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Mancora, Peru is a Small coastal town in the north of Peru, almost on the Ecuadorian border. My Visit to Mancora started with a jolt of excitement.  Kokopeli, the hostal where I decided to stay  was full of surfers. I hadn’t surfed in a few years but really loved it. A wall of humidity hit me when I opened my door. The other 5 beds in my room were all occupied with unconscious college kids and the floors were full of sand. I locked my things up and sprinted down to the beach to find set after set rolling in and a handful of surfers catching super long lines.

Mancora Main Drag

I asked around about the conditions and prices for boards. Prices were affordable but conditions were not the best. There was a strong northerly current and the tide would shortly be on the way out. A bit disappointed by the conditions. I headed back to the hostal where I ran into this girl and her boyfriend who warned me about safety in Mancora.

Just a few days before I arrived they and a friend of theirs were walking the same path I had just taken, to go to the beach when two guys in ski masks walked around the corner and forced them onto their stomachs at gunpoint. The robbers took everything, their camera, jewelery, money,  sandals and even her sarong! After the robbers stripped them of everything they told them to stand up and commanded that they walk across the sand spur filled dunes and not to look back until they counted to 100.

A  year later sitting in a restaurant in Sevilla a girl who was sitting nearby came up to me and said that she recognized my voice. After talking for a few minuted we managed to put it together that we had met in Mancora. She was still a tad emotional about that experience as she recounted it to my friends. Shaking her wrist so the light reflected off off her gold bracelet she told us it was the one thing they didn’t get. When they were ordered on the ground she laid on her left arm.

After the ordeal they were all shaken but gathered themselves and tried to get a taxi to the police the taxi drivers refused to drive them to the police station. When they eventually did get to the police station the police asked why they brought their valuable out of the hotel and dismissed them. After persisting they were able to file a report but the police offered little in terms of action or consolation.

The following morning A few people from the hostal went down to the beach, rented boards and wet suits. The current was still pretty strong and the waves were a bit less crazy and a tad smaller. To counter the current we took a long walk and then paddled out so we had time to drift  to where the others were hanging out on the beach.

Mancora Surfer Rail Grab Air

The peak at Mancora is some rocks on the ocean floor. In Florida I have only ever surfed sand breaks so this freaked me out. The same thing happened when I tried surfing in Puerto Rico at Rincon Beach. Every time I would go for a wave I would back out at the last minute. When the bigger sets would come in the water gets pulled back ad up, making the area over the rocks so shallow you could see them poking out a little.

If you don’t nail the take off then your momentum will carry you right into the rocks. I really didn’t want to spend my upcoming birthday in the hospital. The waves were about a foot over head and coming in one after the other. There are two ways to get back in once you are out past the break; you can ride one in or swim, the former being much less exhausting however I couldn’t take one.

I let the next set pass me and then began paddling back towards the shore, continually watching over my shoulder knowing that soon there would be another set. as it approached I faced it and dove under, hoping to pierce the surface and pop out on the other side like a needle and thread through a fold of fabric.

Instead I was thrown back, off of a watery cliff and slammed into the surface, the board leash tugging at my ankle, I was rolled and rolled along the bottom. When I was about 15 i had my first experience surfing. My stepdad took me to Cocoa Beach, Florida where he had surfed as a teenager. one thing he always told me was to never fight the ocean. You have to relax, let it, exert its force. When it had exerted its force then you swim like hell.

As I tumbled I just repeated that phrase over and over.  I had been holding my breath longer than I thought I could and couldn’t tell which way was up and which way down. The frothy water cleared and I shot to the surface.

My nose and mouth broke the surface. I inhaled sharply, hardly able to exhale, held my breath and swam down as far as I could before being pulled backwards towards the surface. then was drug down doing doing flips and cartwheels. I could feel the boards buoyancy tugging at my ankle crazily then the sensation was gone

I hit the ocean floor, things calmed down and I shot to the surface treading water for a few seconds trying to catch my breath. My board was 100 meters in front of me and teh next wave 25 meters behind me.

I swam down and got rolled along the ocean floor, popped up took a half breath and repeated the cycle over ten times before I got close enough to the shore that I could stand and touch the bottom. I had drifted about a half kilometer and was now facing a part of the shore that was a sort of seawall made of piled up rocks, protecting a gazeebo that jutted out into the water. Luckily they weren’t covered in barnacles and that that area had a weaker current.

I have never felt closer to death in my life. I think I had exerted 200 percent of my energy; I felt so weak and dizzy. I found my board washed up on the beach then for the following 15 minutes, I just laid there. When I got up I walked to the shack where I rented the board and turned it all in.

Mancora Lighthouse Mancora Guy looking in Rocks

Having escaped death I wasn’t ready to face a robber too. the next morning I got a bus to Ecuador.