Buthman

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photo kyle buthman

I feel the brisk offshore wind against my back as I push the nose of my 7-foot Pearson Arrow into the sand and strap the leash around my ankle. “Don’t wear a leash, your board’s gonna break,” someone says in English with a Mexican accent. I raise my head just in time to catch a glimpse of the man’s face before he enters the water. “I’ll be fine,” I reply, realizing that I recognize his face from a recent cover of Surfer magazine. Ten minutes later I’m frantically swimming for shore, chasing the front half of my board and thinking I should have listened to that guy before paddling out.

“That guy” was Kalle Carranza, one of Mexico’s most famous surfers at the time, and I had just unsuccessfully ridden my first wave at the Mexican Pipeline, Puerto Escondido. I remember everything from that trip like it was yesterday. Fast forward 15 years, and I’ve been back more times than I can count on both hands. I’ve had some of the best waves—and worst wipeouts—of my life on that beach, but I don’t remember any other trip like I do the first one.

Austin

photo @sacraficallamb

This April, I packed my bags just as I have every time I head back for Puerto, only this time I didn’t have to bribe anybody for a ride to the airport. Three of my best friends, Austin Smith-Ford, Tessa Timmons, and Melissa Sweeny, and I jammed all of our gear and 13 surfboards into the back of my truck and started the journey south. We were looking for something new in something old, and setting out on another trip that we would remember vividly 15 years down the road. We brushed off comments from friends about the cartel capturing us and focused on the goal: to score every notable wave from the border of Baja California to the border of Guatemala. Along the way, we’ve been making a film, The Scenic Route to Salina, which will premiere in Santa Cruz later this year.

It’s day 108 of our adventure as I sit and write this from a hammock overlooking a fun and empty reef break in Guerrero, Mexico. I don’t care to surf today—I’ve surfed more in the last three-and-a-half months than I have in any three-and-a-half-month period in my entire life—and, it’s worth noting, with better waves. Ahead are a few glimpses into some of the more memorable days of our journey thus far.

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photo kyle buthman

Baja California Norte, Day 9

It was just over a week into our journey that we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere. An interesting looking headland on the map led us down an endless dirt road to a seemingly impossible cliff to scale. My brother had joined us for a week on the road at this point, and our truck that had come to be known as “the duplex” because of the two Tepui tents on the roof was now the triplex. We saw the point had potential if there was more swell and less wind, so we set up camp above the headland and went to sleep, fearing that we might actually have to scale the cliff the next morning. When we awoke, overlooking perfect surf with no other people for miles, we were forced to scour the cliff for a way down.

Baja California Sur, Day 28-37

Baja flat spells are enough to make anyone go a little crazy. After 17 days in the dust and dirt without a wave over knee high, we were no different. We had tried out every fun board in our quiver before resorting to riding our camping gear. On day 28, the swell finally filled in. It wasn’t big but it sure was perfect. The next week was filled with riding all types of surf crafts on the perfect canvas for it.

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photo kyle buthman

Jalisco Mexico, Day 99

We were officially surfed out after a 19-day straight run of waves in July. The ocean had gone quiet and, for the first time on our journey, we headed to higher ground to check out a few things the coastline didn’t have to offer. We sat at the base of an active volcano and hiked to a waterfall nested in between the mountains, but what really caught our attention was the massive swell on that popped up on the forecast. We raced back to the coast nervously as the new swell began to fill in. Day 99 turned out to be one of the best days of surfing Austin or I have ever had.

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photo tessa timmons

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