It was a cold morning. Much colder than it should’ve been. You could tell that it would be a hot day, but the sun was yet to come over the mountains, so the sea remained a cold black from the night with a biting offshore wind.
I was travelling alone and had been in Mexico’s Michoacán state for about a week. I hadn’t met another gringo in this particular spot. There were already a handful of early-rising surfers in the lineup and the vibe was quiet and relaxed. Perhaps the rest of the crowd was as cold as I was and still waking up. I caught a smaller inside wave and rode it all the way into shore. I was loosening up my legs, but also milking a long ride in to enjoy the comfort of being above the frigid water for those few extra seconds. I kicked out to paddle back to the point and was joined by another surfer I took to be local heading out from shore.
“Goodmorning!” he said to me, grinning keenly.
“Buenos dias,” I replied.
“De dónde eres?” he asked.
“Canada,” I answered.
“Oh, I love Canada!” he declared in smooth English, still grinning. “I did studies in Vancouver!”
And thus, our long conversation began. You know how it goes… the name game of all the places, things, and people you mutually share with someone random you meet on the road. This particular young man was from Guadalajara and out on the coast for the weekend to surf. He was a novice surfer, but possessed that passion for waves that brought him on the long bus ride from his city every weekend.
“I had a job while I studied,” he continued as we sat together between sets. “It was at the girlie bar, near Hasting Street. How do you say, for stripping?’”
“Oh, yeah,” I laughed. “I know it. That seedy strip club on the Downtown East Side.”
“Yes!” my new friend exclaimed. “My boss, the owner, was so nice. He gave me an old Jeep while I was living there. I cleaned the bar at night shift and studied in the daytime. After some time he gave me new job that was underground from the bar. I was making those pills of drugs for him. How do you call it? Ecstasy?”
“Yeah, I believe it’s called ecstasy,” I answered, very entertained.
“Yes. It was a very good job. I love Vancouver.”
We shared some more waves and small talk in the lineup throughout that day. He was a really nice and excited little guy. The following day, he was back on the bus to Guadalajara and I never saw him again. But I’ll always remember the guy I met in the lineup at a remote Mexican point break who worked at a shady East Side strip joint while he was studying English in Canada and got promoted to pressing ecstasy pills in the basement.