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Whole Lotta’ Love: Randy Dible Does Mexico Part II

Where our intrepid Mission Beach bottom-feeder and veteran Mex-hand returns for the umpteenth time to see the scene of his life’s passion play.

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WARNING: Rated R for language, substance abuse, and explicit sexual conduct.

ACT ONE: A WINDOW IN TIME 

How it all started was, I lost my place that I’d had on the boardwalk in Mission Beach for 10 years. They gave me one months notice and jumped my rent from $750 to $1750 for the last 30 days. After ten years of livin’ the Life of Riley, all of a sudden I’m 86’d. So I stayed there four more months for free. Then I took ’em to court and the judge gave me another month. Now it’s October and I’m thinking, Where do I go, what do I do? I’ve lived alone basically for the last 15 years.

So, I tried the roommate thing—moved in with this swinger chick! She liked threesomes and up. What an experience. Let’s not get into that. Anyway, that lasted two months. Then, one of my buddies that I’ve known since junior high said, “Come on and live in my trailer down in Ocean Beach.” So now I’ve gone from living in a three bedroom, three bath, nice place to a 10-foot by 10-foot trailer. At least it was rent-free. I was living cheap. No bills. Then The Journal article came out (In Search of the Secret Point, Volume 7.4), and I felt an obligation to take it down to Mexico and pass it around to the people who had helped make it. After all, my ties were severed and I had time on my hands. A window of opportunity had opened.

So I said, “Let’s go for it.”

ACT TWO: OUTFITTING

This buddy, Kyle, that owned the trailer where I was staying and his 65-year-old father, Tom, were gonna come along. We were all ready to go in this little toilet of a black 1984 Toyota pickup when I pull it into our parking lot and a cop pulls up behind me. He checks me out. I’m driving on a suspended license and there ends up being so many charges it took the cop two ticket forms to write them all up. It was ridiculous enough that he actually started laughing. Finally, he tells me, “Don’t worry, I’m not taking you in. I’m just impounding your car.” I begged, “Please, it’s Christmas, come on.” Jeez, the car was almost legal. I mean, the license plate tag wasn’t even stolen. It was perfectly good. Someone happened to have an extra and gave it to me. We just wanted to make it to January, then take off for Mexico. It wouldn’t matter once we crossed the border. But that was not to be.

So we had to go out and find another vehicle. I wound up scoring this 1969 Ford Fairlane station wagon, mint condition, 351 engine with dual Holley carbs, and a trailer hitch on the back. Bad luck turned good. This thing got up and went! Then we bought the cut-off back half of a pickup truck converted into a trailer and started throwing everything we could find that would be of any use down there into it, including a boat and a 16-foot Flannigan paddleboard. We even brought three large rolls of carpet. Don’t ask me why, but they came in handy. We had none of the normal sense of restraint in packing for the trip. We had a trailer. When we got broke, we’d start selling stuff. So we had the fishing gear. The boat and motor. The paddleboard. I mean, that thing weighed 300 pounds by itself. It wasn’t a thing you’d normally cart around. In fact, it’s still down there.

Anyhow, the night we left, January 1, 1999, we were going over the Laguna Mountains on the way to Nogales and I fell asleep in the car and awoke to find us off the side of the road. Apparently, we’d almost died an hour into the trip when radical winds picked up the heavily laden trailer and started thrashing it around behind us. Our bicycles were crushed and my friends shaken.

We finally made it to Nogales. Twenty hours later, we’d dropped down through Hermosillo, Guaymas, Ciudad Obregon, Los Mochis, and Culiacan into Mazatlan to spend the night. From there we drove south another nine hours to a beautiful bay in southern Nayarit that would become our base camp for almost two months, and hunkered down to wait for a swell.

ACT THREE: CAMP LIFE 

After arrival at our first destination, we surfed wind waves at my old favorite spot, Lolas, with occasionally sizable faces while we waited for a real ground swell to come along. One day on the way out to the surf spot in our 14-foot boat, we hit a submerged rock and tore a small hole in the aluminum hull. It started sinking and the waves were going off and we were screaming. We turned around and jammed full throttle back to the beach with me bailing as fast as I could. We just made it to the sand but the boat was grounded.

So I rigged up the 16-foot paddleboard to carry my shortboard on the front with my diving gear, a basket for the fish, the hat, water—everything you’d need for an extended excursion. I made a mooring with a brick and a coke bottle and surfed Lola’s like that for six weeks, pretty much all by myself. I got some great waves up to 6 to 8 foot but no straight wests, just wind swell out of the Sea of Cortez.

Over those six weeks we’d set up this elaborate campsite with clotheslines with women’s lingerie flying, two tents, carpets laid out, shade tarps rigged, and we built all kinds of weird voodoo totems all over the place—anything to kill the time. All that gear from our trailer came into play. It must have looked kinda strange. I had thousands of dollars worth of camera gear and a hundred rolls of film in my tent, but the place looked so ramshackle nobody would consider breaking into it.

Our camp on the beach was in a natural harbor where Cortez once anchored. From there, pangas for hire took surfers out around the corner to three points. It was on the way out to the left a couple of years ago that I’d discovered the inside break I named Lolas, which is an even better wave than the outside left at the second point where the surf resort at Costa Azul drops surfers. Plus, the kids from the local town all surf there. On around the outside left point is a third spot. The Mexican guys that took me there always told me there’s no waves. But I looked at it and thought, That’s a bitchin’ point. I figured the boat guys didn’t like it because there’s no place to anchor.

So one day I drove the wagon out there. It’s two hours all the way back to the main highway, then up the road a way, and then a real gnarly dirt road back to the coast. Once you get out there, the only person around is this old guy Nacho, who’s been livin’ there for years. He sews net and reads poetry. Nacho loves visitors. He eventually told me there’s a lagoon behind the beach and a river that feeds into it. Every night the smugglers come down the river with their dope, run it across the beach to another waiting boat, and out to a trawler lying offshore. So it’s not a place you’d want to be at nighttime.

ACT FOUR: FALLIN’ HARD 

When the surf was flat, my friend and I drove to San Blas for their big yearly celebration. We ran into these three English girls that were traveling all over Mexico on a tour. I hit it off with one of them and did this head-over-heels, 16-year-old puppy love thing with this girl. We ended up spending three blissful days together back at the base camp doing the wild thing, then she and her friends moved on.

Before they left, I took them out to the lagoon inside the third point wave one day. The boat driver almost killed all of us trying to impress us when he ran the boat up onto the beach through the shorebreak, which was super dangerous, and dropped us off. Anyway, we’re on the beach, and here comes this drunk who turns out to be deaf mute. We were out there with the girls and the deaf mute liked them so he was hanging around us. Then Nacho came over and told us he was going to start a Playboy Club out there where all women would come to the beach nude. That was his big dream. Mine was to see this place break.

Nayarit side of Bahia Banderas.

Over the following weeks I kept coming back. When a big south did hit, I caught it breaking, waxed up my new longboard, and surfed a brand-new wave with a brand-new board. I named it Nachos. (During the swell, I also noticed a beach-break peak further inside that looked really good.)

By now, one of my San Diego traveling companions had burned out on Mexico. Kyle (the son) was bug bitten and six weeks was enough for him, so we parted company. He went home, but his dad stayed on, planning to buy a house and retire there. I guess he ended up with a 19-year-old Mexican girlfriend. That’ll usually do it for a 60-year-old surfer every time. Anyway, the waves were flat and by then I needed money, so I went into Vallarta to sell a camera. While there, I noticed the swell coming up, so I took a boat out to yet another left point south, on the way to Yelapa.

I met some people on the beach and there was only one other guy surfing with me. All and all, it was a great little side trip. After that, I came back into Vallarta and did the tourist thing: kicking back on the beach. All of a sudden, right in the middle of town, it started getting huge. Gigantic. I mean 10-foot A-frames right where all the tourists hang out. So the next morning I got up and jammed out to the north side of Banderas, which is on the other side of the bay from Yelapa. What’s unique is that one side of the bay is the state of Jalisco and the other side of the bay is Nayarit, 20 miles across from each other. So you can surf two states in the same bay.

I ran into my friend Kahuna Bob after a surf at Anclote. Hailing from San Diego, Bob runs a surf tour in Mexico these days. Bob told me the swell was going to be killer, that he was going to dump his tour flock, and that he and I were going to go surf Matanchen Bay and Stoner’s. Let’s go! The next morning we got up early, drove to Stoner’s and caught it unreal. (Bob, sorry for taking off on you on that wave you called the best of your life. I had good intentions. I thought it’d be fun to do crossovers, to share the longest wave we’d ever ridden together. I guess you didn’t feel that way.)

ACT FIVE: BURNIN’ LOVE 

The south swell is pumping and I’m in love with this English girl. We planned on meeting again during the trip, so I told her when she got somewhere for a while to call my ex-wife in San Diego and leave a message where she was. I’d come to her. I was in Sayulita, preparing to hit the road with this other young girl who wanted to tag along with me. She wasn’t bad looking and had some money ($40).

I called my ex-wife and she told me an English chick was waiting for me in Puerto Escondido. She’d be there for four to five days. I asked if she said where she was staying. She didn’t. So I said to myself, OK, I’m there. I told the other girl she was outta the picture, then jumped in the wagon and booked it south, pedal-to-the-metal from Nayarit to Oaxaca. The surf was huge! If the love part didn’t work out, the waves were pumping,

On the way there, fried after 20 hours of driving, I pulled over and slept. When I woke up in the morning, I realized I was parked in the very field that’s the turn off to Secret Point. So I took the road in and when I pulled up it was going off.

I’m powering south from Jalisco through the seaport of Manzanillo, then the states of Colima, Michoacan, and Guerrero and I’m tired again. I need to pull over. Down off the side of the road in a riverbed, I see the bat cave that I’d explored maybe 10 years earlier. So I climb up the rocks to the mouth of the cave and all of a sudden, bam! I get stung on the top of my head. My butt. Through the Levi’s. On my dick! Everywhere! These things are gnarly, big, redwing hornets and I walked right into their den. I’m up on these rocks screaming. So I jump, fall down the rocks, and break two toenails off. Then I’m running for the car and they’re just swarming me, nailing me, boom, boom, boom. I jump into the car, slam the door, and they’re bouncing off the windows. I’m just welted up thinking, You dumb ass.

From Michoacan, I booked it straight to Puerto because I knew I only had so much time to find my English lover. I remember flying along the road from Acapulco to Puerto from two o’clock to three o’clock in the morning, out in the middle of nowhere by myself.

Off in the distance I see fires burning by the side of the road, then drawing closer—ghostly figures through the smoke and firelight, then there’s plainclothes hombres with rifles and I’m going, “Oh, shit, here it comes.” They pull me over and I immediately tell them, “No tengo mucho dinero.” And they’re asking me, “What are you doing? Where are you going? Where’s your guns?” And I’m telling them, “No tengo armas.” So they ask again, “What are you doing here?” And I answer, “I’m in love!” I start explaining that I met this girl in Nayarit and now she’s in Puerto Escondido and I’ve only got a few hours to get there. It sounded good to them: “Get outta here.” I guess they understood the “love” thing and I’m rolling south again.

Finally, after an epic run, I pull into Escondido. It’s so built up I don’t know where I’m heading, but I hear the disco still going. I’ll just go have a beer. I walk in there and who’s out in the middle of the floor doing the salsa? There she is! Bingo! I cut right into the dance and she melted into my arms. She told me she never thought she’d see me again. So I spent two more blissful days, you know, rootin’ the crap out of her.

Finally, the girls took off again, back on their tour. As it turned out, they were not only on a tour to see Mexico, but to lay every Mexican local they could find. And I kinda got jilted the last night they were there. After doing me for two days, she ditched me in the bar. So I went to all the other bars looking for her, and at the last bar I came to on the beach, there she was, surrounded by every Mexican heavy big-wave surfer in town.

Here comes me, this gringo, up to her and they look at me like, “What do you want?” She says, that’s my boyfriend, and then to me, “I thought you said you wouldn’t get jealous!” And I cry, “But it’s your last night here!” I think the Mexicans could sense the possibility of a train-thing going down, so I turned and walked away, cryin’ all the way down the beach back to the hotel. She showed up to apologize and give me one last servicing the next morning, then I put her on the bus and it was over.

Meanwhile, the swell had come up even more. So I hooked up with Roberto Salinas, Checo Ramirez, Rogelio Ramirez—those three are the men in Puerto.

ACT SIX: HIGH TAILING 

I met this guy, Nathan, in the bar in Puerto. He was a wayward Australian and we hit it off right away. He was traveling by bus on an around-the-world tour. So now I had a new companion and I forgot about her and started to focus on new girls…and surfing, of course.

Several hours away from town is this secret sand-bottom point. How we ended up there is: there’s this chick, Tina, American, a Southern girl, real tough, with tattoos head to toe. She raises pit bulls in Puerto Escondido and surfs the point. Basically, what she explained was, in the summers she goes to Japan and works as a hostess and in winters she lives in Escondido as a surfer. So she makes her big wallet from the Japanese. As it happens, she’s on the lam from Arkansas. They’re lookin’ for her back there, so she can’t go home. Anyway, this point is a secret spot and no one’s allowed to know about it. And she took us there. As we we’re pulling up, Woody Woodworth and his crew of Mexican locals had just caught it and were leaving. I reckon Woody was going, “Ah shit,” when he saw me, another photographer. I mean, we were already drunk by the time we got out there, so we were just slobbering all over them, like, “Hey, how ya doin?” And he just looked at us. So I told the kids, “Hey, you guys come back tomorrow, I’ll shoot ya.” So they mellowed out. They’re the hot young Puerto locals.

Poisonous yellow-bellied sea snake, common in the Puerto lineup.

That evening, while we were camped out at the sand-bottom point, this mooch/alky showed up and pestered us until some of his fishermen buddies came and dragged him away.

Later that night we wanted to have a little fun, so we built this huge bonfire and made what they call a Oaxaca-tail. It had a little of everything in it, mezcal, LSD, fruit juice, you name it. Mixed it all up. Full moon. It was so cool man. I went swimming around in the ocean. That was the first time I’d ever done that at night in Mexico. We walked down the beach and in the moonlight you could see the waves: just perfect, ripping off, one after the other, ruler edge, so good. The big, smooth boulders on the point were like 80 degrees, still heated from the day’s sun, and we’re out there trippin’ from boulder to boulder. We didn’t surf it that night cause the kids had told us not to go out because of sharks. We knew that was their last-ditch effort but still, the thought of sharks, on LSD, in the middle of the night. The next morning we woke up to some of the best rights I’ve ever surfed in my whole life.

ACT SEVEN: MUCHO BORRACHO

We pull into Acapulco and discover that spring break’s going off. So we crashed the Copacabana and it was just wall-to-wall chicks from everywhere: Minnesota, Chile, Canada, France. They’re having all these drunken games. It was wild. We were having a blast. Girls were buying us drinks. Life was good. We went to techno parties at the Palladium Disco Palace overlooking Acapulco Bay where, basically, everybody dropped ecstasy and stayed up all night dancing. And we spent the rest of our money.

We cruised on stopping at Rio Nexpa for a quick visit. I said hi to my friends and ended up catching a ton of shit for the last article. This guy wanted to fight me because of it. Just then, one of the sons of the bar owner comes over and starts stabbing his finger into the guy’s chest, telling him, “Hey listen, this our land, our place, and we like the business. You have nothing to say here. You’re a gringo. You’re a visitor here from America where you have everything handed to you. And you come here and want to make trouble with our friend for helping us? Back off or he’ll kick your ass and then so will I!”

Meanwhile, this guy and girl from New York were heading north and we needed gas money, so we said come on with us. We headed out again for Maruata. This couple was so gullible, we’d drive off from rest stops while they’d be eating with all their stuff in our car. We’d yell “See ya!” and just blast off up the road with them screaming and waving for us to come back. We’d disappear around the bend then come back in five minutes saying, “Just kidding,” and pick them up.

Colima beach break, one of the most powerful in the world. The New York guy went out, broke his board on the first wave, and got hurt. Once again, the joke is on him!

So, we’re cruising along, powering refreshments from the drive-through, rockin’ to “Susie-Q” by CCR, and I recognize the turn-off to this really cool spot. Anyway, I thought it was the turn-off, OK? So I whip it and suddenly we’re flying over this dirt road, the New Yorkers in the back are whooping it up and the Australian’s having a great time, and I’m catching air. All of a sudden I fly up, come down, and boom, the steering wheel goes buuuuud! Spinning in circles! And off into the bushes we go. We’d broken the steering shaft connector in half! We’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and they think it’s funny. They’re so drunk they’re laughing, they’re rollin’. I’m thinking, OK, gotta go for help. I’ve got one bicycle and two surfboards left and my trunks and a camera. That’s it.

So, Neil from New York is going off in one direction to look for help, and I’m going to jump on the bike and go in the other direction. Well, he ended up walking for miles, while I rode through every little town asking for a mechanico, anybody. They’re just lookin’ at me like, “Where did this gringo come from? How’d you get here? No, there’s no mechanico here.” We were totally screwed.

So I pedal back to the car about an hour later, and what I stumble across is the Aussie pounding the New York chick right in the middle of the road! They’re just gettin’ it on! Doin’ it in the dirt. Hardcore! I come pedaling up. And they see me. And they’re laughing and going at it. And I’m going, “Wow! The next thing you know, I see a head over here popping up. And a head over there pop up. And another head with a rifle pop up. There’re Federales all through the bushes, just peepin’ and watchin’! Twenty of them! And I’m goin’, “You guys, stop!” And they’re goin’, “No, no!” I’m goin’, “Yes, yes!” Finally the commandante appears out of the bushes with a flank of guys. They come marching up and the two still haven’t missed a beat.

Divers with robalo from an estuary along the Sea of Cortez.

Finally, they both look up and freak. What had happened was, we’d broken down on a military base. Someone had left the gate open and that was the road I had mistakenly taken. It was a top-secret base and now we were on it, broken down. The commandante shouts, “What the hell are you doing here? Get the hell out of here right now!” So I tell him that I’d love to get the hell outta here but, as he could see, we’re not going anywhere. So he sent back to base for the top mechanic, and as the sun’s going down this guy arrives, they jack the car up, look under it, and whip the entire steering mechanism off. Then this Humvee pulls up with big machine guns mounted on the back, they grab all the parts and tell me, we’re going to go find a welder. They got us fixed and down the road.

(Thanks to the 1200 Battalion de IM and Commandante Jorge Cobin Esperon.) Note: I doubt Neil ever fully grasped all that went down that day.

ACT EIGHT: BREAK DANCING 

Two days later me and Nathan are booking it up to Mazatlán. We’re on our way home now. As we pulled into town, another south swell was hitting and we discovered it was spring break again. So we stayed on two days to soak up the local flavor. (We had gotten into this experiential sequence of chicks, jungle, waves, jungle, chicks, waves, chicks, jungle, and so on…)

That morning we surfed Cannons, then the next morning we took a water taxi over to Stone Island and surfed one of the most bitchin’ rights you’ll find anywhere. It’s a coral reef, super hollow, and fast. The photos don’t really do it justice. That afternoon, we were back on the mainland side, checking a beach break called Jacarandas, when the Love Boat landed 700 gay men and they all checked into the hotel across the street. An hour later, there were a hundred of them in g-strings with bodyboards out in the lineup. So we took in Pedro Gonzales Herrera at the Plaza de Toros, and then we were outta there.

Easter morning we woke up to three left points in a row—all firing. I don’t know their names. All I know is when we arrived it was already dark and we were down to the nitty-gritty. We were so tired, we just plopped down on the ground and crashed. We woke up in the morning covered in ash. We had crashed in an old fire pit and we were just black. It was Easter morning, the surf was going off, and all we had was a couple of beers and a can of sardines. So we named the place Sardines. We spent Easter surfing those last points.

Beyond that stretch of beach, south swells continue rolling up the coast deep into the Sea of Cortez, but the highway that allows access to the southern coastline turns inland to the north, undulating and twisting through the deserts to the border, and after three months of driving it chasing who knows what, I reluctantly followed it home.

Cannons Point, through the windshield of the Fairlane.

Editor’s note: After Randy finished recording this tale, he recalled one more thing. Every time they turned down a dirt road leading to surf, they’d crank Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” full volume on the tape deck. By the time they’d pull up to see waves pumping around a new point, Jimmy Page’s hammering guitar had them jacked out of their gourds. It became their anthem.