The strange part about this story is that had Jo-Roxy gone to acrobatic yoga this would never have happened.
We had spent the early afternoon, the three of us being myself, Jo-Roxy and, one of the many past or current residents of Savannah, GA that we seem to collect, Emily, surfing Punta Mita at a spot we affectionately refer to as Velvet Rope. Jo-Roxy coined this name for the security guards that admit you to the jungle path that leads to the beach. The land is private and through some local compromise that happened long before I arrived and am frankly very surprised happened at all, the land owners allow anyone carrying a surfboard access to the beach, this includes surf schools and people with suspiciously little interest in surfing who manage to carry around a beat-up body board and then sun themselves on the mostly deserted beach. The name Velvet Rope is appropriate as for a moment or two, as the guard leaves his small shaded tower and strolls over to the gate clipboard in hand, it would seem that gaining admission to this beach is much the same as attending any hot night spot and negotiating the ubiquitous dead-headed bouncer. For the record, I consider myself too old or wise to attend nightclubs. The guards at Velvet Rope are uniformly nice and probably some of the best Spanish practice I get in my day, as they are mostly alone any distraction is seemingly welcome and they love a chat.
We surfed for about an hour, the waves were weak but rideable. It’s a longboarder’s wave. On a good day it is easily possible get rides from the point about 200 yards out all the way into the beach. Emily and Jo-Roxy proved this was still possible on a bad day.
We piled back into the car. Jo-Roxy and Emily had decided the day before to pretend to be ‘partners’ and attend a session of couples acro-yoga – a series of mind boggling contortions only achievable with someone else pulling you into unnatural positions. As I’m unable to touch my toes without warming up for 20 minutes I decided it sounded lame. We were in the car with enough time to make it back for acro-yoga when we came across one of the many Coco Frio stalls on the roadside.
‘Maybe we should get a Coco Frio,’ suggested Jo-Roxy. I warningly looked at the clock.
‘Yeah, I love Coco Frio,’ said Emily.
‘You won’t be in time for acro-yoga,’ I said.
Jo-Roy turned to Emily, ‘Should we go? Or should we have a Coco Frio.’
‘Coco Frios are delicious.’
‘Should we do it then?’
And that was how the decision was made not to go to acro-yoga.
With little else to do Jo-Roxy and I decided to surf at Sayulita on our return. The waves at Sayulita are mellow, dribbling right down a large pebble and rock reef. But from the level of aggression and disregard from local surfers you would think they were protecting a world class wave, this is especially true of the evening session where the day’s wind calms and the water’s surface becomes glassy. Often I try to avoid surfing Sayulita during this time but the draw of good waves is that you do things you know you shouldn’t hoping, just hoping that you might find one of those waves. The kind that as you paddle in all you can see for the next 100 yards is the wall of the wave peaking to your right waiting for you to either outrun it or attempt to make use of its steep face to turn from bottom to top and back to the bottom again. It happens sometimes, often enough to keep us all going back.
Jo-Roxy wisely took our largest and most buoyant board. We surfed for a little while, sat around watched locals take waves that probably should have been ours. We surfed. Jo-Roxy hooked onto a little wave that swung wide outside of the reef and no one else was able to catch it, she turned and paddle and was up and standing as everyone else watched. She took a step forward to gain some speed and stay in front of the weak wave. Concentrating on maintaining her position she never saw the guy dropping-in on the shore break left, and he did not see her until they were on a collision course that resulted in them travelling in opposite directions and clashing heads before falling into the water.
I saw Jo-Roxy standing in the shallows holding her head and quickly paddled over. The other surfer was also holding his head and apologizing half in Spanish half in English. We wadded toward shore, boards tangled together, waves breaking over us. Jo-Roxy said that her foot hurt and pulled it out of the water, we all saw that a large section of skin on her big toe was flapping around in the water. I started swearing, ‘Shit, Fuck.’ The surfer, ‘Oh may gad, oh may gad.’ Jo-Roxy was mostly making noises that meant she was crying or vomiting. The culpable surfer helped me carry our boards across the beach, where we dumped them. Jo-Roxy looking lost and confused, me feeling about the same, trying to keep her flapping toe out of the sand.
The last time we were here Jo-Roxy spent some time with the doctor for another surfing injury, a self-inflicted ankle injury that time, so we headed toward his office. The culpable surfer came with us, he was very clearly feeling terrible about what he had done. He kept saying follow me, I’m so sorry, follow me. We arrived to find a closed doctor’s office. Saturday, 6pm, no doctors. Jo-Roxy sat on the sidewalk, blood poured out of her toe and onto the cobbled street, shaking slightly. The surfer tried to call the doctor but there was no answer. I didn’t know what else to do so I bought medical alcohol from a pharmacy next door and told Jo-Roxy to tip it on the wound. I kept asking the surfer, ‘what do you mean no doctor?’ Patchy medical service is one of the joys of living in a tropical paradise. The surfer told me that there is an emergency service on the other side of town. He goes to get us a taxi. I tell him we have a car. Jo-Roxy kept asking, ‘Why is he still here. Tell him to go away.’ And I said, ‘He knows where the emergency doctor is, he is the only one who does.’ An Italian man identified himself as a doctor and in a calm doctorial way, a complete antithesis to our demeanor, bends down and pokes around Jo-Roxy’s toe flap and pronounces she will need stitches.
We walked back to the house to retrieve the car. Jo-Roxy repeated, ‘Just make him go away, I can’t look at him.’ We arrived at the house and told Emily to go with the surfer to retrieve our boards. In what was probably the first moment of sanity post-the accident, Jo-Roxy said we should shower and change clothes before going anywhere. I was skeptical, I felt like it was an emergency, but in hindsight she was really in no danger of dying.
We drove in the direction of the Emergency doctor asking people on the street where he might be located, ‘Donde es El Doctor emergencia?’ We received more blank looks than we hoped for. Then, strangely, we found an ambulance that was either stocking its supplies or was being cleaned, either way, I pulled over and started waving furiously and yelling things. Jo-Roxy climbed into the rear of the ambulance where a paramedic took a look at her toe. He said the same thing, she will need stitches, but he was also very concerned about the knock she had taken to her head. He kept saying that she needed to be in a neck brace, so I pointed to the neck brace up in a high clear container. He said, ‘like that.’ I wondered why he wouldn’t put the neck brace on her if it was what she needed. He told us we needed to drive to Puerto Vallarta to Hospital AmeriMed, 45 minutes away.
We were attended at Hospital AmeriMed by a sassy male nurse and a young doctor. As the name suggests, the hospital was of an American standard. Jo-Roxy was administered a local anesthetic and the wound was cleaned vigorously. I shielded her face with a scarf so she couldn’t see, but I couldn’t help but watch as the doctor peeled back the flap exposing the inner workings of her toe. I can confirm she is beautiful inside and out. The doctor stitched the wound with eight stitches, proscribed some pain killers and antibiotics and a strict regime of washing and covering the injury.
From the moment she saw that her toe was mutilated, Jo-Roxy knew this meant no surfing. Throughout the ordeal this was her chief concern, not the pain, not the risk of infection, but when she could get back in the water. The doctor confirmed it would be at least a week until she was ready to go back into the water. A week seemed manageable.