Long Read: Two Surfers Killed in Mex

It ain't pretty reading, but maybe a lesson in there somewhere… 

Last November, you’ll remember, two Australian surfers were murdered during a surf run through Mexico.

It’s hardly a secret that the government v drug cartels civil war makes parts of Mex places you don’t want to go near. Two Australian surfers, Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman, had a swing driving through the richly dysfunctional town of Navolato, Sinaloa, however, and were killed, their burnt-out bodies found in their surf van.

End of story? Yeah, kinda is. The Men’s Journal, however, just dropped a long piece on the murders, documenting the doomed voyage from Washington in North America, through Baja, and onto mainland Mex.

Let’s study the piece.

In Baja the swell was epic. They ended up scoring nearly perfect surf. They camped on remote beaches, cooked meals on the sand, and woke at first light to paddle out. But after a week of waves, it was time to move on.

The plan was to take a ferry across the Gulf of California, the 140-mile-wide bay that separates the Baja California peninsula from the Mexican mainland, then drive south. It was 560 miles from the port of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, to Guadalajara. If they had any hope of making Coleman’s meeting at noon with Gómez, they’d have to drive through the night, taking turns at the wheel.

Then the ferry was delayed two hours. As they waited, Lucas sent a message to a friend in Edmonton, where he lived with Cox. “Can you do me a huge favor if you are seeing Josie?” he wrote. “We have our three-year anniversary tomorrow and wanted to get some things for her like flowers and red Lindt chocolate.”

When Lucas and Coleman finally arrived on the mainland, it was just before midnight. The two, together and on their own, had spent the last decade traveling the world racking up dozens of countries — South Africa, Sri Lanka, Iceland, India — as well as multiple surf odysseys to Mexico. They knew how to handle themselves in foreign lands, but it’s almost certain they didn’t know just how dangerous the stretch of road is that they were about to set off on. In the last two years, at least half a dozen travelers have been murdered on it, by bandits preying on motorists. On maps it’s marked as the Benito Juárez Toll Road. But locals have another name for it: the Highway of Death.

There is still a charcoal trace of burned earth off to the side of the tractor path where someone doused Adam Coleman’s van with gasoline and ignited it. When investigators picked through the debris, they found two gas grills, heat-swollen vegetable and soup cans, jars, dishes, and two sets of human remains. At first, police figured the victims for tiangueros, vendors who hawk their wares from street-market stalls in the city. In Mexico, 95 percent of murders go unsolved, so the crime was unlikely to warrant any special attention. It was largely a coincidence that led the police to look more closely.

During the long drive south, Lucas and Cox had been texting each other frequently. He’d tell her about the surf in Baja or include her in a discussion he and Coleman were having. So after receiving the flowers and chocolate, then not hearing from him for 24 hours, Cox had a feeling something had gone horribly wrong.

“I knew he was dead,” she says. “But the families were trying to keep positive.” Cox’s mother tried to assuage her fears, telling her that Lucas probably just got caught up surfing. Gómez was receiving the same sort of reassurances about Coleman. “I reached out to one of his friends and told him I was upset, and he tried to calm me down,” she says. “But more days went by, and we had to begin the search.”

Seven days after last hearing from Lucas, Cox posted an appeal on Facebook: “It breaks my heart to do this. . . . We are appealing for any information regarding Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman.” Gómez translated it into Spanish.

Pedro, the gas attendant who had given Lucas and Coleman directions, had seen images of the burned van displayed on the front page of a local paper. He recognized it immediately but had no idea who the two gringos were. Then he happened to see Gómez’s Facebook post, which had been shared widely.

“This is going to upset you,” he wrote to her shortly afterward. “Please stay calm and try not to panic. The van in this photo looks like your boyfriend’s.”

Suddenly the murders morphed from just another local tragedy into an international incident, with headlines around the globe. “Australian Surfers Missing in Notorious Sinaloa, Mexico,” ran a headline on an Aussie news site. “Australian Surfers Feared Murdered in Mexico During Quest for ‘Crazy Waves,’ ” ran another, in the U.K.’s Telegraph.

The Sinaloa attorney general took the rare step of holding press conferences to detail progress on the case. Within 48 hours of discovering that the van had been registered to Coleman, he’d announced, police had captured three suspects and had issued arrest warrants for two others. State marshals from an elite investigative unit had set a trap for the bandits, stopping them at 5 a.m. on a dirt road leading from a breach in the fence along the Benito Juárez. They recovered the getaway car, a Jeep Cherokee, and the murder weapon, a .357 Magnum revolver. They’d also extracted signed confessions from all three suspects in police custody.

At the wheel of the Cherokee was Julio César González Muñiz, a round-faced 27-year-old with a wispy mustache. The marshals, the arrest report notes, discovered the revolver in his waistband, and a ballistics test quickly matched the gun to a bullet removed from Coleman’s body. In the Cherokee’s passenger seat was the driver’s first cousin, Martín Rogelio Muñiz Ponce.

The details of what happened that night come solely from the confessions of the Muñiz cousins and Sergio Simón Benítez González, their supposed lookout. On November 21, shortly after González witnessed Lucas and Coleman passing through the toll booth, the Cherokee pulled out behind them and flashed police strobes on the dashboard. Lucas and Coleman continued to drive for another mile before pulling over. One of the trio’s alleged accomplices that night, José Luis Espinoza Bojórquez — who remains at large and has at least two other murder charges against him — stepped out of the Cherokee wearing the uniform of a highway patrol officer.

“They pulled two males out,” reads Julio César’s statement. “One of them was shirtless and wearing shorts and had long dreadlocks, the other was wearing dark pants and a black shirt.” Bojórquez forced “the long-haired one” into the backseat of the Cherokee and the other into the van and started driving to a nearby field, so they’d be out of sight. But as they exited the highway, Coleman tried to escape, forcing the Cherokee’s door open and jumping onto the dirt road.

A desperate fistfight erupted. “This guy was getting in some hard shots and beating the hell out of them,” the confession reads. Muñiz pulled out the .357 and “put a bullet in the gringo, getting him in the face.” Coleman was severely wounded, but not fatally.


At that point, Bojórquez, “furious from the ass-whipping he had gotten,” took charge. He jumped behind the wheel of the van while the others loaded the wounded Coleman and Lucas into the back. Soon they came to a stop at a tractor path dividing two cornfields. Bojórquez took the gun, then went to the hinged side doors of the van and fired four or five shots straight inside. The assailants doused the van in gasoline and Bojórquez threw a lit match inside.

There’s a twist to the story. Read it here. 

I hear that blow was great back in the 80's, but I've never really understood the modern day appeal. It's a great way to trick yourself into thinking you're sober enough to drive, and you can use it to lure a certain type of slag back to your house when the bars are closing, but it's otherwise useless. It's a once or twice a year drug, when you're drunk enough to think a bump is a good idea, only to quickly realize that all it does it cancel out all the good downers you've already taken.

Advice: Travel Drugs for Surfers!

The usual, xannies, stimulant laxatives etc.

Finally got my trip to Nica trip sorted. Wasn’t easy. Fight fight fight with the wife. Eventually made a deal. I plan this jaunt, next one’s all her.

Then we ended up extending the trip by two days. Flights were cheaper that way, layovers minimal. Plenty of time to do what I want.  Which is four days partying in SJDS, followed by five days chilling and surfing at Playa Gigante.

Decided to be magnanimous, let her have the extra days. So we’re going to Granada. Yay. So many interesting doors and windows. Can’t wait to walk around looking at old buildings.

In her mind she came up big. Got what she wants, still gets to plan our next trip. It’ll be so fucking lame. Touring the covered bridges of New England, or some such shit.

But that’s a problem for another day. Today it’s all about planning for a trip I’ll actually enjoy. Which I do months in advance. Missus prefers to wait until the last minute, then make me pack for her. Then complain I forgot stuff. Real nice.

First and foremost, gotta get my old man medical kit together. Can’t fly anywhere without it.

Benzodiazepines: Xanax is a real problem for, like, millions of people. Insanely addictive, withdrawal can actually kill you. Over-prescribed, ruins so many lives.

But for those of us who don’t enjoy it enough to get hooked it’s a travel wonder drug. Pop a few on the way to the airport, settle into your seat. Blink your eyes and, hey look at that! You’ve traveled halfway around the world in a matter of minutes.

They’ve got their drawbacks. Take them too early, toss in a noggin full of hash oil, and you’re a confused mess. Been there, done that. Staring at the self check-in kiosk, utterly befuddled, until some kind soul asks if you need help. Take off your belt at security and forget to hold up your pants. Give everyone a wink at the goods.

And you’ve gotta stay away from the booze. Benzos plus alcohol bring out the unrestrained id. Shit gets ugly.

They also turn me into a farting snoring mess, but that’s a problem for those around me.

Stimulant Laxatives: Flying always leaves me colossally constipated. Stomach full of clay, bloated and sore and farty for days.

There are gentle solutions. Fiber and hydration and light meals the day before departure. But none of those really solve the problem, just reduce it.

Enter stimulant laxatives, an asshole emptying explosive fix. Take a double dose your first night, wake up a few hours later and spend some quality time moaning on the toilet as your stomach clenches and evacuates your insides.

It’s not fun, but it works. Like tearing off a bandaid, gets shit sorted fast rather than suffering slowly.

And you’ll be as light and free as a bird!

Alka-Seltzer: Heartburn, headaches, hangovers, there’s nothing a little Alka-Seltzer won’t fix.

Add some low grade third world over the counter opiates and you’ll go from shivering queasy mess to conquer the world superman in ten minutes.

Nicotine lozenges: I can handle a long stretch without a smoke, so long as I’m in my right mind. But reduce my already lacking inhibitions and things get ugly. Cranky, pissy, hair trigger temper. Mix in the aforementioned benzos and a few ill advised cocktails (the no drinking thing is more of a guideline than hard and fast rule) and there’s no telling what I’ll do.

Addiction’s a hell of a thing. Turns us into monsters during withdrawals. Thank god I’m only hooked on minor stuff. Like nicotine and caffeine. And probably alcohol, if I’m being honest.

Just in: Kelly Slater wins Nobel Prize!

A Pulitzer too! And the Oscar for best leading man!

How many barrels can a man watch? How many green drainers can he sit through without getting any clips of air under the fins? Kelly Slater’s wave pool was starting to totally bore. Yawn. Barrel. Longer barrel. Barrel. But then Josh Kerr showed up and whoosh! Into the sky!

And I am not being truthful. Kelly Slater’s wave pool is not at all starting to bore. Can you believe it still? Can you believe that Zach Weisberg’s dream valentine man made something so spectacularly better than anything we have ever seen?

And Josh Kerr didn’t really whoosh into the sky but he did dink into the sky. A little punt. After a barrel. And Kelly? Look at him bob and weave on the wave that will finally make him famous!

But are you older? Is your body filled with soul and do you like to waste waves? Waste them just basically standing there and/or hurting every person in your path? Then what about this?

There are so many smiles. Just so many and if the fine men and women at the Nobel Institute know anything about world peace then they will award Kelly Slater the award this year and allow him to take his rightful place alongside Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama.

Get to know: Surfing’s first hipster!

Dion Agius is a wonderful man and he brought us a wonderful gift.

Patient Zero, or the index case, is the name given to the initial carrier of disease, or exemplifier of a syndrome, in a population. Mabalo Lokela, a school teacher from Zaire, was the first recorded victim of the Ebola virus. Liu Jianlun, a doctor from China, was the first to transmit SARS. Edgar Enrique Hernandez, a young boy from La Gloria, Mexico, was one of the earliest recorded victims of Swine Flu and Dion Agius, a surfer from Tasmania, brought Hipsterism from distant shores to the living rooms of Newport Beach.

Dion, quite famously, started his public life as a Boogie star but soon transitioned to surf and professional contest surf at that. When he was young, Body Glove sticker on the nose, he didn’t know anything but three to the beach. “I guess I have a jockey contest stage for sure,” he says while drinking a small batch Manhattan touched with house made vanilla bitters. “I definitely wasn’t playing football on the side or anything like that but I was definitely into contests, that’s for sure. My dad used to drive me around to do a shit load of them. I have a really bad temper and I used to loose all the time, I used to fucking hate it.” And maybe the hate shook something loose because in his genes a powerful force lay waiting. Hipsterism.

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines “Hipster” as, “a person unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns.” And certainly “hip” surfers existed before Dion, Dave Rastovich and Ozzie Wrong and Ozzie Wright and Miki Dora to name a few, but nobody put the elements together quite like Dion. Nobody became the essence of “Hipster.”

And the powerful force bubbled in his insides. He felt like he wanted to do something different than chase points in contests. He felt there was something out there but he didn’t know exactly what because no one in his generation was really doing anything different. And then he went to Vietnam with Taylor Steel.

“I was on the trip with him and I was telling him how much I loved the drive through movies and how intriguing it was to see the guys on the road and all the behind the scenes stuff…” He says between bites of an artisanal grilled cheese sandwich featuring aged Gouda. “You see the best of the best and even everything in between was so interesting. I told him about this idea I had about doing this website thing with a mini drive thru series. I thought it would really show my style. I went home and I had a meeting with Globe. The president of Australia at the time said, ‘You can ride for us and we don’t want you doing another competition.’ That sounded awesome. I didn’t want to do another competition. He said, ‘Yeah we’ve got this idea I want to start. This little website thing I want to start with you. We could mix your interesting film and start documenting your travels.’ It was the weirdest thing ever because it was pretty much the idea I wanted to try. I told Steve and I was just tripping, I couldn’t believe it. That’s where it as born from. He told me, ‘I don’t want you to do any more contests. We want to put you on. We want to market the shit out of you and put all this money into it. We don’t want you competing against guys and getting beaten and looking like an idiot. Why don’t we just send you out on the road, have an amazing time, and we’ll capture it all on video? That’s what we want you to do.’ To me, that sounded like a dream. From that point on I actually went and did a QS because it was still engrained in me and we hadn’t figured out how it was all going to work. I remember getting called from him the next day after I had lost. I got smoked by probably Hedgy or someone. He called me and said, ‘Dude, what did I tell you?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ And he said, ‘What the fuck did I tell you? I don’t want you doing another contest.’ I just said, ‘Yeah, ok I get it.’ I never did another contest after that because he actually got mad at me.”

The blog that grew on Globe.tv starring Dion Agius was groundbreaking because it was the first of its kind. There was no Marinelayer.com. There was no Instagram. There was no Dane Reynold’s girlfriend on Instagram. There was nothing but a tabula rasa and then there was Dion, traveling, filming, getting artsy with skinny models, living in New York and setting it to a moody soundtrack. It was “Hipsterism” par excellence. And it was how Dion did it that made it par excellence. He took an active roll in crafting all the elements. He surfed, sure, but he also took the photos, filmed some, doodled lots and today is filming more. He is starving for knowledge, starving for a hands-on approach to his art. He says, while lighting an American Spirit cigarette, “Yeah. I think for me I’ve just been so lucky throughout my career. I’ve been able to travel and meet some of my idols like Taylor and Dustin and guys like that. When I was a kid I was looking up to them and absolutely mesmerized by their work. When I got to do a trip with them I took it as an opportunity to hassle the shit out of them. They were probably so annoyed, like, ‘who the fuck is this little kid? Leave me alone.’ I just wanted to learn, because I could. Joe G. is one of the most amazing dudes ever who loves teaching you stuff, so I took advantage of that. I still do to this day. I’m still learning from him every single trip we do. He’s been a freaking amazing mentor for me. I’d say at one point or another I was probably annoying the shit out of him with a million questions.”

Love or hate hipsterism, in general, and surf hipsterism, specifically, it cannot be denied that hipsters actually make things. Hipsters like knowing things. Hipsters try. And Dion Agius’s humble blog gave birth to hundreds of people who actually make things, know things and try. Certainly it can seem empty or, at the very least, redundant but even at its most contrived it is still better than completely manufactured. Take the fascination with motorcycles for instance. Yes, it is super “trendy” but still. Those hipsters caught up in it get grease under their fingernails. They get weird with gaskets and Bondo. They do something. Take the fascination with old cameras. Those hipsters caught up in it spend time in the darkroom. They get weird with printing tongs and processing trays. They do something. Take the fascination with alternative surf craft. Those hipsters caught up in it are actively involved in what they ride and that is more valuable and more important than simply buying a factory shaped board from China and factory designed trunks from China.

The children who have grown walking down the trail Dion Agius blazed take their many options for granted. They start sunglass companies, write, dance, sing, play guitar, draw, doodle, paint and Instagram everything. They get their hands dirty and all the crafty business extends, even, to surfers it theoretically should not. John John Florence, born and bred on the North Shore, is, on the surface, the antithesis of the hipster surfer. Yet, look at what he does. He has made and released very progressive unbranded movies on his own dime. Certainly, he is currently working on a big budget Brainfarm piece of awesome but he has brought along filmmaker Blake Kueny and Blake Kueny is a hipster.

Yes, the trail Dion Agius blazed is smashed flat with many canvas shoe soles. And, again, love or hate, the trail leads to many more interesting places than three to the beach. What will follow surf hipsterism? Who knows, but one of the canvas shoe wearers is mutating Dion’s strain right now and that will be the future. Whoever that is, Jack Robinson or Leo Fioravanti or an unknown from Jacksonville, Florida, will be the new Patient Zero.

Taj Burrow Bali
Taj says: "To be honest, I had never heard of (fellow finalist) Shane Holmes until this contest. When I saw him surf I knew he was the real deal. Then when I saw him beat Joel (Parkinson) and was in the Final I definitely wasn’t taking it lightly. To win a couple of events here is amazing I love this wave, it’s really fitting as it will be one of my last WSL event. I couldn’t be happier.” | Photo: WSL

Just in: Taj Burrow Two-Packs Keramas

The original mad huey, Taj Burrow, wins back-to-back WQS events at Keramas, Bali.

We’ll never forget Taj Burrow, even though retirement, now, is official and only six or so weeks away.

Just two hours ago, the thirty-seven-year-old won the Kommune Pro (presented by the Mad Hueys, naturally) for the second time in two years.

The waves were four-to-six feet in the final and for most of it, it did appear that Shane Holmes, a concrete worker from Australia’s Central Coast, and whom Taj had never heard (nor I for that matter), would win.

But, as the press release document explains:

“Burrow waited patiently in the final until he found himself in a combination situation (needing two single wave scores) and found a long hollow wave with some smooth finishing turn sections. He was then left needing an 8.70 (out of a possible 10) Burrow found one of the bigger waves of the heat and stalled for what seemed like and eternity in one of the best barrels of the event before coming out and smashing two big turns to score the a 9.67 for a heat total of 18.74 (out of a possible 20), the highest two wave total of the event to take the win.” 

Taj’s surfing, as you’ll agree, has an undefinable quality that bursts into glory when he opens those shoulders.

Taj also has a mysterious charm that unlocked the secrets of women through his two decades on tour although this he recently shelved for love and fatherhood. 

In a world full of plastic people, Taj is the real deal.