My Blog

Joaco’s story

I traveled to Oaxaca two weeks ago expecting a surf trip, but I came back with more inspiration than I bargained for. I want to share the story of Joaco, our passionate surf guide and local entrepreneur whose love for his culture and community is nothing short of inspiring. His story is a powerful reminder of how one person’s passion can create ripples of change, uplifting an entire community.

Passion drives entrepreneurs from Oaxaca to Silicon Valley. 

Passion fuels 12 hour work days from venture-backed CEOs to local surf guides. 

And passion has the opportunity to heal and guide entire economies.

I’ve now traveled to several countries that have surf tourism to thank for their booms. Taghazout in Morocco, Playa Gigante in Nicaragua, Sayulita in Mexico, Siargao in the Philippines, and now Huatulco / Salina Cruz in Oaxaca. Most of these places began as (or still are) sleepy fishing villages. They had a quiet way of life, often built on maritime activities or agriculture. 

Until they were discovered by a certain breed: surfers. 

As they get discovered, surf tourism begins to change the local landscape. Surfing is said to generate economic activity worth $50 billion per year globally. And when surfers discover a quality new wave, economic growth rises in that region. 

My boyfriend and I landed in Huatulco at the region’s tiny airport with a few gates (and thankfully with AC!). We’re picked up by Joaco, a local surf guide that my boyfriend found on Reddit. We couldn’t find much research on him, but the waves of Oaxaca looked pristine and relatively empty. 

So we took a leap and booked a 6 day, all-inclusive surf adventure with him. That meant living at his house, his partner cooking us meals, and him driving us off-road to unmapped surf spots. 

Who is this guy anyhow?

Meet Joaco and His Mission

Joaco is a local Oaxacan, born in the tiny village of Astata (where we stayed with him). We were immediately struck by how good his English was. He explained it’s because he spent years living in Mexico City working with entrepreneurs. What brought him back to his sleepy hometown?

Surfing was only part of the equation. He loves his home and sharing his culture. As we drove past mango groves and coconut farms, he explained its history. He told us that the papaya plantations were causing controversy because they used too many pesticides. He said after the last rainfall swept a lot of the ground cover from the plantations into the local surf break, he could taste the pesticides in the water when he surfed there. 

We met his mother, who lives off the side of a busy highway, across a large field that used to be a lagoon. He told us that over a decade ago, a truck carrying jet fuel crashed into the lagoon, leaking its contents everywhere. Dead fish started to float to the surface, plants died, and the water surface was covered in slick oil. He lobbied the government to do something. They came and surveyed the water, and he even jumped in, surfacing to show the oil covering his hair and body. But the government officials were paid off, so nothing happened. Even now, you could see how the crops growing on the land grew unevenly due to long-term effects of the oil spill. 

What struck me even more is that his partner, Gaby, who was our chef for the stay, moved from her life as a baker in Mexico City to be with him. They spent the first 8 months camping the local beach of San Diego — this city girl truly loves this man!

And the food! Gaby put together a cooking class for us to teach us how to make traditional pastor tacos (pork marinated in a red achiote sauce). We learned how to rehydrate dried chiles (just put in boiling water for a few minutes) and how to incorporate pineapple into the sales (just roast it first before blending with onion and garlic). 

The Impact of Passion: A Paradigm Shift

Joaco is guided by a vision. He sees his local surf breaks being overrun with surf camps, where for $250 per person you can stay in an insulated camp, where your food is bought at Walmart, and you’re shielded from the locals. 

Joaco is passionate about sharing his local culture and waves in a responsible way with visitors. He points to Puerto Escondido, a popular surf town in north Oaxaca, where the demand outpaces the infrastructure and they are now dumping raw sewage into the ocean. 

He wants to find a safe, responsible way to build up local economies from surf tourism. 

With the rise of Youtube and Reddit, surf spots like the ones we visited in Oaxaca are getting put on the map. We met visitors in the water from Australia, California, Virginia, Brazil, and other regions of Mexico. 

Can Joaco’s leadership heal his region? Arguably his region doesn’t need healing, but his vision can inclusively usher in a more blended world of tourist and local. 

From Surfing to Startups: The Grit of Founders

Joaco embodies the spirit of an entrepreneur. He’s giving up a stable, high-paying job in a comfy city to bring something innovation to his home. His passion sits in his very bones, I felt it the moment he welcomed us proudly to his region. 

And the going isn’t easy. Surf camps are well-marketed and he’s running a two-person operation using Instagram to market himself. But he’s dedicated to helping guide this nascent economy into the new surf world. He’s encouraging his neighbors in Astata to put their homes up on Airbnb to provide authentic, local experiences and to share the wealth too. 

Like any good founder, he’s spending time with his early customers providing a white-glove service to learn how to make us happy. When we’re in town, he has no life. We wake up at 5:45am to epic breakfast from Gaby, we’re out by 6:30am for waves, and we’re not back until 7 or 8pm to a cleaned house and a delicious, hot dinner. 

He’s building his business one amazing relationship at a time. I felt that sincerity, and I see that energy in so many of the founders I coach. It reminds me of the first restaurants that signed up for my catering platform, how I would walk through the door and introduce myself and build a friendship. It’s that combination of muscle and passion that entrepreneurs use to build the foundations of a business. 

I’ve always loved Mexico, but I walk away with an even deeper love of Oaxaca and its people. And I’m excited to see how Joaco and Gaby become leaders in the elevation of the local economy and its people. 

I share this story because Joaco is an inspiration. Whether you’re building for yourself, your family, your market, or your region, authentic passion is the core fuel behind building. Without it, you have a lifeless business. With it, you can move mountains (or oceans in this case). 

Considering a surf adventure in Mexico? You can learn more about Joaco’s surf guide services here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *