Surf Baja. Don't be scared.
When crossing the Mexican border for your first time you will likely experience feelings of apprehension. Hell, the apprehension probably started the day you decided to go to Baja. We’ve all been there. In that very moment of lining up between the cement lane barriers and passing from San Ysidro to Tijuana what was once rabid anticipation of a surf trip switches to trepidation, as visions of drug executions, Federales, Montezuma’s Revenge, sharks, barren deserts, bodies melting in barrels of acid and filthy jails replace fantasies of perfect, offshore-groomed barrels. It is just a blip, however, caused by the jolt from confronting this Third World country for the first time. Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore. You've just experienced the most dramatic border crossing change in the world, and you know for sure that adventure lies ahead.
If you have been surfing for awhile, you know that surf travel has changed dramatically. It wasn’t too long ago that nearly all surf travel was adventure. There were no packaged surf tours. No luxury yachts with chefs, air conditioned cabins, massages and entertainment centers. No surf resorts with pop-out board rentals and surf schools. And no English-speaking party guide to meet you at the airport, strap your board bags on the roof and seal you in an air-conditioned van to protect you from the locals until your crew is delivered to the surf “camp”, mojitos waiting on the bar and flowers on your bed. The magazines weren’t filled with articles on fantasy surf travel. No surf cams previewing exactly what you could expect at breaks thousands of miles away. No surf forecasts. All there was was The Surf Report with a few pages of basic but vital information and one or two photos, some unidentified clips in videos, word-of-mouth, and a few dog-eared pages torn from long-lost surf mags.
That old-school adventure lives just over the California border in Baja. From that trip through Tijuana to that last right point around the East Cape, it’s more adventure than not. Except for a half-dozen guidebooks or so, and a ton of scattered info on the Internet, Baja has been bypassed by the surf travel industry in favor of the more expensive trips with higher markups and surf media support fears, and in some ways that’s good. Sure, Baja has changed and will keep changing, but not much, and for some reason it’s just not as exciting to the surf travel world as many destinations. So there are still no boat trips to Isla Cresciente or the East Cape and the packaged trips involve sleeping bags, cold showers and no a/c. Baja remains a gritty experience, one that can still resemble surf travel of days gone by.
Most of Baja is still unsurfed. The spots have been mapped for years, but most surfers just don’t make the effort to travel much beyond Ensenada’s horribly crowded San Miguel. Even spots like K-38, a well-known and easily accessible break just south of the border that’s crazy crowded on weekends still empties on Mondays. The fact is, most of Baja is unsurfed most of the time, and it will stay uncrowded for a while.
So get ready for some surf adventure, mixed with dust, tequila, fresh corn tortillas, lobster, garbage, teenage soldiers with AK-47s, roadside shrines, toothy smiles, tittie dogs, diarrhea, moonscapes, bitter expats, Tecate with a lime, patience, more patience and tons of uncrowded surf there for the taking. It’s all yours.
Find The Surfer's Guide to Baja, available at core surf shops and Amazon.com.