I can’t sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up and do something I’ve never done before. Since moving to California seven 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 a crazy city. But a surf trip to Mexico just a mere two hours away from my home in West Los Angeles is a new one. That’s what I’m doing tomorrow. And that’s why I can’t sleep.
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 stories of the drug cartel. Road trips to Baja are a rite of passage for Californian surfers. So 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.
Mexico is a completely different world. Nothing is brand new and everything has a bit of grime and dust on it. Welcome to Baja. 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 resembled something out of a surf magazine. The wave was pumping and we joined three other surfers in the water, but it wasn’t long before they left us in the lineup all 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 with nobody else out. We surfed until our arms couldn’t move anymore. It was exactly what we’d come to Mexico for.
It felt odd to get out of the water with the waves still pumping. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Nobody could surf any longer because our arms were so tired, but we felt restless sitting and watching perfect waves go by untouched. So we did what every surfer says you should never do: we left a spot when the waves were unspeakably good. But the allure of scoring surf at more remote and obscure spots pulled us south.
We took the highway as it moved inland then got on a dirt road and headed back to 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. 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 toward the ocean, 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. It was barely even knee high and we were officially getting skunked. We all stood there silently as it sunk in. There was nothing anyone could do or say that was going to change our reality. We were two hours down a dirt road at the end of the day with nowhere else to surf. We’d taken 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 the potential to be epic if and when the conditions come together. I was actually stoked. Though surfers say “never leave good waves behind”, taking a risk is an adventure and that alone made it worthwhile.
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 with speaking a single negative word.
It’s so easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle of life in Los Angeles. Surf trips like these 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 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.