Israel Preciado is the enigmatic organiser of what is arguably the most competitive, and certainly the biggest, longboarding contest in the world. He is a cackling riot of wisecracks and one liners, at the same time as being absolutely serious about the vision for his contest, for his country and for the future of longboarding. During the long and winding drive south from his home in Sayulita to the contest location in La Saladita for this year’s competition, I asked Israel a few questions about the why’s, the who’s and the how’s of Mexican longboarding.
ML: Tell us about the concept for the Mexilogfest, why you wanted to make it happen.
IP: Growing up it was pretty hard for me to travel, and to be exposed to good contests or do the tour. Firstly, I was broke, and also being Mexican it’s very hard for us to get visas to travel to the USA, Australia etc. It closes a lot of doors for you, you know. So having the Mexilogfest is about opening that door for Mexicans and Latin Americans, and for other countries like Morocco, Philippines and even for anyone who has the potential to be one of the best in the world, the event is giving these guys and girls the chance to surf and hang out with their heroes. In a cool place, a beautiful country.
ML: This year will be the ninth iteration of the contest, how has it changed and developed over the years?
IP: I have seen a lot of change in the event, people accept it and people want to be part of it, not only longboarders, hardcore traditional longboarders, but the hi-pro guys, even normal ninja shortboarders, they love the event and it’s grown in popularity, I think that’s a lot to do with being in Mexico, don’t get me wrong, who the heck doesn’t want to come to Mexico? Good food, good surf.
Also the format of the competition is the key, it helps people really like the event, you get three heats to surf and you’re not stressed out about wanting to advance. So the energy in the water is a lot easier, it’s a lot more friendly. At the same time, you still want to make some money, you still wanna surf the best you can, but you have three chances, and even if you don’t advance, at least you surfed three times.
I also think that having an equal prize purse has helped. That was my wife’s idea at the start, she said ‘you need to pay the same amount to the ladies’, and you know, before that there was always this thing that women get less. It was so backwards, why would you do such a thing, we should probably just give more money to the ladies. To be honest I would prefer to watch a woman surf a longboard beautifully than a man.
And then the music, the food, so much goes into the event, it’s not just me, people like Mimi Dang, Hector Gonzales, my contest director, all my judges. That’s a thing that helps the event, my judges are all current surfers who actually shred, they really shred, you have Erin Ashley, who this year is my head judge, she shreds! Then you have hardcore Vince Felix from Ventura, nobody wants to mess with Vince. He’s a lovely guy but you don’t want to make him mad… and then you have Lars from Cayucos , a mean underground shredder who is super good, then we have my friends like Rogellio Ramos who was a national champ for a long time riding hi-pro, surfs really good. Having that for the judging makes people believe in the event even more, having legit people who actually surf. I also like my people to surf everyday, to feel what’s going on out there (ML: In the Mexilogfest, after the day’s heats finish, the judges are granted an hour of surfing before the hungry crowd descends). Having your judges surf shows that they know what’s up out there, they’re not just sitting on a laptop punching numbers.
ML: How do you think the event has helped Mexican longboarders?
IP: I believe it has helped tremendously, to Mexican surfers I mean, I’m gonna give you a simple example; when I had the Mexilogfest the first year I had a bunch of Mexicans in the event but they weren’t that good, I mean back then I was the king but now i’m just the kook! You know, now these kids are incredible, I mean Jonathon Melendres won the whole thing last year, I’m very satisfied, I’m definitely proud of him and he should be proud of himself Then you have Miguel Sinclair who has amazing style, Dan Pascasio from La Saladita has a crazy style, Mau, Luis Ferr and the other guys from Sayulita. It has helped a lot, it has helped them evolve their surfing.
I always believed since I was a kid that the only way to get better is to surf against people who are way better than you. If you continue just being regional champ, national champ, the local hero, yeah that’s cool, you might get a lot of ladies, but you won’t be the best you can be. You want to surf against the best and lose against the best, that way you have more drive to get better and better and that’s what is happening with Mexicans, it’s awesome. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. They are so good, I hate them, haha!
ML: What are your plans for the future of the contest?
IP: I don’t wanna sound too hippy or spiritual but I just wanna be present right now, do this job, finish this contest, make another great event and make sure everyone has a great time. Then I don’t really want to change anything, it works great but… sometimes I get these ideas.
Like I want to mix the girls and the boys in the same heat or that the semifinals should be mixed, I get these voices in my head and there’s too many of them! But I think that would be a good idea, I’m definitely thinking of it, even for this year actually. I think that’s a good idea, and also that mixing them up will have people even more polite in the water and then there will be less cat fights in the water, not that we have many. I think it will be cool, refreshing, cause why not? That’s how the free surfs are, the girls surf with boys and most likely the girls are gonna beat the boys. We will see what the future holds, ’cause actually I can do whatever I want!
ML: Are there any other Mexican surfers who you would like to celebrate?
IP: I can name a few more good longboarders. It’s good for them to be mentioned. I don’t know what position I’m in in the longboarding world, but if I can give them exposure, that’s what I’m here for. Obviously my dear friends, Jonathon Melendres and Miguel, Pepe Solis from Punta de Mita, Mauricio Nunez. There are some really good girls, Ilianet Nunez from Saladita, she has a really good style, Patricia Ornelas from Saladita then there’s the sister of Mauricio Nunez, Kelly, she’s very good, she’s gonna be very good, you have a wave like Saladita and you’re gonna get good. Then from Sayulita, from the Nayarit area, Brenda Flores she’s a very good surfer, she used to be a shortboarder and now she’s a longboarder and she gets all the sponsors, longboarding is kinda cool these days.
ML: Why did you start longboarding? Why do you continue longboarding?
IP: I started with longboards because, honestly, it was easier. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have money as a kid, there wasn’t much choice for me to choose different boards. The only boards that I could ride were from my dear friend Jose Villegas, he’s a local legend, he would let me use his boards and would say, ‘just grab a longboard.’ I wanted to be a shortboarder to be honest but I had to go to school, then after school I had to go to work, there wasn’t much time for me to mess around with a shortboard so I would just grab a longboard. Then if it was 1ft and crappy I could catch waves, and if it was overhead, I would still ride the same thing, so that’s really the reason I started. Then I started liking nose riding, the beauty of traditional longboarding as well as high performance longboarding.
Whoever tells you that they’re just a traditional logger is missing a big part of longboarding. At one point in my life I was thinking that single fin longboarding is true longboarding but you know what, each one of us is a unique person, and if you like to surf 2+1, it’s fine, I don’t give a shit. It makes you happy? That’s it. What I prefer to watch is traditional longboarding, but that’s just me, and I like to ride traditional longboards. But that’s one reason that I still continue to ride them, because when I go to surf, on any given day at my home breaks, I always bring two boards. If I know the swell is gonna be kinda good, I’ll bring a log and a twin fin or a mid length. So again you go back to my beginnings, if it’s smaller I wanna catch as many waves as I can, and if it’s good then I have a fat fish and I can have a great time, catch a few waves, then get kinda agitated so go back in and grab my longboard, catch a few more waves.
ML: Surf a crowded perfect pointbreak or an average empty beachbreak?
IP: I’d rather stay home… Nah I think I don’t care about the crowd, I mean I grew up in one of the most crowded spots in Mexico, in Sayulita, so it’s not a problem, I just ride a longboard.
ML: Do you wear a leash?
IP: I wear a leash when I ride my shortboards, twin fins, mid lengths, I don’t wear a leash when I’m riding longboards, just because, I dunno, I don’t like leashes. But to be honest, sometimes I should wear a leash because there are some waves where there are a lot of tourists in front of me and I should be aware of that. You can kill someone with a big longboard. I try not to wear one because it feels uncomfortable to me when wearing a leash but I should be more aware of people.
The thing is, yeah it’s cool in traditional longboarding and people talk so much shit, just because you’re cool and you don’t wanna wear a leash but you might run over a kid or someone might get hit in the head. I think us as human beings are always supposed to be taking care of each other but sometimes our ego gets in the way, that’s part of us but that’s what it is. The leash argument is a lot about the ego. I’m always trying to be aware of not hurting people. And for people learning, if you wear a leash, that’s gonna give you confidence to be able to go to the nose and turn in critical parts of the wave. I think it’s a good idea for everyone who is intermediate or not amazing at longboarding to wear a leash.
ML: Favourite 1960’s longboarder and why?
IP: The 60’s sucks, just kidding. I mean I like watching the old videos but honestly I think longboarding is best nowadays, I have a lot of respect for people who paved the road for us and the ones who created everything we have today. All of us as humans, surfers, artists etc, have to follow a path and the guys from the 60’s were the ones who did that for us, but honestly there is nobody I really idolised.
ML: Favourite current longboarder?
IP: The one who doesn’t steal my waves!