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Teiki Mathieu Baillan surfing a self-made Alaia surfboard in Lances Left, Mentawaï, Indonesia. Photo by C. Naslain, 2009.

Surf spot atlas made by surfers for surfers
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 Colombia

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By gringo paisa , 24-07-2003

Okay, but - Hi Willie, I see your point as well, and no there is no hidden conspiracy. Yes, Colombia is dangerous if one is traveling throughout a good deal of the countryside. But the coastal regions along the Atlantic coast are as safe as Costa Rica's surf destinations, especially around Santa Marta and Baranquilla where most of the surfing is anyway. The government is now doing a pretty good job of securing the areas where a surfer would travel. I can't speak of the Pacific coast for I have never been there. I do know that Choco has a lot of criminal activity and some guerrilla activity, and that Cali and Buenaventura are still major transshipment centers for the drug trade. How that would effect tourist/surfers, I cannot say. It might be dicey like surfing in Nicaragua is dicey, or even Mexico for that matter. Many people travel overland and the way it is set up there (with well-maintained inter-continental motor coaches)it is pretty benign. I, myself, would prefer to fly from point A to B, mainly because Colombia is very rugged. It's a half hour flight from Bogota to Medellin, for instance, but 6 to 10 hours by road.

My point is that Colombia is not the only dicey Latin American destination, and things don't happen in Colombia without the collusion of illegal actors in other Latin American countries--like Costa Rica. Maybe there is not as much violence in CR that would put the surfer traveler at risk, but the involvement of Costa Ricans in criminal enterprises and fueling the guerrilla war in Colombia is no less repugnant. I think one should think twice about going to CR, spending money there and indirectly supporting a corrupt CR government that looks the other way and allows such criminalism to go on with impunity.

I'm not saying that Costa Rica is inherently as dangerous, per se, just that Colombia is getting a bad rap while other countries seem to be held in such high regard when in fact they don't deserve it. Surfers who travel go to a number of places that are inherently dangerous. Like Peru during the terror of the Shining Path. Look what's happening in the Solomons right at this moment? The Philippines, in Bali and Indo? There are risks wherever one goes and I think the situation in Colombia is a bit overblown. Yes, there are many victims in the current conflict. Thousands of lives have been lost and it has to end somehow. But one way to show support of Colombia is not by treating the place like a pariah, but by maintaining a willingness to go there and interact with Colombians. Colombia is full of contradictions and conflicts, yes. A sociologist would have a field day there and never run out of things to study and analyze. But it's still an amazing country and, I think, a great surfing destination.

My wife and kids are in Colombia right now and I'm leaving for Medellin in two days to join them. No surfing this trip, but one day soon, I hope to do so. I don't worry about being there too much, although if I didn't I'd be insane. But the risks won't prevent me from doing my mountain biking trips through the countryside where I will be. I just don't plan to be anywhere that is known to be unsafe. I'm looking forward to being there, as I have for the last nearly twenty years. Saludes.

By Willie Wonka the Dick Wacker , 23-07-2003

Well stated, gringo... - Still, it seems to me if as many people were being murdered or kidnapped in Costa Rica, we would hear about it, don't you think? Or is some kind of secret conspiracy keeping the facts hidden? Are thousands of Costa Rican citizens being killed by rebel groups or drug lords in Costa Rica each year, like in Colombia? I've traveled all over CR, and while admittedly skecthy in times and around certain people, I'm sure if I traveled as freely in Colombia, I would have been kidnapped, robbed or murdered. Is that paranoia, or a glimpse of reality? Probably a bit of both, actually. Nevertheless, I am not dreaming all this stuff up. Colombia remains a very dangerous place for the western traveler and provincial indigene, far more than CR.

By gringo paisa , 23-07-2003

Colombia getaway response - Well, Paco, let's take your point farther. Most surfers think Costa Rica is a safe mecca and surfing paradise. But what Central American country is the primary smuggling center for illegal weapons, contraband, terrorist materiel, and false documents being shipped into Colombia for the guerrillas? Answer: Costa Rica. What country is the primary center for laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking in Latin America? Answer: Costa Rica. What country is the primary beneficiary in Latin America of the illegal trafficking in women and children for slavery and the sex trade? Answer: Costa Rica (with San Jose being considered the Bankok of the Western Hemisphere for the sex tourism trade). What country has provided safe haven to numerous Colombian drug traffickers and guerrillas? Answer: Costa Rica.

Before you go dissing the situation in Colombia, know your facts, and know what is going on in what we consider America's surfing paradise, Costa Rica, a country that likes to paint itself as such a clean and lovely place but is in fact just as mixed up in the whole mess in Colombia and is as much to blame for many of Latin America's problems and anywhere.

Yes, there is drug trafficking and guerrilla violence, but at least Colombians can stand up and admit their problems and try to deal with it. At least they are not like Costa Ricans who live in a state of denial and pretend everything is rosy and wonderful in their own stinking backyard.

No one is forcing you to go to Colombia and if you could not travel there with an open mind, a sense of good will, and an aloha vibe, then your absence will not be missed. And if by some chance, you are living in Colombia, then perhaps you need to find somewhere else to call home.

By Paco , 22-07-2003

Colombia Getaway... - Cali, Colombia. A beautiful place. Be sure to wax your board on the same beach the cartels or the FARC use for their uzi-laden smuggling and revolutionary operations. How many innocent villagers have been kidnapped or murdered in Colombia in the past few years over drug wars and revolutionary unrest? If this is 'ignorance is bliss' then you are doing travelers a disservice by encoraging them to meet their graves in Colombia. Count me out!

By gringo paisa , 22-07-2003

dangers of Colombia - Santa Cruz, California, Lunada Bay in Los Angeles, and most of the surf breaks of New England are more dangerous to non-locals than Colombia. London is more dangerous than Bogota, and I know quite a few people who were robbed at gunpoint in Italy. There are parts of Washington, D.C., I would not step foot into. If you keep your wits about you, you can travel safely in Colombia. That's true for everywhere in the world. That should not prevent you from traveling to Colombia. It's still one of the most amazing places in the Western Hemisphere, and the people are still among the nicest I've known anywhere. And the women . . . . And by the way, it's Colombia, not Columbia.

Cheers,
Gringo Paisa

By Willis Carmichael , 15-07-2003

A Columbian, Pissed at Reality? - The highly reputable and very well-researched book by Robert Young Pelton entitled "The World's most Dangerous Places" lists Columbia with five stars, that is, one of the world's most dangerous places. It's right up there with Somalia and Algeria. Go ahead and be upset about it, or claim that the book is misleading and not legitimate. Continue to live in ignorance, but it won't make Columbia any safer, or any more desirable to travel to. The next Costa Rica? It could be, if it were not for all the drug cartels, uzi's, the FARC, kidnappings and all the rest. Too bad- only your people lose in the end.

By a pissed colombian! , 15-07-2003

don't be imbecile!!! - Hey there whoever ignorant that wrote the last message. It is not all about producing cocaine in Colombia not all that you hear is all that there is!....We have plenty of good spots in Colombia both in the caribbean and pacific coasts. Besides beautiful women all over the fucking country. It seems to me that you just don't have the balls and courage to get down here and explore. You must be just some wanna-be surfer that can't even stand up in knee high waves!

By Bonzo , 12-07-2003

Try not to get kidnapped - Try not to get kidnapped, unless you have a lot of money in the bank. Columbia is the leading producer of cocaine in the world, and most of it is going up Ronald Reagan's nose.

By bocese@hotmail.com , 12-07-2003

surfer de san andres - hola estoy muy interesado en informacion de el surfing en el pacifico, me gustaria mucho ir pero no se nada ni con quien hablar, si alguien pudiera.......mi mail es bocese@hotmail.com

By gregoriohill@hotmail.com , 10-07-2003

Quieo surfear en el nuqui, Choco - guebon les cuento que vivia hace tres años en miami, una mier..... pues ya estaba mamado. lo unico bueno es que comence a hacer surf mis dos ultimos años y ya se quedo como una parte de mi.. el caso es que ya estoy en bogota y me traje mis tablas , y esta semana me puse a buscar local breaks y me intereso mucho el Choco, Nuqui. estoy planeando el viaje para el 18 de julio y quedarme mas o menos 6 noches 7 dias , ahi vera si alguien se le mide! ahi deje mi mail.

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