Surfing was introduced to the Acapulco region in the late 1950s. Oral history from the area notes that Hollywood actors, artists, and other members of the leisure class brought down the first surfboards. Mexicans became interested in wave riding through observation. Los Costeños (coastal dwellers)—especially in the state of Guerrero—were already gifted watermen. Theirs was a well-rooted ocean culture and lifestyle, and they learned to surf and became good at it fast.
By the time of the shortboard revolution, in the late 1960s, surfing was already popular in Mexico. Due to the lack of a native shaping industry, local surfers would share one board for long periods of time. Getting one’s own surfboard was a big deal. Many surfers stole boards from the gabachos (Americans), and they’d surf them communally until they disintegrated. The old surfers don’t talk of this as doing something wrong. To the contrary, they remember how it helped surfing develop in these places. By the end of the 1970s, Mexico’s first expressions of surfboard building and promotion were seen in beach towns across the country.
While Mexican surfing started in Baja Norte in the 50s, then in the Mazatlán area, Acapulco is known as Mexican surfing’s third base—before Los Cabos, Zihuatanejo, or Puerto Escondido. The Acapulqueño scene bloomed at Revolcadero in the 1960s, where it became became the local surf and hangout spot of the first generation, which included the Padilla brothers, Luis and Ignacio, Toño Llorens, the Briseño brothers, Pepe Hernandez, Luis Diaz, and Ivan Blanco. Other names followed: Pin Alvarez, “Tiki” Villalvazo, Pilon Consuelo, “El Japo,” Hector Añorve, “Chino” y “Pollo” Vega, Paton Torreblanca, Pancho Salcedo, Hugo Soberains, Adiel Maldonado, and “El Capi” Olasalga, from Zihuatanejo. Saltiel Alatriste and Antonio Ochoa became the earliest surfers from Mexico City to surf Revolcadero. Then came the Polidura brothers, Poncho and Fernando, and Jorge Fenton, who started surfing shorter boards in the early 1970s.
Shortly after, guided by their exploratory instincts—a common trait of the 70s surfer—“El Princess” beach became the hot spot, as it had beautiful A-frame peaks. Coastal development pushed the surfing scene south through Punto Muerto, Copacabana, and Bonfil.
In 1968, Club Surf Safari—the initial Acapulqueño surf club, and one of the first in the country—was founded by Rodrigo Huerta. Guerrero managed to organize their inaugural state championships in 1971. Acapulqueños and the state of Guerrero became leaders in organized surfing in Mexico and a strong generator of talent like national champion Evencio García Bibiano, Javier “La Charra” Hernández, “El Moro” Miguel Angel García, Enrique Collins, Paco Soberains, Roberto Sauri, “El Yeye” Palma, and “El Pille” Lopez, followed by Ricardo “El Frijol” Díaz in the 1980s.
Through a combination of local energy and the steady waves just south of the city, Acapulco became the most vibrant home of Mainland Mexican surfing. The fact is not lost on the new generation of Playa Bonfil.
[Feature image: Looking south from Las Brisas to the storied beaches of Revolcadero, Princess, and Bonfil—the ojo de agua of Mainland Mexico surfing. Photo by Mark Kronemeyer.]
[This sidebar was excerpted from TSJ 31.4’s “Sucka-Free on the Ruta Del Sol,” by author Scott Hulet. For the full feature, subscribe today.]