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Last updateFri, 19 Jan 2018 8am

Surf’s up in Michoacán

In the depths of New York’s bitterly cold winter, a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon: two friends would be available for a two-week surf trip in May. 

Of several possible destinations including El Salvador and Costa Rica, Mexico surfaced as the strongest option, the west coast offering virtually guaranteed Pacific swell in the Spring. Magicseaweed, a website surfers use to get swell forecasts, predicts an average of 98 percent surfable conditions throughout May. Better yet, the seasonal average water temperature means there is no need for a wetsuit, just board shorts and a thin neoprene top. We were sold. 

With flights booked to Guadalajara, we set about researching the best local surf spots. We learned that many of the most reliable and uncrowded spots are located in Michoacán province to the south. However, we quickly ran into a string of warnings from friends in both the United States and Mexico telling us the area was not safe to visit. 

Further digging led us to Matthew Heineman’s chilling documentary “Cartel Land,” charting the collapse of social order in parts of Michoacán due to both the region’s mountain cover for drug manufacture and processing, and its coastal highway for drug trafficking. A picture emerged of the area’s history of violence, kidnappings and murder at the hands of the Knights Templar cartel. We learned that the 2013 Autodefensas community protection movement arose to overthrow cartel influence, although even that is suspected of being backed by a rival cartel seeking to claim the territory.

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