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How We Do It

For the past eleven days we’ve been living/camping at what Gringos call The Wall (Punta Santa Rosarito) and loving it. Hard to say why we really are enjoying it as much as we are, but it’s been good to us so far. The surf has been small but fun, although the rides have been short compared to Punta San Jacinto. It’s clearly one of those places that can get good – really good and really, really good from what we hear. There is nothing here in terms of development – no buildings, no one lives here, no fences, no cows. The desert landscape is stark as we’re on a low lying windswept point with the only man-made structures being some windbreaks built of stacked cobblestones. Not surprisingly there is no cell service to give us access to the Internet, so we have to get connected while in the nearest town, which is 50 miles away. Nonetheless we are having a blast surfing here and enjoying being out in the middle of nowhere in Baja. Perhaps we’re finally settling in to a groove, finally slowing down to the point where Baja could catch up with us. Perhaps the it is the complete lack of “everything” here that we needed to allow ourselves to really enjoy being ourselves. Perhaps it has just taken nearly a month of living in our measly 98 sq. ft. of indoor living space for us to adapt to such constant tight quarters.

We’re here at The Wall with a few other gringos, most of who are seasoned regulars and have been coming here for 20 years or more. Katy and I enjoy meeting each of them as we all have our individual stories and personalities as travelers that makes us each unique, but we all share the passion of chasing waves. One couple in particular: Glen and Roberta from Pacific Beach, CA are great people and seem to enjoy our company. Glen, a very talented craftsman, makes didgeridoos out of agave stalks with wood working tools and fiberglassing supplies he brings down with him. Back in San Diego he’s a custom surfboard shaper (Glen Horn Surfboards). Roberta is taking advantage of the lonely dirt tracks out here to train for a marathon she’ll be doing next spring. Other folks include another Chris from San Francisco, who has one of the most infectious laughs ever, and Joe a utility worker from San Diego who borrowed his daughter’s VW Van to go where no Bend yuppie Eurovan (triathlon support vehicle) has dared to go – the brutal roads of Baja.

In our daily lives back in the U.S., we strive to live sustainably while still enjoying ourselves. Travelling in Baja has been a refresher course and eye opening as to how little we really do need while still living comfortably. Yes, it is humorous to talk about sustainability while driving a Cummins Dodge diesel truck thousands of miles. True, this is not a carbon-neutral event, but we are using far fewer resources here than we do in our modest lifestyle in the States. Our challenge is to conserve our supplies so that we can stay in place as long as possible without having to go to town to resupply. We know if we can stay here at The Wall long enough we will see a good swell and we don’t want to miss it. Our camper has a 100-watt solar panel for all our electricity consumption. We have a 30-gallon water tank that we fill with Mexican water for our showers and dishwashing, and everything else except drinking water. We have two 5-gallon water jugs with purified drinking water. Our 5-gallon propane tank takes care of our refrigeration and cooking needs, and hot water as needed. We separate our trash into burnable paper stuff, compostable food waste (which gets tossed into the desert), and trash. Recycling is rare in most places in Mexico. With these resources, we are good for at least 12 days or so.

In Mexico there are fewer attempts to hide human impact on the land. Trash disposal here consists of individuals discarding and usually burning trash out in the desert as only the largest towns have any sort of trash collection. For that reason, the impact of 1st World packaging (plastic) is so in-your-face evident on the landscape of this 3rd World country. Due to limited financial resources here in Mexico, average consumption is much less than that of Americans. But in the States we do a much better job of, in some ways, hiding the affects of that consumption.

Food is another basic supply, which we will need to resupply, but one which there is no way for me to conserve. Surfing takes a lot of calories and something about being in the water just boosts the appetite. I have been able to catch a few super tasty fish which helps stretch our food supply. And, seriously, it doesn’t get any better than eating a Halibut caught a mere hour before cooking. I caught a small 20” Halibut here on the first day, which made the best fish tacos ever and helps stretch our food supply. Got skunked for a couple days, then caught a 24” Halibut and a small Calico Bass yesterday. That fish fed us well for two meals so it’s been a fun activity/challenge/past-time getting into the fishing thing. So, living on the beach is treating us well with waves (most days) and fresh fish (some days), which add up to about all we came for.

Oh, the weather. Punta Abreojos gave us the first taste of real warm temps with beach temps of about 80 degrees. Here at The Wall it has varied greatly, mostly dependent on the wind and the sun. The coolest days have been in the high 60’s and the warmest in the mid 70’s. The sun is out most days, but there are usually several morning hours of marine layer that gives us a little reprieve from the sun. There have been a few days it hasn’t completely burned off, but overall its be sunny most of the time. The wind has been mostly onshore with some significant winds, which makes us appreciate our exquisitely constructed cobble stone windbreak.

Clearly I’m feeling a fair amount of longing for fall trail building with my bros in COTA as I added a new development to the stone work in camp. Sitting in camp with no surf drew me to build a trail through the cobbles to the water, complete with rock-armored steps.

Currently we are sitting out a bit of a flat spell as far as the surf goes, and our swell window points to the northwest. So for all you freaky winter lovers up there in the PNW, we find ourselves sitting here rooting for you to get your early winter dumps of snow. Those snow storms for YOU mean surf for US! So get those “Pray For Snow” parties fired up ASAP!

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Eyes Wide Open

In Spanish, “abreojos” means “open your eyes” – and they are. It’s my new favorite Spanish colloquialism. Open your eyes, take it all in, add up the details to see the big picture with an open mind and heart.

A two-day drive (only 400 miles or so – but everything takes so much longer here) from our last spot at Punta San Jacinto, we have posted up here at Abreojos for a few days and it hasn’t been without triumphs and challenges. No longer “California Lite”, this is the nitty gritty, no messin’ around Baja.

As per usual – we arrive during the daily afternoon off-shore whipping winds and we are tired, hungry and have gone two days without surfing (gasp!), which makes for a couple of cranky monkeys. As we scope the area for a place to camp, we come upon a small beach encampment comprised of an 80’s era motor home and a classic Silver Streak trailer belonging to Mark and Franz, ski bums from Utah. We are instantly welcomed to camp next to them and they immediately fall in love with Dozer and start showering him with doggie biscuits. So, they become our latest victims – new people to talk to!

An 80+ kilometer drive off the highway, Abreojos is a fishing village with a very successful fishing cooperative that supports the fishermen and allows them to invest in large things like a tractor to help pull the lanchas up on the beach. The bounty is evident. Although the land is a desolate, sandy desert, the water just feels alive. It moves and ripples with life, from the stingrays on the sandy bottom to the pods of porpoises right off shore. Lobster season has just begun and the fishermen are energetic in “town”. Word on the calle is that they pulled in a total catch last year of $US 3 million (that’s US dollars, not pesos). They are proud to make their living here and are always seeking ways to improve their business.

And about those stingrays…Chris got nailed this afternoon in two feet of water. Through his reef bootie – and clean through his foot. Entry on the top of the foot, just below the big toe, exit through the side of the ball of his foot. The pain is this writhing, excruciating pain, the kind of pain that is beyond the best and most creative expletives that you can imagine. (Remember the Crocodile Hunter? Yeah, he died when a ray stung him through his heart.) The remedy is to submerge the wound in the hottest water you can handle for as long as possible. Thanks to our stellar neighbors, we were able to provide a steady supply of hot water (and Tecates for the patient and Nurse Katy). Within an hour and a half, the pain disappears, the wound almost fully closes up, and the whole incident is nearly forgotten.

On the flip side, we had our first fresh fish dinner – a nice Corvina that Chris caught right out the front door. Good eats and it provided for two nights worth of dinner, which helps our bellies and our budget!

Despite the beauty of this place, the surf here isn’t shaping up to what we were hoping, so we’ll be moving on, likely heading north again to the Seven Sisters area. Sigh – another day on the road tomorrow. Nos vemos…..

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Ya Feel Me, Yo?

Well, “A Year in Trim” means we are surfing, surfing, surfing for a year, and we are trying our best to hold true to that. There is a passage in “In Search of Captain Zero” (which, if you are looking for a solid surfing adventure story, I highly recommend this book) where the author, Alan Weisbecker, expounds upon “the glide”. The glide is the moment in surfing where you feel the weightlessness of the wave propelling you forward and down. You get the glide as you take off on a wave as well as throughout the wave each time you make a turn or trim to the wave. For me, the glide is the drug, the thing that keeps you coming back for more, that next hit to make you feel whole again. Ya feel me, yo? (Sorry, that was an interjection from “The Wire”.)

Here’s the cool thing about Baja right now – we are the only people in the water. To date, we’ve had one day surfing with three other guys, and yesterday we met another guy in the water. Otherwise, it’s just the two of us and the local seal (“lobo del mar” – en espanol) that hangs with us every day at the break. The surfing has been great for the last two days, as we have gotten a nice south swell in this area. Imagine a 150-yard right point break all to yourself…. yep, that’s it. How can it be this good already, only four hours from San Diego? But we have supplies for a few more days so we’ll stay for a bit, and then move on, because perhaps it does get better.

Is there anything better than an adventure of the unknown? I’ve always had this strong longing for discovery, but in the world of the Internet (and specifically Google Earth), is there much to still be discovered? I mean, how exciting to be the “first” surfers to discover a spot for the first time, cresting a hill to see perfect waves peeling into a sandy cove? For clarification, we are not proponents of telling the world about every accessible surf spot that we have seen. Some of you Bendites know about our vague descriptions of where we go in Mexico. However, everywhere we’ve been has been written up in guidebooks and on maps, so for now, we will talk about these places as they are. However, if we find “the spot” that is not on the map, in the book, or on the Internet, our lips are sealed, and you’ll have to find it yourselves.

Buena suerte!

Northern Baja Excursions

After a night of prepping and organizing, we wake up at 6am at Dan’s house to make our run for the border. After getting our propane filled, we hit the border at about 8am, and had a smooth crossing.

Micah (“our shaper” – see last post) convinced us to stop at Baja Malibu, a beach break just outside of Rosarito. He was planning on surfing there that morning, so we checked it out for a bit, left a note on his truck and headed south on the toll road. We had no intention of surfing that day and it was a good thing as the waves there were beyond our level for sure. We busied ourselves in Ensenada by getting money and purchasing a TelCel USB modem so we have a prayer of getting online at certain points during the trip. We’ll see how that goes.

Now, about the driving in Mexico. We have rented cars many times here and have been able to zip around small towns and countryside. However, driving the giant truck with the camper is challenging, dodging busses, speedy taxis, pedestrians, motorcycles, dogs, cows, construction crews, and whatever else happens to be in the road. Although Chris does the actual driving, it’s really a two-person job, with the Katy as the passenger calling out signs, obstacles, merging and a fair amount of “Look out! Merging! Cows! What the hell was that?”

The Santo Tomas valley, famous for its’ vineyards, is our last bit of civilization for a week, and a good opportunity to get last minute supplies and to check the air in the tires before heading off on the dirt road. Here is Chris’ take on the whole situation:

Our first day leaving the pavement and setting off on 25 miles of dirt roads of unknown quality, I decide to play with the air pressure in the tires. At our turn off there is a small tienda (store) where we stop for a Coke and to air down the tires. Airing down the tires reduces the beating on the truck, the camper and us, and provides better flotation for any sandy patches that we may encounter. For some reason I just knew I wanted to do this close to civilization and we had just passed a PEMEX station. Our friends Justin and Misty provided us with an ARB Tire Deflator just prior to our departure and I tried it once in the driveway in Bend without issue. So needless to say, 1st time in Mexico, I had an issue. We’re in front of this tiny store on the side of the road in a dirt parking lot. Somehow I screw up the simple process of deflating the tire, and the little, I mean tiny, valve core shoots out of the valve stem somewhere into the dirt and the tire is spewing all its air with no way to stop it. So here we are, I’m cussing up a storm, our tire is going flat (which is my fault), and Katy is yelling because the air is very noisily gushing out of the valve stem. I suddenly stick my finger on the valve stem and hold back the 80 psi (well 40 psi at this point) and with my other hand, grope around to find this impossibly tiny thing that flew out of the valve stem and while in my best calm voice, say a few times over “Where is the thingy? Look for the thingy!” In a moment of lucidity, I quickly remove my finger and put the metal valve cap back on, and somehow it holds the air. Whew, sometimes your gut reaction is the right thing to do. We look around in the dirt and Katy finds the tiny valve core. We limp over to the gas station where there is a ready air compressor, I’m able to reinstall the valve core in the stem and lower all the tires to 40 psi. Had that happened out in the middle of nowhere we do have a compressor, but I was glad to get that out of the way. Hopefully that is the last issue we have airing down.

After over an hour of grueling dirt roads through desolate hills, arroyos, and ranchlands, we arrive at Punta San Jose, our first surf spot in Baja. The terrain is so vast and beautiful, a flat plateau rising about 50 feet from the ocean as far as the eye can see. To the west (this is a completely south facing coastline) stands a rudimentary lighthouse on a point, surrounded by a ramshackle fish camp complete with feral cats living off the daily catch scraps. Otherwise, there is nothing for miles and miles except the Pacific Ocean and a lone tent and pickup truck perched on the plateau above the cliff.

We are greeted by the wind that is so prevalent in Baja and set up camp. A guy jumps out of the tent to greet us – Bobby from Huntington Beach – and he is thrilled to hang out and surf with us. Stars cover the sky as we sit by Bobby’s campfire and try to relax from our day of driving into the country. It so happens that Bobby surfs with Joey in Huntington Beach. As big as this place is, it’s always a small world.

Day two, in a howling windstorm, we start meeting more interesting characters. A Ford Ranger pulls up with two surfboards in the back and two flat tires. A skinny blonde kid with a mustache jumps out and he’s wearing high water polyester pants, white Vans, an orange T-shirt and giant grin on his face. His name is Chris and he looks like something out of a 60’s Bruce Brown surf film. His girlfriend Sammy looks like she’s from Portland, wearing a pixie haircut, a long skirt and cowboy boots. She tells me that since she and Chris lived in a van in Australia for three months, they decided to try to live together in a small cottage in Dana Point. (Are there small cottages in Dana Point any more?) They set up a tent for the night and we help them fix their tires the next morning. He’s clearly done this before and although he lives in Dana Point, he talks as though he grew up in Baja.

Another truck pulls up and it’s three guys from San Diego on a weekend adventure – Nathaniel, Chris, and Skip. Skip is a dead ringer for our friend Jerry. These guys are cool, and we surf, hang out in camp, and play cards with them for a few days. It’s refreshing to meet folks who are stoked to go on a surf adventure and hangout by a little driftwood campfire under the stars.

The surfing here is fun and different from what we are used to, as are our new boards which are SMALL. Each day we progress a little more and get the hang of the small boards.  The water isn’t too cold yet, but may get colder as we head south.  Sounds strange, but severe off-shore winds and ocean upwelling create colder water south of here.  Nonetheless, sitting in the ocean in this amazing and remote spot watching the fisherman bring in halibut and lobster is just what we have been waiting for the last few years.

Chris is starting to fish at Punta Cabras each day and is learning small tips from the locals. Jorge shows him how to hook bait properly (usually mussels that we find in the rocks) so they don’t come off easily. Each day, two or three trucks with lanchas drive down to the beach and set out to fish for urchins and they catch so many, that the trucks have to make a few loads of bagged urchins back to town before the end of the day.

We are heading south to chase the swell as we have heard reports of a big south swell coming in.  Necesitamos olas!

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