Taking surf lessons in Sayulita, Mexico

Sayulita, Mexico is about one-hour north of the resort town of Puerto Vallarta. Once a quiet fishing village, today Sayuiita is packed to the gils with west coasters looking for a non-resort beach vacation in Mexico. Matt and I spent three nights in Sayulita around New Year’s Eve, and it was incredibly crowded.

surfing in Sayulita
surfing in Sayulita

One of the biggest draws of Sayulita – aside from it’s excellent dining – is it’s beginner surf waves.  The break crashes slowly and gently so it’s easy for a newbie to stand up without losing her balance. The actual beach in Sayulita is pretty dirty. With the quick increase of tourists, Sayulita hasn’t been able to take care of it’s ocean. I really hope they are able to make infrastructure changes to preserve this beautiful spot.

So we actually left Sayulita and went to quieter, cleaner Punta Mita nearby to surf. (You may know Punta Mita as the luxe spot the Kardishians visit.)

Matt knows how to surf. He’s by no means doing tricks, but he gets the process and gets up on waves. He even has his own surfboard and wetsuit. (He’s taken the surfboard on NYC subways all the way to Rockaway Beach, which is its own story altogether.)

I, however, am a different story. Before coming to Mexico, I’d taken one surf lesson in Montanita, Ecuador. The water was freezing, I had a sprained ankle and was battling the early stages of what would manifest into a 5-day bout of food poisoning.  So I’d say the lesson went only OK.

But as you’ve noticed if it’s not your first time reading this blog, I’ll give most things a good old college try and so I signed up for a lesson with David at Mexican Surf Mafia.

We drove about 20 minutes out of town to a place called Stinky’s Beach. Ironically, Stinky’s Beach was much cleaner than the main beach in Sayulita. The first piece of our lesson started on the beach. David showed me the movements required for standing up on a surf board, and we practiced until I was in a sweat.

I was already pretty spent when we headed to the ocean to try catching a wave.

One of the toughest parts of surfing is all the paddling. A lot of the time you find yourself laying prone on the surf board waiting to catch a wave, and when you do, you have to paddle really quickly to catch up to it. The ocean is a lot faster and stronger than me. David would give me a hefty push to help me make the wave.

surf sayulita
I feel badass in a rash guard


The water was warm and clear, but after a few hours, I was DONE. It’s incredible exhausting core and arm work to surf -or try to surf – for that long. And my breast bone hurt from repeatedly throwing myself down onto the board despite the rash guard.

The next day I signed up for a lesson with a different school, WildMex. WildMex is a much bigger operation. We also went to Punta Mita, but a different spot at the beach. The lesson was quite similar, and definitely of quality, but I preferred Mexican Surf Mafia’s beach location and smaller group.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of me on a wave, since I didn’t bring a camera to the beach during the lessons.

If you’re looking for a laid back Mexican surf experience, I’d recommend staying 10 minutes from Sayulita in San Pancho (sometimes called San Francisco). It’s a breezier, less crowded and cleaner beach but still offers all the creature comforts of Sayulita. You could easily cab to Sayulita for dinner to spice things up.

Have you taken surf lessons? Have you been to Sayulita?

Leave a comment