#Outlivingit in Mexico with First Descents

 

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Rooftop of Hotel Cinco. Photo: Hannah Bunn

Mexico. A rooftop palapa bar. We raise our sweating glasses of hibiscus tea and margaritas into the center of the group. With each clinking, we sound our nightly refrain: Salud! Health. And while the sunset is melting a neon pallet across the sky, and eighty degree water laps onto the shore below us, and our skin is salty and invigorated from an active day, this can never completely distract from that very subject. Our health. It is the reason for our smiles on this trip, and the reason for tears. The reason for anxiety, and for new achievements. It’s the reason our group was brought together in the small town of Punta de Mita, on the west coast of Mexico. This is where we spent a week with a surf camp for young adult cancer survivors with the very awesome organization, First Descents.

Based out of Colorado, First Descents is a non-profit organization that offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors outdoor adventure experiences. The aim is to “empower them beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.” Farmdog Surf School has had the good fortune of working with the organization as an outfitter for their surf camps on the east coast and, sometimes, abroad. In 2013, we ran a surf camp in Bali for our first “FDX” program (X for extreme) with First Descents. We were super stoked that they wanted to meet up south of the border and do it again for FDX Mexico. 

We arrived in Mexico Nov. 3rd and got settled in at Hotel Cinco, a gorgeous hotel right on the beach that was generous enough to accommodate First Descents for the first half of our surf trip. We also arrived just in time for Hurricane Vance to blow his way through the tiny town, despite it’s protected location in the Banderas Bay. No bother. We spent the morning with a rooftop yoga class with instructor, Michele Thibodeau. Followed by a hike along the coast and a nice siesta before the storm hit.

Yoga with a view of sky and sea. Photo: Lauren Cowart Photography

Yoga with a view of sky and sea. Photo: Lauren Cowart Photography

Stormy skies from Hurricane Vance

Stormy skies from Hurricane Vance. Photo: Crash

Though Vance set our surfing back a couple of days, we made up for it after the skies cleared standup paddle boarding and surfing at El Anclote, a great beginner break just steps from the patio of the hotel. Our campers then graduated to La Lancha, a break just a short boat ride away, where we caught hours of fun waves under sunny skies in pure blue water. A big thank you to our surf guides from Accion Tropical, who also ferried us out to the Marieta Islands where we snorkeled and visited the geological wonder of Hidden Beach.

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Marieta Islands boat trip. Photo: Crash

Hidden Beach, accessed  by boat and a swim through a cave. Photo: whenonearth.net

Hidden Beach, accessed by boat and a swim through a cave. Photo: whenonearth.net

One of our boats arriving at La Lancha. Photo: Crash

One of our boats arriving at La Lancha. Photo: Crash

Bunny, Ooh Ooh, Symbol and Daryl, all smiles. Photo: Crash

Bunny, Ooh Ooh, Symbol and Darelito, all smiles. Photo: Crash

For the second half of our trip we relocated to the breathtaking Villa Lunada, where, on our second to last day, we scored our biggest surf yet…and some serious R&R.

View from Villa Lunada. Photo: Alicia Rodriguez

View from Villa Lunada. Photo: Alicia Rodriguez

Danny Boy, getting zen. Photo: Crash

Danny Boy, getting zen. Photo: Crash

With sets coming in that day in the chest-head high range, everyone was met with challenges both physical and mental. There were people who wanted to get out of the water after a rocky wipeout. In the end, they didn’t. There were people hesitant to grab a board and get in the water at all. In the end, they did. Surfing, ever the metaphor for life, was an opportunity for the campers to push themselves on this trip, despite their background, their health, or their fears. As the signature First Descents hashtag goes, everyone was truly #outlivingit. And we at Farmdog Surf School couldn’t be more proud.

Cheech charging. Photo: Crash

Cheech charging. Photo: Crash

Ooh Ooh on a nice right. Photo: Crash

Ooh Ooh and the deep blue. Photo: Crash

Our surf guide, Tomas, crushing it. Photo: Crash

Our surf guide, Tomas, crushing it. Photo: Crash

Party wave! Ooh and Chopper. Photo: Crash

Party wave! Ooh and Chopper. Photo: Crash

Sunshine style. Photo: Crash

Sunshine style. Photo: Crash