If a world-class, longboard-friendly, warm-water pointbreak is the type of thing you dream about, then you have to check out Playa La Saladita – one of Mainland Mexico’s premier left-hand pointbreaks.
However, if you’re keen on surfing it relatively uncrowded, you might want to avoid a trip to Playa La Saladita in late-April – as those dreamy, machine-like lefts are swarming with dozens of the world’s best longboard-enthusiasts who make their annual pilgrimage during the Mexi Log Fest.
I was both fortunate and unfortunate to visit during the week of the festivities, and I can tell you first-hand about the difficulties inherent in trying to pick off scraps in a sea of surfers quite proficient at doing just that. But, given the beauty and simplicity of La Saladita, and the great food – and of course, the unbelievably lengthy rides on tap – I still left Mexico satiated.
The fact that Mexi Log Fest – one of the world’s premier longboarding contests – is held at La Saladita speaks volumes of the break’s stature as one of the most big-board-friendly destinations on the planet.
American surfers have been visiting the break for more than 30 years, and as the classic approach to longboarding has been enjoying a global revival, La Saladita has become increasingly popular.
“Surfing has changed this place a lot,” Lourdes Valencia Guzman, the area’s original surfer girl, tells ASN. I stopped by her surf shop minutes after I arrived and pulled a 10’ X 23” single fin longboard from the racks, which were well appointed with dozens of longboards, mid-lengths, and even high performance shortboards. “It’s been a big change for me and my family. But it’s good for the local people. Without surfers, many wouldn’t have jobs and money,” she continues.
A local legend, Guzman and her 11 brothers own virtually all the vacation rentals fronting the point. She started surfing in her early twenties, and legendary California surfer (and now resident of La Saladita) Corky Carroll gave her her first board. Over the years, Guzman’s collected dozens of boards, buying many off of visitors who need the money to get back home.
Minutes after scooping a board from Lourdes, I was on my way into the lineup via a convenient little keyhole at the southend of the beach that offers virtually unobstructed passage to the top of the point. Once there, I found that a rigid understanding and application of lineup etiquette served me well, as the wave’s consistency allows for the development of a fairly natural and orderly queue.
If you pick the right set wave here, you’re in for a leg-burner, as the wave will wrap around the reef and reform several times over the course of roughly 500 yards, or 60-plus seconds. Many opt to exit the water and walk back to the keyhole to return to the lineup, which is a fine strategy. But some words of warning when entering or exiting the water from the north end of the beach: At low tide, the rocks on the inside can be sharp, not to mention the presence of urchins, so tread carefully.
My strategy that first session – which worked so well that I adopted it for each subsequent session – was to get a long ride from the top of the point and then spend the rest of the session paddling back toward the top of the point and picking off unridden waves on the inside.
As far as the surf was concerned, each of my 10 days in La Saladita was a little like Groundhog’s Day, with fun shoulder- to head-high waves grinding down the point at all tides. As such, getting your fill of waves is a matter of preference (or endurance). But no matter your froth-level, there are many things to do in La Saladita besides surf.
For food, Lourdes Bar & Grill – which also serves as Mexi Log Fest HQ – is a popular, though relatively price-y spot, offering a mix of local (huevos rancheros, shrimp tacos, fish burritos) and gringo-style (cheeseburgers and mixed-green salads) cuisine, as well as coffee drinks, smoothies, desserts, and libations.
If you can stand to peel your eyes away from the point for a moment, the family-owned Leah’s lies just steps off the north end of the beach and offers delicious and more economical fare, including burritos, tacos, quesadillas, sopes, and a insanely tasty (and dangerously boozy) mango margarita. Pacos is another go-to beachfront dinner spot, that stays open for late-night revelry. Meanwhile, dozens of vendors traverse La Saladita’s hot sand during the day, offering everything from ice-cream to fruit bowls, pastries, and cold beer at reasonable prices.
You won’t need to get away from Playa La Saladita, but you can hail one of the fairly inexpensive taxis in front of Lourdes surf shop for a ride to check out Saladita-proper or to scoot over to one of the other waves in the region (yes, there are a few of high quality). There are also hot springs and mud baths in Troncones (about a 20-minute taxi ride) if you want to exfoliate some of that sunburn-induced dead skin you’ve accumulated from surfing under La Saladita’s scorching sun.
Alas, it’s easy – and understandable – that you wouldn’t want to travel too far from La Saladita’s famed point during your trip. During my stay, I spent many non-surfing hours, just staring out to sea, hypnotized by the parade of loggers, as one after another made his or her way down the point, sliding across La Saladita’s marvel of swell and bathymetry.
It’s truly a sight to behold. And if, unlike me, you decide to forgo the Mexi Log Fest, and visit essentially any other time of year, you’ll be able to enjoy practically unadulterated access to the user-friendly, machine-like, and unbelievably lengthy rides.
All Photos by Sarah Lee.
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