Your Worst Baja Nightmare As Told By Jacob Szkeley - Stab Mag

Your Worst Baja Nightmare As Told By Jacob Szkeley

Who knew producing a Vlog could be so treacherous?

Words by Zack Raffin

Jacob “Zeke” Szekely has had plenty of experience with the police.

We’ve told the story of Zeke’s prior arrests and subsequent societal rehabilitation. Thankfully, this is not another tale of Jacob Szekely gone wrong. With strong sponsors, an outsized personality, and a handful of Stab’s most viral wave-pool clips in his back pocket, Zeke has gone ahead and joined surfing’s Vlogosphere. With friends the likes of Tony Hawk, Bam Margera, Steve-O and a long list of your favorite pro skaters, Zeke is clear in his goal of wanting this to be a source of not just good surfing, but true entertainment. Clearly, he’s taking notes from fellow Buell member J.O.B, which if our recent analysis tells us anything, is a decidedly good thing.

When Zeke first sent me this vlog, he told me an unfortunate tale of his run-in with the Mexican police while filming down in Baja. For California citizens new and old, road tripping to Mexico is something they’re likely to do at some point during their tenure out west. A simple 2-3 hour drive can find you in a whole new world of cheap tacos and uncrowded barrels. What I didn’t know is that Zeke is actually a Mexican citizen and speaks perfect Spanish, which is to say: if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. 

Intrigued, I called Zeke up to hear about his police run-in and ask him what some “best practices” are for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. 

Stab: Zeke, congrats on the new vlog… although sorry to hear about the police difficulty while filming in Baja. Can you take us through it from the beginning?

Zeke: Thanks! Being from San Diego I’ve been down there literally hundreds of times. I was actually born in Mexico, have Mexican heritage from my Mom’s side and my family owns a couple of properties down there, including a surf resort in Scorpion Bay. I speak perfect Spanish as well, so I feel like I can maneuver there better than most. When I saw this swell coming, I told some of my pro-skater roommates X-Games gold medalist Alex Sorgente and Alex Midler along with Shane Borland to come down and get some barrels. They don’t get the opportunity to go on surf trips too often, so we decided to do a little day trip and head down there.

From the opening scene of your clip it looks like you guys scored…

Zeke: Yeah we had a great day, it’s always good getting your friends barrelled. I got Sorge and Midler some step-offs, Shane was paddling some crazy ones, I got a couple both stepping off and paddling. We beached the ski and had some snacks, then the wind went Southeast and my buddy Skip McCullough gave me a call: “Bro, Kolohe’s punting straight out front, get over here!” So we did some tow-ats for a while, then the wind went back offshore and we surfed till dark.

Sounds like a pretty dreamy day, was that the same wave that Billy Hopkins got that crazy one?

Zeke: Haha ya actually.

PWC assistance isn’t necessary, but often welcome when the waves look like this.

Wow, lucky you. So what happens next?

Zeke: We had two cars and I was towing the ski, so our friends started heading back towards the border, and Alex Midler, filmer Tanner Carney and myself hung back to load the ski up. It’s a quick drive from where we were to the border and we got in the car probably an hour after dark. We were getting on a bridge to get back over to the US and a cop pulled up next to me with his sirens on, pulled straight in front of me while I was going 40 mph, which mind you is pretty dangerous while you’re towing a trailer, and slams on his breaks forcing me to screech to a stop. 

Two cops then come to the car, one opens my door and tells me to turn off the car, yelling at me in Spanish and in English. He rips me out of the car, takes my keys, gets me up against the car and starts searching me. He comes around and asks me if I speak Spanish and I say no. I’ve learned through my years of traveling through Mexico that if you say you speak Spanish then they’ll fuck with you even harder. Then one of the officers stopped traffic, pulled their cop car behind our truck and put their sirens on so as to make it look like they were pulling us over from behind.

That’s terrifying. Good on you for thinking on your feet, and where were Alex and Tanner during this? 

They were scared shitless in the back of the truck! The cops kept telling them to stay in the car with their hands up. Then they handcuffed me to their cop car, pulled out Midler and Tanner, put them next to me and searched them, all the while it’s pouring rain. They found a knife on Tanner and started yelling at us for having a weapon, then said that’s another big citation. I kept on asking why we were pulled over and what the problem was and they told us it was because the taillights were out on my jet ski trailer. 

While an equipment malfunction may be cause for a police stop it seems like there was more at play here.

For sure. I told them it was a mistake and apologized. I asked them in English “How can we make this right?” They told us $10,000 or our truck and jet ski were getting impounded, that Tanner was going to jail for having a knife and I was going to jail for driving the vehicle and “evading police”. I kept profusely apologizing, asking to talk to their boss, asking to work it out. They even said, “You better get some money or you’re going to jail and you’re car’s getting taken away.” 

I checked my wallet in front of them and I had 350 pesos, which is about $15 USD. That wasn’t enough, so Tanner took out the little bit of cash he had while I kept telling them that the bridge wasn’t a good place to be and that my friends were going to drive up the road any minute and that they could help us. I wanted to let them know we were in the open and that we came down with a big group of people. After they heard that they took the little cash we had, threw me my keys and drove off. 

The ski in question.

Sound’s like a full-on stick up if you ask me. 

In my experience police in Mexico will use any excuse they can to pull over what they see as white guys in any sort of “nice” vehicle. Having a jet-ski trailer can make you more of a target for sure, and I’ve even had to pay small fees like this to police officers before but nothing like this where they pull you over. 

What other experiences/stories have you heard of similar situations? 

About two months ago, surfers were shot at and their truck and jetski were robbed from them in Baja. That’s actually the reason Tanner had a knife, because he was standing on the beach all day filming and we wanted to have something to protect himself in case things went south. He told the cops that but they wound up taking the knife anyway. 

I’ve also been taken to Mexican jail when I was 15 for riding dune buggies in front on the beach infront of our Surf Hotel. The second I told the cops I was a Mexican citizen, they took me to jail. That’s when I learned that it’s better to act like a tourist rather than assert yourself to these corrupt cops.

I think people assume that there are corrupt cops, but this will act as a cautionary tale for anyone planning their next trip to Baja. If you had to give advice to someone in this situation, what would you suggest they do (or don’t do)? 

If the police pull you over down there, the three things to do are:

1. Remain calm
2. Speak English
3. Always have a little bit of cash on you.

A bunch of the higher-ranking police officers are straight cops, the ones who do things like this are often the lower ranking officers that are just looking for a quick buck. 

If you had to choose: American Jail or Mexican Jail?

I’d much rather be in American jail. I was only in Mexican jail for a few hours but it was not fun (laughs).

Well we’re glad you guys made it back to vlog another day, what can we expect coming up?

We are working on a bunch of stuff to get the vlog off the ground. I’m actually headed to Hawaii tomorrow to film a bunch, will be meeting up with Papa Kerr (Josh Kerr) to ride some motos and surf some cool spots. Stay tuned for episode 2 coming soon!

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