More Episodes: Foreword / Ep. 1
Part 2: Up North
After a 24 hour straight shot from Seattle to the Mexican border, followed by standing in line to get our travel visas, Mexican car insurance, and to swap out currency, all any of us wanted to do was get some tacos, a Corona or two, and start surfing as soon as humanly possible
No matter how prepared I think I am for a trip like this, I always get a little bit on edge once I cross the border and start driving thru the northern-most 100 miles or so of the Baja peninsula. That stretch of road is where the vast majority of Baja’s population lives and includes the perma-sketchy city of Tijuana and it’s far more pleasant, but crowded neighbor to the south, Ensenada. It’s probably just the realization that you are now officially on someone else’s turf, and the instant bombardment of a different language and culture, as well as sounds, smells, and most noticeably, road conditions and driving laws.
Our first stop should have been about 3 hours south, but because of road construction that rerouted Baja’s equivalent of Interstate 5 onto some exceptionally bumpy dirt roads, turning 18 wheelers and tiny commuter cars alike into future contenders for the Baja 1000, it ended up taking us about 5 hours. Due partly to my paranoia, which was based on the fact that I had been robbed on a prior trip (which, to be fair, I was almost asking for by spreading all of gear around our campsite like a yard sale once we reached the ‘isolation’ of a campsite only a few miles from a town of migrant farmers living in homes built with pallets), we set up camp in a gringo settlement that put a dilapidated fence and a mountain range between us and the population of the border towns to the north.
Despite the day and a half it took us to reach our first spot, our timing could not have been better. We woke up on our first morning to the news that all four lanes of the highway north of Ensenada had slid 300 feet down the hillside and into the ocean (thankfully nobody was hurt) a scarce 12 hours after we had driven the same stretch of asphalt. This essentially thwarted all but the most dedicated surfer’s plans to make a trip south, giving us an almost entirely empty break all to ourselves for the 3 days we stayed there.
We needed every advantage that the empty lineup gave us, as everyone in our crew needed a couple days to get into paddling shape, and the ability to paddle into every wave we wanted helped get us there quickly. This spot turned out to be the first of many right-handed pointbreaks that we surfed on the trip, but unique to this break was the rusted out skeleton of an old ship that had run aground decades before. It marked the spot where the outer point connected with an inner point, and during a few of our sets the swell was just perfect enough to catch a wave on the outer point and, just as it was starting to fizzle out, it would jack up right next to the stern of the shipwreck and shoot us into the inner point. All in all, we were lucky enough to get the occasional minute-and-a-half long rides that we’d end up riding into shore and making the 10 minute walk back to the camp to give our shoulders a chance to rest.
The waves were mushy, but constantly about shoulder high and at least 100 yards long (200-300 yards on the bigger sets), and we probably all spend 5 or 6 hours in the water each day high-fiving and hollering at each other as we caught wave after wave after wave.
That spot was a good transition into the trip for many different reasons. Not only were the waves really low-key and playful, but the shoreline was all cobblestone and reminded us a lot of home. The daytime high was probably only about 70 degrees, and the nighttime low surprised us all by hitting what we guessed was about 30 degrees while we slept. Even the daytime sky was overcast, but had a permanently pink hue on the horizon, reminding us that sunnier skies and warmer climates still beckoned to us from the south.
Surfing, campfires, and sleep were the only three things on the menu for several days as we slowly adjusted to the pace and rhythm of the land that we’d traveled so far and dreamt of for so long.
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