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At the Beach

Part 6

Swimming & Lifeguards...Body surfing...Parasailing

“If I ever have trouble in the water,” a young tourist asked me nervously, “What should I yell in Spanish?”

“HELLLLLPPP!!” I demonstrated, adding, “The translation speaks for itself.”

Tourism officials are quick to brag that Mexico has 6,000 miles of ocean coastline and too many swimming pools to count. Very little is said, however, about an almost complete absence of lifeguards, rescue boats and other safeguards for swimmers. In fact, on busy public beaches and even in most hotel pools, it’s swim at your own risk.

Unless you’re a strong, practiced swimmer, be very careful when swimming in the ocean. Depending on the tides and weather, some of Mexico’s most popular beaches have crunching surf and strong, unpredictable currents. Conditions change very quickly and even experienced swimmers can be taken unawares.

If body surfing is on your list of ‘must experience’ vacation thrills, go carefully. I can testify from painful personal experience that there’s more to this sport than merely throwing yourself in front of a wave. Even a relatively small surf can give you a memorable beating.

Against our advice, a friend challenged a powerful, fast-breaking surf near Manzanillo one afternoon. After being pounded and scraped across the bottom, he crawled from the sea with a bloody head and a badly sprained shoulder. It took an hour to excavate the sand from his ears.

To add to his problems, he couldn’t straighten up enough to drive his rental car. Later, he confessed that it took him a month to recover.

It is no coincidence that many beachfront hotels offer their guests one or more large swimming pools as an alternative to ocean swimming. Don’t take risks. When there’s any doubt, use the pool.


Compared to safe sports like mountain climbing, bungee jumping and hang gliding, parasailing is probably even more dangerous than it looks. Dunkings, collisions with beachfront hotels, tangled ropes and tow boats that break down or run out of gas are just some of the risks parasailors run.

Any lingering temptation I may have had to try parasailing came to an end one awful afternoon, when I watched a middle-aged gringa drop out of the sky onto a palm tree. As someone in the crowd observed, other than multiple fractures, abrasions and mild hysteria, she was “lucky”.

Less than an hour later, the same boat’s crew goofed again. Following a close shave with a hotel balcony, a young man was nearly skewered on a sailboat mast. He plunged into the sea screaming obscenities. After nearly drowning in the tangled, sunken parachute, the hapless tourist was dragged to shore, choking and spitting. Without a blush, the boat’s crew insisted on full payment for the ride. The tourist’s outraged bellow stopped a volleyball game half a mile away. It took several people to pry his hands off the parasail captain’s throat.

There is no insurance on parasail rides and no guarantee that the equipment is safe or the operators well-trained. Although most tourists don’t have problems, the risks are real. My advice is to skip parasailing and keep your feet planted firmly on the beach.

Continued....with part 7

he People's Guide to Mexico
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Mexico, Safe & Easy
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Valuables & Ripoffs
At the Beach
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