Getaways: Wave Runner

Finding sand—and surf—in Mexico's hottest new beach town.

November 2008

The cool, choppy water of the Pacific swells below me. Frothy waves crash behind me, in front of me—all around me. I breathe in deeply, my stomach pressed against the smooth fiberglass of a longboard. I’m waiting for the perfect wave and the perfect chance to show myself that I can do this.

Although I’ve lived in Boulder for 10 years, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, a 15-minute car ride from the beaches and cool waters of Lake Michigan. Considering my upbringing, I’d always fancied myself a water baby. Take me to any lake on the planet and I’ll be the first to dive right in. Even living here in the mountains I’ve found water to splash around in—creeks, reservoirs, and high alpine lakes. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered, recently, that I’m absolutely terrified of the ocean. Waves send me running for the sand like a small child.

And that’s exactly the reason I’ve squeezed myself into a wetsuit and am balancing, helplessly, atop a surfboard in the waters off of Mexico. I wish I could say this was all my idea—that I’d planned this trip and signed myself up for a three-hour surf lesson with the sole purpose of overcoming my fear of waves. But I didn’t. My husband did. A born surfer, Tim has dreamt of acclimating me to the salt water ever since our Hawaiian honeymoon revealed my phobia. And so he’s chosen Sayulita, Mexico, as the setting for my stand. This small surf break 21 miles north of Puerto Vallarta has been making waves as a tourist destination for Americans—and especially Coloradans—for the past few years. The theory is that by the end of our three-day weekend I will be comfortable in the ocean. 

Lying on this board, I have to admit I’m skeptical.