Ever since relocating from Santa Cruz to San Diego, road trips down the dusty track to Baja have become a regular affair for me.
Mexico gave me a feeling that I had found surfing in solitude north of Santa Cruz. Trade the fear of a shark attack for the fear of a cartel encounter and it was essentially the same thrill. It’s that sense of risking your life for surfing, all in pursuit of thick waves with thin crowds.
Friends and loved ones questioned my resolve — don’t you know what they do to people down there? — but I figured that torture and death were reserved for those who had been putting their noses where they shouldn’t be. I was there just to surf and eat tacos. It wasn’t until the story broke about Australian surfers Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman’s fateful last road trip that I even considered the risk involved.
The two 33-year-olds from Western Australia bought a van and had plans of traversing the Mexican coast combing for setups. It’s a dream trip in theory — empty lineups, undertones of danger, pure thrill the whole way. Nothing deterred the duo to turn back while driving to the southern tip of the Baja peninsula so they pressed on, taking the ferry to the mainland.
They had plans of meeting Adam’s girlfriend further south in Guadalajara. As it turns out, Dean had romantic plans with his girlfriend as well — he was going to propose. But the two never made it there.
They stopped in Sinaloa. The area is home to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, a major player in the narcotic trade game. While we assume the men knew they were in a shady area, we also know that you can’t outrun bandits in an old Chevy van.
Tragically, their van was found smoldering on a back country farming road with two passengers inside.
While they haven’t been formally identified yet, all signs point to those being the bodies of Adam and Dean. A horrific death undeserved, and our condolences are sincerely sent to their loved ones. There are many details of this story that remain unclear. For one, it is uncertain if the murder was orchestrated by the Sinaloa Drug Cartel as a message or a random brutality. Either way, it’s disgustingly blatant disregard for human life.
I’m sure you share our outrage over this senseless killing. Adam and Dean were two surfers who only wanted to sample Mexico’s abundant point breaks and get a travelers tale worth telling. They weren’t seeking dodgy thrills. They only made a mistake of taking the ferry to Topolobampo and driving through Sinaloa and not going straight to Mazatlán, where there is safety in numbers for tourists. It seems this golden rule for Mexican travel only appeared in retrospect. Hopefully it’s a tip that will save others in the future.
So you should be sad, angry and confused — but you shouldn’t stop traveling to Mexico.
Why? Because those sweet little abuelitas, making the best lobster tacos you’ve ever eaten, still have a smile for you. Because tourists stop traveling to Mexico, the good folks get desperate and turn toward the more sinister option of making a living. Because if you really want to stick it to the cartels, make sure the only thing going up your nasal cavity is salt water. Because Mexico is still amazing. Because the cowardly slaughter of two innocent people orchestrated by a bunch of scumbags shouldn’t scare you out of a good time.
As Adam and Dean known, a life filled with adventure is a life well lived. —Jake Tellkamp