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From “Sleeping in the Shorebreak & Other Hairy Surfing Stories” On The Job Training by Don Wolf


Guadalajara, Mexico–1970

e were in Mexico that summer, two surfers and I, chasing waves up and down the mainland coast

shooting footage for a nearly completed surf- ing movie. We planned on making one more trip to the coast before packing it in and heading home to California. We hadn’t seen much surf on the central coast—not a sign of a south swell. Even our two favorite places, San Blas and Manzanillo had let us down. Matanchen Bay in San Blas can give you

one of the longest rides in the world. Te owner of a nearby hotel will pick yo up at the end of your ride and drive you back up to the point. Te most notable thing we saw in San Blas, not to mention the miniature one foot waves, was a huge hammerhead shark cruis- ing in the shallow water. At Manzanillo, home of the fabled “Green Wave”, a wave so big it blots out the sun in the aſternoon and when you look through the wave you see vivid green. Te green monster was not working for us on that trip. Te waves were so small and breaking into a silty grey shorebreak. So much for the central coast. In San Blas we met a carload of surfers

who were exited about a place called Puer- to Madero. We were promised that Puerto Madero had clean beaches, clean water, and a small population that lived, for the most part, in huts along the beach. Looking at our map


we could see that Puerto Madero was the last town you come to before you reach Guate- mala. Paradise? We decided we were going to find out. We arrived at the Guadalajara airport with

lots of time to spare—a good half an hour be- fore scheduled takeoff. We paid for the tick- ets and sat around awhile, looked out at the flightline and gave opinions on which airplane would be ours. Tere were several sleek, modern jets taking on baggage. Surely, one of those planes would be ours. NO CHANCE! Our plane turned out to be a war-scarred,

“If the flight crew wasn’t on board, who was taxiing us for takeoff?”

propeller-driven, DC-3 tail dragger. Tis plane was at one time state-of-the-art, but no more. Te name of the airline? Emblazoned across the fuselage was its proud name—Go- mez Airlines. A strong omen overlooked. As soon as we were seated it was apparent

we were the only passengers on the plane, ex- cept for an elderly couple, obviously nervous about the impending flight and exchanging chocolate bars which they downed like rav- enous goats. Te engines cranked, the propellers turned,

and the plane began to taxi to the flight line— slowly at first but gradually picking up speed.

Te more speed it gained the less we were able to hear the creaks and groans of the an- cient craſt. Te plane reached the flight line, turned to face the wind, then stopped. We assumed we were waiting for clearance from the tower. We had a feeling something was fishy because we had never actually seen a flight crew enter the plane. If the flight crew wasn’t on board then who was taxiing us for takeoff? I remem- ber looking down

the aisle and seeing the high-backed pilot seats with nobody in them. Te plane continued to just sit there, but

aſter a while the flight crew showed up, an af- fable group of three all decked out in white uniforms and gold epaulets. Te entered the plane and took their positions, waiting for clearance to take off. What came next was the real shocker. Te moment of truth. Down the aisle and quickly out of the plane went a little boy, no more than twelve years old. It all happened so quickly we were unable to ask questions of the boy or, for that matter, of the crew. I wasn’t able to see him earlier, so hid- den was he in the huge pilot seat. It was hard to accept that for a short time that little boy was our pilot and we were un-

der his control. Te boy waved goodbye to the crew, wished them a safe trip and ran off, skipping, probably to find another aeronauti- cal challenge. Te flight

took us below mountaintops,

through valleys and deep canyons. We all sus- pected that the captain knew something we didn’t when he asked us to put our surfoards in the aisle, so that the plane would be bet- ter balanced. If three surfoards were going to make a difference, I thought, then we were all doomed. We made it, without further incident, to

Puerto Madero—indeed a paradise, but a paradise with absolutely no surf. * * *

Special thanks to Louise Wolf for granting OceanMag permission to reprint her husband’s beautifully written, highly entertaining stories.

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