More than 10,000 surfers in Mexico and the United States are expected to take part in ceremonies to pay respects to two Australians who went missing in Mexico last month.
Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas were on a surfing trip in Mexico when it is believed they were attacked by gangsters, shot, and their van set alight on a rural road in an area of Sinaloa that is home to a powerful drug cartel.
“We wanted to organise something to show the families and friends in Australia the shame, sympathy, the love and the respect,” Mexico Surfing Federation president Luis Skeen said.
Mr Skeen was joined about 50 other surfers and 100 well-wishers under sunny skies at El Camaron beach in Mazatlan where they built a tribute of flowers and photos and read a statement from the family.
He said relatives of the two men had travelled to Mexico and were holding a private ceremony at a beach near Puerto Vallarta.
He said the surfing community in Mexico was devastated by what happened to the Australians.
“It is a shocker because it is not necessarily what is happening in the country right now, it takes us back to what was happening 35 years ago when there were bandidos if you were travelling down the coast looking for waves and stuff like that,” he said.
“This incident doesn’t really represent the reality of today but it affects everything, it affects the perception towards Mexico and the safety of travel.”
The burnt-out van the men were travelling was found with two bodies inside near the town of Navolato, a region described by its own mayor as a “Bermuda Triangle” of crime.
The area is home to one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico, led by fugitive drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.
“If I have to drive to that area I never drive at night time,” Mr Skeen said.
“It was unfortunate but at the same time in this civilised country and security should have been there.
“I am pretty sure they will bring these guys to justice because I can tell you not just as the president of the Mexican Surfing Federation but as producer of international surfing events, the efforts of the authorities in these last three to four years have been incredible in trying to clean that image for the state.
“I know that the governor of Sinaloa, Mario Lopez Valdez, he took this personally because all the hard work … all the changes … went down the drain on one incident.”
Surfing communities across Mexico and the United States set up paddle-out events for today, even in landlocked Mexico City.