Chasing the Swell in Baja

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Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

Last weekend’s large surf capped three-weeks of clean consistent surf, the best run of waves in over a year. The past weekend we experienced one of the largest northwest swells in about three years.

Many surfers took advantage of the swell to experience pristine waves and wilderness south of the border.

The week before Christmas, my family (my sons Israel and Daniel and wife Emily) and I joined the Johnsons (Daren, Terri and Josh), on a trip into wild Baja that involved driving through endless mudpits, howling winds, packs of coyotes, and empty barrels.

Our trip was a return to old school adventure in Baja that requires a high-clearance 4×4, nerves of steel, and an excellent sense of direction. To reach the coast, we endured more than 50 miles of mud traps.

The small storms that passed through Southern California before Christmas resulted in four days of rain—the most it has rained in central Baja in more than five years. The desert hills were green, with flowers poking through the spiny cactus, and birds fluttering around the water holes.

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Israel Dedina at Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

By the time we arrived at our destination, both my Tacoma and Daren’s Ford F-350 were drenched in mud.

We spent the week surfing empty points and exploring the craggy coast. WiLDCOAST the organization I am the the director of,  has conserved about 30 miles of the coastline here, focusing on the conservation of the headlands, points and wetlands that are entirely undeveloped with the exception of tiny encampments of friendly fishermen and their families.

One day a fisherman dropped off a few lobster to sample. Israel, Daniel and Josh learned how to prepare and grill lobster Baja style—butterflied, over red-hot mesquite coals.

Nothing tastes better than fresh lobster tacos after a day of surfing.

Another day, we boarded Daren’s homemade dune buggy and scouted the coast. At one embayment we found empty waves and a fisherman’s pickup drowning in the sea.

Apparently the driver attempted to make it through surf at low tide and hit a tidepool. Our attempts to haul him out were unsuccessful and the pickup was submerged within the hour (his fishing co-op colleagues apparently hauled him out hours later).

Toward the end of our stay, the dreaded ferocious Baja northeast winds hit, creating dust clouds and blowing out the surf. We survived the night, but headed out home the next morning. Upon our departure we spied a large, confident and well-fed pack of coyotes meandering across the salt flats.

The day before Big Friday I borrowed a longboard and caught some fun ones. Photo: Jeff Knox.

A few days after our return, my sixteen-year-old son, Israel, joined a crew of Coronado surfers including John and Thomas Holder and veteran lifeguard Stan Searfus, for a trip to Todos Santos Island.

“Going out to Todos, one of the world’s most beautiful big waves spots was inspiring,” said John, who was on break from his stint serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

“It is a stunning place and the surf was pumping. In between sessions we saw migrating gray whales, dolphins and enjoyed the natural beauty of one the last pristine treasures of northern Baja.”

I returned to Baja last week with Zach Plopper. We had an appointment to survey a 1,200-acre headland and wetland that WiLDCOAST, is negotiating to purchase.

We scored great waves and were amazed by the beauty and biological diversity and abundance of the coastal desert headland we hope to conserve.

Surf scribe Kimball Taylor and San Diego surfer Chris Patterson also enjoyed the swell. But unfortunately they were both shocked by the flagrant disregard one crew of surfers had for the desert wilderness.

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Israel Dedina on the left at Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

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“Unfortunately, a large group of twenty-something surfers from Orange County had no respect for the landscape, chucking their trash in the desert, ripping out native plants, refusing to bury their own waste and acting disrespectfully in the water,” recounted Chris.

“They had forgotten that all of Central Baja is a national protected area in Mexico and that surfers need to treat the land and local people in Baja with a great deal of respect—since we are the only visitors there.”

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Israel Dedina at Todos Santos Island. Photo: John Holder.

Thankfully, more senior and educated surfers met with the group, politely explained the “unwritten rules” of Baja surf camping and the group cleared out and left the following morning.

So please remember that on your next visit to Baja, to pack out your trash, bury your waste, and leave all native plants alone. American surfers need to be role models for leaving as little trace as possible in a wilderness area that is home to generations of fishermen and ranchers and abundant wildlife.

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Comments

  1. Reblogged this on tekArtist.

  2. wooww!! your pictures are amazing!! 🙂

  3. pics are great – my hubby is jealous – he surfs here in Canada on the Great Lakes but its mostly in the winter !

  4. so great to have a good time at the beach…
    i like to see the grilled lobster…mmm yummy

  5. I really admire your oomph. I haven’t got it in me to go camping but thanks so much for the stunning shots. You’re a legend:)

  6. Grilled lobster? Awesome, I’ll have to try that some day.

    http://midnightwatcher.wordpress.com/

  7. Well I just know Baja, so long from my country, but it seem nice a note for the next vacation

  8. green with envy 🙂 wish I cud experience what u had

  9. Take back the happiness of your youth at Baja. Yes!

    http://happysandbox.com/news_view/37/0/take-back-the-happiness-of-your-youth

  10. dude, your cool!….keep it up.

  11. A Thrill of a lifetime! Cool photos that brings adventure to the next level….

  12. WOW 🙂

  13. Joe Labriola says:

    wow, tasty and fun! nice shots!

  14. I am jelous for sure! Wish I could be at the beach

  15. My friend just told me a nice place –(M i x e d S i n g l e. С’⊙M )- – it’s the most effective site in the world to connect with, date and marry people.. It’s worthy a try.Click For Registration

  16. my friend, it’s so cool !

  17. Nice pics! Wow the food looks good too!

  18. This place is a paradise…lovely pictures!

  19. Sweet Blog!

  20. WIcked trip. Can’t wait to try the northern baja!

  21. its truly amazing

  22. Thats amazing !!!

  23. awesome bro. I just spent a few days down at Margret River in WA, Australia. The swell was about 3-4 meters. Great conditions. Shame I didn’t take happy snaps.

  24. looks and sounds like some great surf. nice environmental message too – quite right; let’s preserve these incredible surroundings.

  25. Beautiful pictures! Truly wonderful; looks like an amazing place. 🙂

  26. Loved the photos and you sharing your adventure!

  27. I love the surfing and BBQ! 🙂

  28. nice show thank you

  29. sweet. thanks.

  30. What a wonderful surf/camping adventure! Appreciate your views on protecting the environment! . . . Your surfing photos are fantastic! And the lobster looks particularly scrumptious!!

    http://arabianmusings.wordpress.com/

  31. Carlie Chew says:

    Sounds like an amazing time! Great photos too.

  32. You’re living the good life, my friend!

  33. sounds like great fun

  34. Really great post and wonderful photography. That seems like a fantastic experience. Thanks for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  35. thanks for adding in the reminder to all surfers that baja (and all places we don’t call “home”) need to be treated with respect.

    great post!

  36. lovely!

  37. That looks amazing!

  38. that lobster looks amazing!

  39. Hi Serge, I really enjoyed reading about your surf adventure! Your writing style is beautiful and informative. Your opening picture of the craggy coast–plus the seagull-is what I think of when Mexico comes to mind. Although palm trees and white sand wouldn’t be bad either:)

    I love the idea of a Baja adventure complete with dusty roads, an off-the-beaten-path excursion, and fresh seafood on the beach. What a thrill to be out in the wilderness!

    Thank you so much for sharing your lovely story:)

  40. Sounds like an amazing trip.

  41. The surfing photos are inspiring and stunning. Glad the senior surfers taught the younger surfers how to respect the environment for future generations.

  42. Looks absolutely beautiful and I really respect what you do in conservation. I work on an environmental film festival and it’s amazing the impact humans have on the environment even with the smallest mis-steps. I loved all the photos, what a great trip!

  43. leonardturpin says:

    One man’s scary moment is another’s thrilling, what a life we live.

  44. I really like the photos. Great action on the waves. You won’t see me out there. I’d just like to watch from shore. Thanks for sharing. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

  45. Good luck with your endeavours! Everyone should leave nature cleaner than they found it 🙂

  46. reikimaster415 says:

    Nice!

  47. Nothing makes me more angry than people who drop their trash and leave it, especially in protected environments. Good for the people who stood up to them. Looks like you guys had an amazing time!

  48. I love the story that jumps from your photos. They portray the passion for your sport and your love of the land and sea the provides the backdrop. Nice conservation efforts, too. I wish you lots of fun and peace out there.

    elisa ruland

  49. Great pics Serge.

  50. My favorite and most relaxing muse. . .plus, now I’m hungry!

  51. I’m not really a beach person, but I would like to try to camp out on a beachfront. Amazing sights and pictures! 

  52. very nice pictures, the last photo i initially misinterpreted as a human face (the hand appeared as nose) 🙂

  53. fernandachalise says:

    NICE!

  54. I am filled with envy after reading and seeing this blog. Is not God’s creation wonderful?

  55. jameswakeling says:

    Amazing, I loved reading every bit of this and looking through all the photos. Such a great tale and made me want to be there.

  56. Good read! The points look so rippable. Also, the part about how to act in a foreign country are spot on. I just came home from an area of Brazil where Americans are relatively unknown and the residents think favorably of us. If you act like you are at your own home…the doors will stay open.

  57. Bueno! My husband and I just finished up 3 months in Baja and are now on Mainland. Baja holds a soft place in my heart. Thanks for all the hard with with Wildcoast.
    http://www.ayearintrim.wordpress.com

    • Thanks for the nice comment. Glad you had a great time in Baja. Have fun in mainland.Check out our website http://www.wildcoast.net for updates on our Blue Ocean Film Festival tour in mainland as well as my book tour to Sayulita, Saladita, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco and Pto. Escondido.

  58. Hopefully Jake will travel to Baja someday!
    http://jaketravellingtheworld.wordpress.com/

  59. Love your blog! Photos are stunning!
    (I am a WordPress photoblogger as well)
    Keep it up!


    Aaron Cohen
    http://www.aaroncohenphotography.wordpress.com

  60. great pictures… 🙂

  61. Very cool. I always thought that I would have been cool to learn how to surf. Kind of hard to do when you don’t live on the coast though.

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