Three friends disappeared on a surfing trip to Mexico

Last month, two brothers and one of their friends crossed from the United States into Mexico to explore Baja California’s famous surf breaks. Pictures posted online by one of the brothers, Callum Robinson, 33, show the men gazing out at the ocean with coffee, enjoying street tacos and relaxing with beers on a roof deck.

After camping on a remote stretch of beach south of Ensenada, the friends were supposed to check into an Airbnb in Rosarito Beach last weekend. But they never arrived. The last time their relatives heard from the men was April 27.

Their disappearance in one of Mexico’s most violent states has triggered a massive search involving local authorities, the FBI and the Mexican marines.

“We are looking for them on land and at sea,” Baja California Atty. Gen. María Elena Andrade Ramírez said Thursday. “We are making every effort.”

Several troubling clues suggested the men may have been the victims of violence.

Authorities said they had located the burned-out remains of the white Chevrolet pickup the men were traveling in and had recovered a cellphone that belonged to one of them. Officials have questioned three people in connection to the case, Andrade said, although she did not say whether they are considered suspects.

On Friday, several news outlets cited unnamed officials who said three bodies had been recovered near where the surfers went missing. A spokesman for the Baja California attorney general’s office said he could not confirm the discovery of the bodies.

Robinson, a lacrosse player, and his brother, Jake, a 30-year-old doctor, are Australian nationals. Their friend, Carter Rhoad, 30, is from Atlanta and founded an online apparel company in San Diego, according to his Facebook profile.

The group was last seen near Santo Tomas, about 70 miles south of Rosarito, authorities said.

Debra Robinson, Jake and Callum’s mother, appealed for help on social media after days passed without word from her sons, noting that Callum is diabetic. “This is a very dire situation,” she said.

Baja California’s rugged coastline and epic waves have long attracted surfers from north of the border. But visiting remote areas makes them vulnerable to crime, said Serge Dedina, a longtime surfer in the area and executive director of Wildcoast, an environmental organization that works in Baja.

He said he frequently cautions surfers who visit the area to stay in groups, avoid driving at night and sleep near fish camps. “Do not go out in isolated places if you can avoid it,” he tells them.

In recent years, the state has been convulsed in violence, much of it connected to the drug trade. Last year, authorities recorded 2,116 homicides in the state of Baja California — one of the highest rates in Mexico.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in his last year in office, ran on a pledge to reduce violence in Mexico. But while homicides nationally have dipped slightly during his six-year term, they continue to hover near record highs.

Cecilia Sánchez Vidal in The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.