Roberto, el Jefe de Los Cocos
If you’ve ever surfed at Las Olas you’ll remember Roberto “The Coco Guy” Martinez, the stocky chilled-coconut salesman parked at the corner of the Las Olas clubhouse. He was a man of many talents not the least of which was his skill cleaning and opening coconuts. After years of swinging a sharp machete at coconut husks all day he still had all his fingers!
He’d arrive every morning in his battered green pickup with a surplus refrigerator on its side loaded with fresh coconuts on ice. Although selling goods on the street is not permitted, he struck a deal with Bev to set up shop in front of the Las Olas Casita. He had the best location in town between the Plaza and the beach. In return, he’d keep the corner tidy and promised not sell to chihuahuas (true story). Las Olas ladies bought a lot of coconuts from Roberto. In appreciation, he’d always slip Bev a free one.
Roberto was built like a fireplug.
He was short and thick, with Popeye’s forearms and a rock-hard jawbone. We thought it was due to years of swinging his machete until one year an Olympic boxing exhibition came to town. It turned out to be the Mexican women’s boxing team on tour promoting the sport to local girls.
We noticed Roberto didn’t show up to shuck cocos that day. Instead we discovered he was their boxing coach! There he was in his bright white coaching outfit in the middle of the Plaza demonstrating jabs and right hooks to female boxers while an audience of enthusiastic girls watched on.
Although Las Olas wasn’t able to host our surf retreats this past year, we stayed in contact with everyone we know in Mexico. The pandemic has been a globally shared experience. People in our communities in California battled the disease just like those in Mexico. Sadly, this January we received a message that Roberto, the Coco Guy died of complications from COVID-19.