of Club Tortuga:
| Since the 1970's, tourists
and surfers alike had been traveling to a small village
on Mexico's Pacific Coast, a town named Puerto Escondido,
to enjoy its beauty, and to challenge the largest surf
in the Western Hemisphere. Dubbed the "Mexican Pipeline",
these awesome waves turned the sport of surfing more into
a "BULLFIGHT" than a leisure activity. The powerful
currents and the shallow sand bars, contribute to a year-round
danger for swimmers and surfers alike. It is truly any
lifeguard's worst nightmare. "No Baywatch here!!"
It's hard to imagine that, up until a few years ago, there
were no lifeguards on this 3-mile stretch of beach not
to mention anywhere in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico.
A few local surfers were making rescues
without equipment in conditions that would make any trained
and equipped lifeguard think twice. Yet these brave young
locals would continually put themselves in harm's way to try
and prevent the numerous drownings that would occur each and
Realizing the problem, a few California lifeguards and surfers,
who annually journeyed to this "secret spot", started
bringing down rescue equipment just for themselves and their
friends' own protection. As always, they would leave the equipment
behind with the locals as they ended their vacations.
In 1986, Bob Burnside, a retired Chief Lifeguard from Los
Angeles County, came to Puerto Escondido to surf this "Mexican
Pipeline". Since he had heard of the dangerous conditions
and the need to bring rescue equipment, he arrived with 6
rescue tubes and a few pairs of fins. Checking into the Sante
Fe Hotel, with a room overlooking Zicatella Playa, his next
stop was the Cantina. As he came into view of this notorious
"Mexican Pipeline", he could not believe that he
was looking at 25-ft. high, beautiful "A-frame"
waves rolling in along the playa! He also recognized the horrendous
rip currents spaced every 100 meters or so along the shore,
boiling and churning with kelp, sand and everything they came
in contact with as they raced violently seaward!
In the days following, a young local surfer by the name
of Jose Estrada introduced himself to Bob and starting telling
the story of how he and a few of his surfers pals had over
the years made many rescue without any equipment or training.
Burnside, with his years of knowledge, not only with American
lifeguard operations but also the volunteer lifeguard programs
of Australia and New Zealand, suggested to Estrada the concept
of establishing a local volunteer lifeguard club. With Burnside's
assistance from California and an American living on Playa
Zicatella, Jack Buck (Joaquin Venado), offering to act as
liaison to the newly-formed group, Jose was supplied with
rescue equipment, lifeguard training and knowledge of Club
structuring. Beginning with that initial meeting, the Zicatella
Salvavidas Club de Mexico was founded, and Jose Luis Estrada
voted as its captain, along with 7 members of the original
charter: Jorge Perez, Miguel Baylon, Juan Luis Bohorqez, Pablo
Juarez, Jim Prewitt, Pablo Sarmiento, and Francisco Samperio.
As the agreement between these two groups developed, the
United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) of America voted
to recognize the efforts being extended, and gave it's full
support to the new group. Bob Burnside was appointed as the
USLA Liaison to Mexico. Having been an administrator for many
years, Burnside quickly realized the need to take their case
to the government authorities of the State of Oaxaca.
In 1994, Bob journeyed to the state capital and made contact
with the American Consulate, Mark Leyes. Together they were
able to gain access to the inner structure of the state government
and present the Salvavidas Club project. At the conclusion
of those meetings, Burnside was asked by the governor's office
to submit a master water safety plan for the entire coastal
region of Oaxaca.
In 1995, during on a honeymoon/surfing trip to Puerto Escondido,
Huntington Beach Marine Safety Officer, Matthew Karl, ran
into Burnside while surfing. They discovered that they had
much in common -not only the love of surfing, but knowledge
of lifesaving and the recognition of the apparent need for
lifesaving efforts on the local beaches. Karl immediately
volunteered to join in this project and, with the young locals
over dinner one night, they formed the "CLUB TORTUGA".
Returning to California, Matt Karl was elected the first chairman
of the newly formed Club Tortuga, while Chief Burnside accepted
a role as Chief Advisor Patron. Additional officers were elected
to establish the mission and goals for the group. Early members
from agencies throughout California and the US were: Matt
Karl; Kai Weisser; Bob Burnside; Marshall Parks; Tom Thayer;
Don Johnson; Rob Webb; Victor Zavala; Gabriel Correa; and
The year 1996 saw great accomplishments for the organization.
Not only the official beginning of Club Tortuga, but also
the formation of Los Busos Club Zipolite, as well as other
remote playa volunteer groups. The Junior and Handicapped
Junior Lifeguard programs were started within Zicatella Salvavidas
Club de Mexico and they both have continued with great progress
to this day.
The first edition of the quarterly Club Tortuga Newsletter
was written and distributed by Club Editor Dave Nelson. The
First Mexican Lifeguard Exchange between Puerto Escondido
and Huntington Beach involving a 10-man squad, received training
for a two-week period from July 2-16, 1996, as well as their
return to Mexico with donated rescue boards, buoys, fins,
first aid gear, etc.. Funds were raised for the construction
of the State Headquarters building at Zicatella playa. The
Zicatella Hdqts. Ground Breaking ceremony began on Sept. 1996,
and the Zicatella Headquarters was formally dedicated in a
ceremony on Sept. 17, 1997.
In 1997, Ret. Chief of Lifeguards of Dade County, Florida,
Jim Holland was officially appointed the Chief Mexican Liaison
to Club Tortuga and, in 1999, he decided to establish residency
in Puerto Escondido and since has assisted in training the
In 1998, the completed translation of the USLA Beach Training
Manual into Spanish and made available to the Mexican people.
The development of a Spanish-language Jungle Basic Training
Manual has been made accessible thru this website for downloading
to any interested parties.
In 2000 the Save The Sea Turtle program was initiated by
the Zicatella Salvavidas Club and Club Liaison Jim Holland,
which involved protecting and holding tortoise eggs until
hatching and allowed for community participation of the hatchlings'
release back to the ocean at Zicatella Beach each year.
Jack Buck accepted the position to develop outreach programs
in the region, developed the world's first Handicapped Junior
Lifeguard program with Pina Palmera Children's Hospital, and
established the first Mexican Lifeguard Championship at Zipolite
2001 Oaxacan Governor's wife, Senora Guadalupe Murat, requested
an expansion of the Junior Lifeguard programs to professional
State Dept. requests that Holland go to Hualtulco to set
up a similar lifeguard program. Since those early efforts
of tourists and locals, thru the late 80's to the present,
Club Tortuga's accomplishments have grown to include the following:
» Development of this website;
» Various fund raising efforts for
» Development of various outreach lifeguard
» Work with the Oaxaca State government
on hurricane disaster and relief plans