When Coco Nogales was a child, he lived on the streets of Mexico city. Often, he had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. He slept in alleys and under cars, freezing cold and hungry. “It was very tough,” he told FreetoSea.tv. “So many nights you didn’t have a place to sleep, so many nights you didn’t have a thing to eat. It was kind of scary, you know.”
But now, nearly thirty years later, Carlos Nogales has transformed himself and his life. After making his way from Mexico City to Acapulco on a bus ticket bought from cleaning cars and selling chicles, Nogales found himself sleeping in the sand instead of in an alley. The weather was warmer, and there were more tourists. He learned to make a living off of them, part salesman and part busker. But life was still far from good. Drugs began to take their toll on many of his friends, and crime–as it does for so many street kids–became a tool for survival. Coco was once caught by police and interrogated at gunpoint about a local drug cartel. He knew that wasn’t how he wanted to live his life. Soon after, he arrived in Puerto Escondido, and knew he had found home. “As soon as I came here,” he said, “I knew this was going to be my house, forever.”
When he first arrived there, he was terrified of the ocean. He’d never surfed and couldn’t swim, but felt a powerful attraction to the sea. Coco’s determination soon put him on the big-wave map. At 17, he landed on the pages of Surfer Magazine with a monstrous Puerto tube. That wave, in his own words, changed his life forever.
Since then, he’s become a staple in the big wave community. He’s started a project called AHAVA, inspiring the next generation of Mexican surfers, showing that no matter what your situation, there’s always a road that leads to where you want to go in life.