Smugglers pack cocaine in surfboards

Basque authorities cut open nine surfboards with 5 to 6 kilograms of cocaine in each. Screen grab from EITB.com

It was 1993, the third season of Baywatch. In episode 14 "Strangers Among Us," a smuggler hides diamonds in surfboards belonging to Jimmy Slade (played by Kelly Slater.) That plot recently played out for real as traffickers tried smuggling 51 kilos of cocaine into the Basque Country of Spain.

Basque Radio Television, Euskal Irrati Telebista is reporting that three Italian men were caught muling the drugs in nine surfboards with hollowed out stringers. The bust comes on the heels of a similar incident where Basque authorities uncovered an international drug trafficking operation that was using popular womens' designer shoes, Manola Blahniks, to move cocaine from Colombia into Bilbao.

To a surfer, the boards would have looked suspicious with odd shapes, strange paint jobs and stringer widths that are rarely used outside of 60s era longboards. The anti-drug investigation unit found 5 to 6 kilos in a boards ranging from shortboards to large pintail longboards hidden, in the hollow stringers.

Interestingly, there is a long documented history of drugs smuggled with surfboards. A Canadian man was arrested at Juan Santamaria Airport in March with 3 kilos of cocaine in his board, flying from Costa Rica to Montreal. In 2009, a Mexican drug smuggler was caught paddling a surfboard around the California/Mexico border with a duffel bag containing 24 pounds of marijuana. In 2005, Surfing Magazine reported the "Operation Playboy" bust of a Brazilian gang that would move cocaine around the world in hollowed out sections of foam. And that's not getting into surfing's age of "exploration" in the wild 1970s.

It has yet to be determined if the three men intended to distribute the cocaine in the Basque Country or if they had another destination. Spain's EITB has a video on its site.