I can’t sleep. Tomorrow I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. Since moving to California 7 years ago from Chicago, everything has seemed like an adventure. I’ve surfed all the spots down the Southern California coast, climbed California’s mountains and explored the eccentricities of this crazy city. But a surf trip to Mexico, a mere 2 hours away from my house in West Los Angeles, is a new one. Tomorrow we’re going to Baja.
I’ve always thought about it. People have always talked about it. Legends and stories abound from older surfers who traveled there, before it got too dangerous with the Mexican drug cartel. Surfing in Baja seems like a right of passage for California surfers. With a good NW swell in the forecast, a group of buddies and I (aka “da boyz” as we jokingly referred to ourselves on this trip) decided to pull the trigger on Baja.
Once we got to the border everything changed. Mexico is a completely different world. Nothing is brand new, and everything has a bit of grime and dust on it. Welcome to Mexico. Driving through Tijuana we made sure to stay on the highway. We knew exactly where we were going so as not to pull over or slow down for any reason. Tijuana is not a place where you want to hang around. Soon the view opened up and we saw what we had been waiting for: endless ocean, and a coastline twisting and turning for miles without a single city or town.
We checked a spot that we thought would be working on this particular swell and we were right. We pulled up to the cliffs overlooking a perfect wave that looked like it was out of a surf magazine. The wave was pumping and we joined 3 other surfers in the water. Soon they left us the lineup completely to ourselves. We spent the rest of the morning picking and choosing rights and lefts as the set waves poured in. I’ve never surfed a wave so good without anyone out. We surfed until our arms couldn't move anymore. This is what we came to Mexico for.
It felt odd to get out of the water when the waves were still pumping. Up on the cliff we didn't know what to do with ourselves. We couldn't surf because our arms were too tired, but we felt restless sitting and watching perfect waves go by. So we did what every surfer says you should NEVER do: leave a spot when the waves are good. But the allure of scoring surf at more remote and obscure surf spots pulled us south.
We took the highway as it moved inland, then got on a dirt road and headed back for the coast. Driving through ranch land, rolling hillsides and deep canyons filled our minds with wonder. We felt like we were explorers in an old wild west movie. (Scroll through pictures)
We drove for miles and wondered if we would ever reach the coast. When we crested a ridge and could see the blue ocean stretching to the horizon we felt like pioneers discovering the new world.
As we drove down the hillside towards the coast we could see the lines of swell in the water. They lined up like corduroy to the horizon. The road approached the coast, then veered away, then back to the coast, then away again. Our anticipation was building to the point of bursting.
When we finally arrived, the wind was funneling down the mountains through the canyons and blowing offshore. It sculpted the wave faces to perfect curling lips and hollow tubes. But, when we looked down the cliff and saw the surf up close, we were dumbstruck. Miniature waves rolled in and lapped up on the shore, appearing larger than they actually were. 1-2ft. WE GOT SKUNKED!
We stood there silently. It sank in. There was nothing anyone could do or say that was going to change our reality. We were 2 hours down a dirt road at the end of the day with nowhere else to surf. As the disappointment began to creep up, I started thinking. We took a risk, and we found a quiet fishing village, met the friendly locals who let us camp for free, and discovered a new surf spot that had potential to be epic when there was more swell. I was actually stoked! Though surfers say “never leave good waves behind”, taking a risk is an adventure, and I think this was worth it. (Scroll through pictures)
After a long silence, the boys suited up and paddled out. I elected to stay on the cliffs and take pictures. They got some little rides and surfed until sunset. Back at camp we had a roaring fire and cooked dinner on the cliff, not a single negative word was spoken. We had a few beers and it felt good to be in the company of "da boyz". (Scroll through pictures)
Living in LA it’s so easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle. It's surf trips like these that remind me why I started surfing in the first place. Driving down that dirt road not knowing what to expect, and enjoying it regardless of the result, those are the things that remind me that I'm alive and I'm human. Exploring Baja lit a fire in me that I remember feeling 13 years ago when I first dropped in on a wave. For that feeling to continue now, after all these years makes me feel very blessed. Thank you Baja, thank you ocean, and thank you friends (aka “the boyz”). Until next time.
-Photos: Garrett Lamb, Eric Sheffield, Quinn Carson