Tales from the Baja Blood and Waves Post 1

When we were tired of the same old faces, of people and the waves, my pals and I from San Diego would often make a pilgrimage down south to Baja California. Just south of the discos, vendors and bandits of Tijuana was some of the most breathtaking coast I’d ever seen.

You might not expect to find it there, but the beaches are beautiful, the waves are often bigger and better and the peak is all yours — no So Cal crowds.

I was always a little surprised at how cold the water was down there. You’d think by going farther south and closer to the equator, the water would be warm. But for the same reason that the surf was better, the water was colder. The swells that brought waves to the Baja came from the bigger, deeper part of the Pacific Ocean, producing larger waves that were ice cold.

Half of the fun of surfing in Mexico was camping the night before or after. We usually paid five dollars for a little spot to either plop a tent or sleep in the car. One time I made the trip with a friend in a Honda CRX. We slept upright in the bucket seats, facing the waves. It wasn’t very comfortable, but none of that mattered when we awoke to see placid surf rolling in with incredible lefts and rights.

Other times, there was a Grateful Dead sort of atmosphere around the campsite. Groups of surfers, gaggles of girls and local families taking vacations would be walking around with wild dogs. We were always near the surf, so you could hear, smell and see the waves.

We would usually get a bag of burritos and a case of cold beer. They charged you seven dollars or so if you didn’t have empties to return, but we always forgot the empties so we’d have to pay. It didn’t matter though. It was a real Beach Blanket Bingo. Campfire, pounding surf, music, food and brews — what better way to prepare for a day of surfing?

It didn’t matter how hard we’d partied the night before. There’s something about waking up to the sound of the waves that will get you going right away. With cold air, glassy water and nice lineups coming up with the sun, we would paddle out.

There were a few obstacles I recall, though. My first trip to the Baja is remembered as a lesson to bring booties. Another surfer and I couldn’t resist a beautiful break that was peeling over some reef. The rocks were jagged, but we figured we could make it by swimming right away. Unfortunately, we didn’t get far swimming. The water was too shallow to swim, so we had to walk. After a few jabs to the bottoms of my feet, I figured I was over some real sharp rock. Those jabs turned out to be sea urchins, spiny little suckers!

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