I’m currently sitting in a van in the Middle of Nowhere, Baja California Sur. Just out the back doors is a near perfect left-hand point break, a little busted up by the wind, but solidly overhead. Sets darken the horizon, lines stacked, and all four surfers scratch for the outside. The wave breaks endlessly; from the point, it’s entirely possible to surf for a minute. Unless you’re me, that is, because I am in a van. My knee is fucked, and now I’m stuck watching this perfect madness in a picturesque sort of purgatory. Here’s what happened.
We’ve been planning this trip all year. It’s an annual sojourn that I spend most of the year looking forward to. Two years ago, we found Shangri-La. Last year, we found puppies. My van, a 1981 Dodge camper, waits in Cabo for me, its insides filled with surfboards, wetsuits, camp chairs, and clothes. I don’t need to bring anything with me because it’s all here waiting. And this year, a day or two after my flight was booked, the long-term swell report spun my head around. A 6-8 foot long period south swell was taking her first deep breaths before spilling her guts directly at where we’d planned on being. Soon after, I flew to Cabo, got a beer, and waited for my friend. He showed up, we hugged and laughed at the outdoor airport bar, drank another beer, then got the van. Everything was perfect. The van fired up after sitting for a year, which should not have happened. We filled the propane tank, fired up the fridge, topped off the oil, and pointed ourselves north for Middle of Nowhere, Baja California Sur. After a few hours, we got there, and all was right in the world. The sun was setting, the air was warm, and the swell was rapidly building.
It’s a barren, scorpion-filled arroyo with three empty, ramshackle fishing houses looking over it, beautiful, in a strangely ugly way. A broken lighthouse looks mournfully over a desolate landscape made up of grey-black dirt, oyster shells, and shattered glass. The sky, of course, is that achingly bright shade of blue that one only finds in Mexico. And the waves. Oh, the waves. When we arrived, the swell was building. Maybe chest-high on the sets and oil smooth. A light offshore brushed the lips of ruler-straight waves, and only one person was out. We–as most people would do–freaked the fuck out. The first few waves were pure bliss. Then I ruined my whole trip, and probably my next one, too. One small wave was all it took.
Looking down the line of my eighth or ninth wave of my second session, I smiled to myself. The next few weeks looked bright–just beer, beach fires, laughter, and pumping waves. I knew there was a section I’d have to beat, but the wave here is not incredibly steep. Simple. Got up high, poked my nose at it, tried to style out a floater to make the section a little bit. Instead, the lip flipped my board and somehow, my foot stayed in the wax. My knee folded in towards the other one, and a sickening pop from deep inside my leg made my stomach turn. An older guy wearing a knee brace informed me that it’s probably my MCL. Now, two days later, it constantly feels as though it’s going to flop to one side or the other. We’re not leaving, of course–that would be stupid because the waves are absolutely firing and what kind of friend would I be to deprive a travel partner of that. There are, I suppose, much worse places to sit, but I tell ya, staring endlessly at neverending, perfect waves with five people out is a special kind of hell.