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What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

My 40th Birthday! As Told by Chris:

I woke up very early this morning; it’s still dark out, there is a faint light to the east, and the waves are so loud, it’s almost like thunder. I don’t pretend to be an expert surfer, but I have been spending every day on the water on this painfully long learning curve to become even an intermediate surfer. I’ve been taking a physical beating. Today though, its my 40th birthday and for most people, this is a big one. Some people buy a new car, or some other toy. I want a GOOD day in the water. While laying in bed before the first light listening to the wave explode on the other side of the dune from our camp it comes to me; today, I Boogie. I grew up in Southern California; my parents bought my first Boogie Board (aka: Sponge) when I was five. This is something I know how to do pretty well. This trip I’ve only taken it out a few times, but it’s time, again.

Despite popular conceptions, Baja can get cold in the winter. True, I’m not saying its Bend, OR cold. But how many of you would have thought it would be…36 degrees in the wee morning hours at sea level just a few miles north of the TROPIC of Cancer. Yeah thirty-six Fahrenheit! Once the sun finally clears the horizon, I head for the beach to the Point. Because its still damn cold, my outfit is award winning…3/2 full wetsuit, Metolius stocking cap, jacket and tennis shoes; carrying my Boogie Board and fins. I’m quite a sight to be sure. The first waves I see, a couple of the regulars here, Andy and Matt, each take a turn on a double-overhead (12 to 14 foot face) waves. They’re both great surfers and they are killing it. There’s a light off shore breeze and the waves are roaring around the point. Yeah, not a day for me to be surfing; good choice.

From the time I hit the 74 degree water for the next three or four hours, it was my day. I rode some of the biggest, cleanest, meatiest waves I can ever remember riding; and rode them well.

The Point had about 15 good surfers out and myself the only one to represent for The Spongers. Here at Punta Conejo the vibe in the water is always reserved and quiet, friendly without any hassling. It is a widely held belief by those that surf that Boogie Boarding is a lower level of wave riding. As a result there can be a bit of prejudice, but usually just good natured ribbing. In some ways I agree, Boogie Boarding is the Snowboarding of the wave world with its much smaller learning curve. Yet, when done right it does give one those same sensations of surfing a wave well. Today though, I got several “Hoots”, thumbs ups and other forms of respect from these core surfers. More important to me though was I was having fun, dare I say I was having the most fun.

I rode a ton of waves that day, despite them being big, powerful and dishing out poundings; I was able to play with them. My best wave and one of my largest came right to me while sitting on top of the Point. Fighting my instincts to bail out the bottom of the wave to avoid a likely thumping, I pulled up on the front of my board and stalled positioned myself for the lip of the wave to sail over my head and I could hear that gurgling roar of being tubed. I continued down the line of the wave for another 25 yards or so and shot out onto the open face of the wave, clearing the tube section and then proceeded to carve the wave face from top to bottom and bottom to top, on down the line. A truly great wave and something I’m not quite able to do on a surfboard. But that day is coming. Looking forward to my Roaring Forties!

Christmas Morning! As Told by Katy:

Learning to surf at age 35 is kind of stupid idea (some things are a lot easier to learn when you are young and still have cartilage), but it had to be done. I’ve wanted to surf for my entire life, since I was a little kid. Maybe it was the “surfer-lifestyle” that allured me, but there was always something about surfing that just drew me in. Growing up in Southern California, I loved the ocean, loved the beach, but back then, girls didn’t really surf. None that I saw, anyway. I knew it was a tough thing to learn, not to mention that you need an expensive surfboard and wetsuit, so it never materialized. Then a few years ago, Chris and I started taking winter vacations in Mexico and as I spent more time at the ocean, I thought, maybe give it a whirl and see what happens. About five years ago, I rented a surfboard, caught a few waves, and that was it. Done deal, I’m ready to do this.

Surfing is kind of like saving nickels and dimes, it may take a long time, but eventually, you’ll be able to cash out. Don’t get me wrong; every day is fun. But you do pay your dues: no waves, too-big waves, scary conditions, mean locals, daily thrashings, getting caught on the inside for so long you want to give up, not finding your feet when you stand up, all of it. But some days are pure bliss, like Christmas morning.

Oh-Dark-Thirty: It’s still dark out, but I can hear the waves. They seem louder than ever. Shit. Seriously, are we going to get washed away? What is going on out there? I’m too groggy to know. Oh wait, maybe it’s just high tide and a new swell showing up. Okay, wait. Might be great down at the point. Maybe Santa came to Conejo!!!!!

First Light: Okay, better get going. Brrr its cold!!! Clothes, shoes. Rouse Dozer out of his snoring sleep. Check the surf. Hmmm, the beach break never looks good at high tide. Crane neck around the corner to see the point. Yep, waves, and a few heads bobbing in the water already. Good. Coffee mugs in hand, everyone turns a sleepy eye to the water in these early hours. Matt and his old dog Hallie, Jed and Emily and dog Bodie, Hollywood, the family from San Clemente, and others.

Sun Peeking Over the Horizon: Need cereal, water, Advil (shoulder is sore), suit up. I hope all my neoprene is dry from yesterday. Grab board and go. Like most people, I’ve learned how to surf on a longboard, but have been slowly making my way down to the shorter boards. My “shortboard” is not really that short by any means (6’0”), but I’m still on the steep part of the learning curve, so the frustration level rises as it’s quite a bit harder to catch waves. So for Christmas morning, I decided to take out “Ole Faithful”, the Channel Islands Water Hog (7’10”), aka: Blue Board.

I paddle out to what I call the second point, a place that I’ve got dialed by this time. Only a handful of people sit in this area, and I chat with a guy about how it might get better as the tide drops. The waves are great and FAST. Chris and I are both regular footed (meaning our left foot is in front, and our right foot is behind us), so this wave is a little more challenging because it is a “left” and we are riding the waves on our backside.

After about six really fun, overhead waves, I begin to realize – this is it. This is what I have wanted to do for so long and it’s finally happening! Woohoo! Now give me that bottle of Advil again….

Katy must have been a good girl. Look what Santa left on Christmas morning!


Feliz Navidad!

Buenos Dias! We’ve decided skip a month of using our Telcel USB modem to save a little money, so, short post it is, but I’ve included lots o’ photos.

We have refrigeration! After Todos Santos, we headed to San Jose del Cabo to see if Wahoo RV could take a look at our refrigerator. Master refrigeration guy, Chuck Schmuck (yeah, really, that is his name) saved our butts and got us up and going.

Thanks to the Internet, we had been following a south swell that was expected to reach the East Cape within a few days. We hadn’t expected to surf on the East Cape at all on this trip, as it typically only works in the summer, when the South Pacific (like, real south – Antarctica) generates storms that send waves our way. So, crossing our fingers, praying to Neptune and thinking good thoughts, we headed to Nine Palms, on the East Cape. What we found was beautiful, pristine beaches, blue-green water and yes – some fun waves. However, the curse of surf forecasting and technology also brought more surfers into the line-up – 18 people one morning.

Melanie and Lawrence Fisher met up with us and we continued on to Cabo Pulmo. Cabo Pulmo is the only coral reef in western North America and is a designated Mexican National Park. As luck would have it, richter level winds blew while we were there, making the ocean look like the north Atlantic. While we got waves at Nine Palms, we missed out on snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo.

Los Barriles was our next stop, to say hi to our friend Todd, who is a mountain bike guide for Vela Windsports (irony, as you might know our stance on wind). Barriles was by far the most gringo town we have been in so far, but the company was great, the food was fabulous, and Chris got to go mountain biking with Todd and check out the trails in the area. We’ve had a great time with Mel and La, sharing travel stories, taking photos of every meal (Mel takes a photo of every meal while traveling), and drinking happy hour margaritas. However, we are so ready to get the hell outta Dodge and get back to the empty beaches and waves. This civilization stuff is too much for us!

Feliz Navidad!

Todos Santos, Todos Locos

Chris here. I’ve hijacked the blog from Bryce.

After over two months of life on nearly deserted beaches we now find ourselves in the Todos Santos area, which is rightfully so, a very popular Gringo ex-pat area. We arrived at the main beach of Los Cerritos on what seemed to be the busiest day ever. There was a large dirt parking lot filled with rental cars, ATV’s and local pickup trucks. The beach scene was something we had not yet seen on the trip; full of Gringos, umbrellas, local vendors, smells of sun tan lotion, a surf shop on the beach with rental boards and surf lessons, and our favorite: kids running and throwing sand and screaming everywhere.

Well if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. A fellow camping couple helped us find a spot to park our camper and we set up camp and hit the beach with chairs, umbrellas and beers… hey we’re Gringos too, we can do this!

Camping at Los Cerritos

We hung out for a few days of surfing and beach time at this popular beach. We ran into Jeffe who owns Parrilla Grill, the local burrito shop down the street from us in Bend – small world. We also hooked up with Dave and Brooke from Bend who we had just met prior to leaving on this trip. The waves at Cerritos were large and dumping and within a day or two my body was taking a beating. How is it that this learning curve called surfing can still be growing on the horizon like a pounding cleanup set wave? Shouldn’t we be getting the hang of this? Katy charged a couple nice big waves, happy to be back on her “magic” fun board; while I seem gifted at finding pounding closeout after closeout wave. Still though, we find Cerritos a fun beach to hangout to enjoy the light winds and warm sunshine. The water is the warmest of the trip, but even this far south we notice the cool mornings and shorter days as we get near winter solstice.

Yet another giant, beautiful beach.

While at the beach at Cerritos, we met a very nice couple from Missoula, MT that seem to have taken a liking to us and offered us a place to stay and a change of scenery at their place just north of Todos. The hook was set when Aldo told me of the mountain bike trails above his house and offered to take me on a ride on his spare bike. So we moved up to their place, which is a great little house if you’re ever looking for a place to get away from winter: Maritas Casitas.

Mountain biking, Todos Santos.

Those of you that know us seemed to find it most surprising that we left our mountain bikes behind and even went so far as to sell some of our bikes when we left Bend. Sure it would be nice to have bikes with us, but the hassles of dealing daily with bikes on the rig would be a serious pain in the ass. So it’s been three months since I’ve ridden a bike. Aldo and I left his house at 6:30AM to meet up with some of his gringo neighbors for a bike ride. I was provided with a K-mart quality bike, and off we went into the desert on bikes! Oh, what joy to be doing something so easy for me as riding a bike again. It’s true; you really never do forget how to ride a bike. So we went on short little ride for probably an hour and a half. The riding was easy, not steep, not too technical, just good fun double tracks and single-track trails, with lots of ocean views. I need to get out of here ASAP before I find myself working on expanding their great trail system.

Dozer found a friend. Look at that monster!

Over the next couple days we’ll make our way down around the tip of Baja to the East Cape. We are watching a swell approach from the south, so we hope to greet some mellow waves while we are there. These will be some of the last opportunities for us as regular footed surfers to go our preferred direction – right. Soon enough we’ll be taking the ferry to the Mainland where we’ll find almost exclusively left point waves which is on our backhand. Boo-hoo. We’ll also be meeting up with a few Bendite friends (Melanie and Lawrence Fisher) who will be flying into Cabo in a few days, as well as Todd Simmler, who is currently working as a kiteboarding and mountain bike guide in Los Barriles. Gulp. More wind!

Un abrazo,

Chris and Katy

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