The Baja Boys Surfing Survival Tour 2010

The Baja Boys have been exploring the back roads and surfing the point breaks of Baja California since they were micro-groms. In this video, they break down in the middle of the desert. Stranded and surrounded by scorpions, they find perfect point waves and make friends with the locals.

 

The Baja Boys-Israel, Daniel and Josh take a break from the water.

Field camp in Baja. Good equipment is the key to having fun in Baja. The wind shelter didn't survive a later winter trip.

 

Daniel gets a good one. We almost never encounter crowds where we surf in Baja. We never saw anyone else surfing this spot at all.

Israel got a little tired of going right all the time. Unfortunately our trip to Conejo was marred by big winds.

On this day the groms surfed literally until they dropped. All we do in Baja is surf all day, get up early and go to bed early. A grom paradise.

KILLING BAJA

Five reasons the Baja we know and love will be gone in a decade — and what you can do to save it

Winter is here and just about everyone who lives for the long point waves of Baja believes in the Pristine Myth — the conviction that Baja will be empty, desolate and wild — forever. This delusion is at erroneous at best and dangerous at worst. The Baja California that drives us to live for that frenzied first round-the-bend glimpse of a pumping swell at a “secret” point we’ve surfed for the past quarter century is going fast and could disappear in ten years.

Here are five reasons why the Baja you love, the Baja you dream of, the Baja that makes you feel like a primeval surf explorer will no longer exist in a decade — unless you take action to save it:

cruise99ens14 Ensenada Coast, Baja California 1999

Image by CanadaGood via Flickr

Energy/Desal Development. In the past decade some of the world’s biggest energy companies — Sempra, Shell, Chevron-Texaco, and Marathon Oil — have either built or proposed the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals along Baja’s Pacific coast. And now California water companies are planning to build desal plants on the Baja’s coast, in order to purchase the water back. Makes sense? It doesn’t to me either.

Port Construction. Taiwanese investors are still planning a five billion dollar massive industrial, LNG and urban complex on one of the last pristine stretches of coastline between Ensenada and San Quintin at Cabo Colonet. This new port will be larger than the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles combined. The city associated with the Port will eventually rival Ensenada and will envelop every surf spot around Cuatros.

Marinas and Mega-Resorts. In 2003, John McCarthy, Mexico’s Chief of Tourism Development (FONATUR), announced plans to roll back a plan to build marinas at six point breaks on Baja’s Pacific coast including Scorpion Bay and Punta Abreojos.  While these projects have been cancelled, major resorts and marinas are also now on deck along the East Cape and now along the surf coast of Sinaloa.

The Baja Boom/Bust. With the detonation of the second home market in Baja and the availability of once previously locked off coastal property (due to previous inability of ejidos or collective agrarian cooperatives to sell land), the race is on to buy up and develop every speck of coastal Baja. Even though under Mexican law coastal access is a right, after all of this development occurs, entry to the coast for visiting surfers and local rippers will become almost impossible.

Tijuana River seen from a pedestrian bridge in...

Image via Wikipedia

Coastal Pollution. Runoff from the Tijuana River has made Imperial Beach, Coronado some of the most polluted surf breaks in California. Just north of Baja Malibu, a creek at San Antonio delivers about 30 million gallons of sewage to the coast every day, 365 days a year. Development around San Miguel sends sewage right into the lineup after it rains. Expect new coastal development to pollute your favorite wave in Baja.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Protect the Coast. You can protect the coastal property you own or plan to buy in Baja through a conservation easement — a dedicated legally valid document that prohibits your land from ever being developed into a mega-resort even after you sell it.

Leave No Trace. Pack it in and pack it out. There are no suitable landfills anywhere in Baja at all. The accumulation of plastic from cities and from surf spots is a major source of ocean pollution. Every surfer who visits Baja can make a difference just by packing out trash. Go to www.lnt.org and learn about how to save your favorite Baja break from being overrun with garbage.

Clean up the Tijuana River. WiLDCOAST and our community partners on both sides of the border have launched an effort to clean up the Tijuana River (yes it can be done) and reduce beach closures in Playas de Tijuana, Imperial Beach and Coronado. Email Benjamin@wildcoast.net to have your surf club or business endorse our Clean Water Action Plan.

Party at the Waterman’s Weekend. For the Surf Industry, the annual social calendar is capped by this summertime gala that provides a serious source of funding for organizations working to save Baja’s surf breaks.

So get a reality check. Get active. Just don’t pretend that the spot south of the border you live for with its once endless supply of crystal clean water and righteous wave is going to wait for you forever.

Originally published by Surfline


The Baja Bust

A signed for the failed Trump Baja project.

What was the Baja Boom is now the Baja Bust. Yesterday on a trip to visit our office in Ensenada, I counted 24 empty or abandoned high rise buildings between Tijuana and Ensenada.

It is unlikely that most of these projects will ever be revitalized.

The proposed Trump Baja tower that was to be located near a sewage river.

The big question is–why would anyone want to buy a condo on a high rise tower in Baja with a view that oversees garbage and graffiti everywhere. And plus–who wants to travel to northern Baja when there is literally almost no place to actually have access to the coast.

Until the authorities in Baja start dealing with the issues of urban decay and start making things look nice–as well as assure that the public –including tourists–can get to the beach, the Baja Bust is here to stay.

A Poster for a WiLDCOAST riff on the Trump Baja ads.

Interview With Sign-on-Diego

This interview was with Mike Lee, the main environmental reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Serge Dedina being interviewed by CNN-Mexico.

Few conservationists along San Diego County’s coastline cast a shadow longer than Serge Dedina, who grew up in Imperial Beach and runs the advocacy group Wildcoast out of his hometown.

Wildcoast’s activism spans both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite his efforts at preservation, Dedina said he has to travel some 200 miles down Baja California to reach what he considers the last remaining wild Pacific coastline.

In his new book, “Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias,” Dedina intertwines two of his favorite topics. Published by The University of Arizona Press, “Wild Sea” is due in February.

Q: What inspired you to write a book and why did you choose the subject you did?

A: It was important to document how we were able to conserve some of the most magical coastal places of the coast of California and Baja California. It was also important to report on how close we have come to losing some of these places.

Q: What are the most surprising things you learned about yourself and/or the environment as you wrote?

A: I learned that having a sense of humor and a sense of creative passion are key elements to helping conserve our coastline. I also learned that there are key places on our coast that define our coastal culture, our lives and our history, such as Rincon, Malibu, Trestles, Swami’s, Black’s, the Tijuana Sloughs, Punta Abreojos, Scorpion Bay and the East Cape.

These special places and our collective coastline must be restored and conserved — forever.

Q: The book has an intriguing subtitle. Do you see eco-wars and surf stories as separate elements or closely related?

A: If you look closely at the history and politics of conserving coastal California and Baja California you see the intersection of surfers, environmentalists, fishermen and everyday coastal residents attempting to hold on the last natural vestiges of our iconic coastline.

Whether it was efforts to save Trestles from a toll road, stop a breakwater in Imperial Beach, develop marine protected areas, or halt half-baked marina schemes in Baja California, passionate surfers who care about the coast and ocean have been front and center in some pretty intense environmental conflicts.

Many of our most important and heroic surf stories are the ones in which we conserved our coastline.

Q: Wildcoast has run some significant campaigns in the past few years. Do you see the organization staying the course or branching into new areas?

A: So far we’ve helped to conserve about 1.8 million acres of coastline, but we have a lot of work to do.

Our staff in San Diego and Baja are ramping up our current efforts to help local communities and Mexican federal agencies conserve areas like San Ignacio Lagoon, the Vizcaino Peninsula, Sea of Cortez Islands, Magdalena Bay, Cabo Pulmo, and Baja’s Central Pacific Coast. We also are working collaboratively to restore and conserve south San Diego Bay, the Otay River Valley, and the Tijuana River Valley.

Q: Non-surfers have a hard time understanding why you and others regularly risk catching waterborne illness to catch a wave in IB. How do you explain it?

A: The irony of Imperial Beach being subject to a lot of beach closures is that there is probably no other location in California that is as heavily tested, researched and then proactively managed to protect public health and safety. With the plume tracker tool (http://www.sccoos.org/data/tracking/IB/) developed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, combined with the collaboration on water quality monitoring between the County of San Diego, City of Imperial Beach, and Wildcoast, we are doing a pretty good job of alerting people about pollution events.

Bottom line, I don’t surf IB when there is a hint of pollution in the ocean. That is why I often load up my two teenage sons and their friends in the car and we’ll surf spots like Windansea, Blacks’s, La Jolla Shores, and Trestles or travel to Baja.

Q: What’s your take on the level of environmental engagement by the general public in San Diego County?

A: They love their natural spaces. And when I see the tens of thousands of people from all walks of life that come out to Coastal Cleanup Day and other stewardship events throughout the year, I am always really inspired.

When it counts, such as the efforts to “Save Trestles”, we can depend on an army of passionate and dedicated coastal heroes to defend our natural heritage.

Surfrider's Matt McClain and pro surfer and Surfrider activist Pat O'Connell at a Save Trestles public hearing in San Clemente.

Surfing Baja : The Grom Videos

The groms amuse themselves between sessions.

 

The funnest times I’ve had as a surfer and a father have involved taking my sons on surf trips to Baja. Generally the waves are great for kids. Everything is an adventure and we have the best time possible.

This is one of the first surf trips we did at an easy spot (the boys had both lived and traveled in Baja since they were babies). The boys were just learning how to ride waves. In fact Daniel, my youngest, literally learned how to ride whitewater and catch waves here.

The following year, Daniel had improved a bit and Israel my oldest was able to paddle out to the point and catch some set waves. He also learned the limits of how many fish tacos he could eat. After greedily inhaling nine, he woke me up in the middle of the night and proceeded to vomit all over the Suburban we slept in.

The shame about the drug-realted violence and crime wave that has hit Mexico (that is very real and should not be dismissed as “media-hype”) is that it turned many surfing families away from trips to Baja.

I think things in Baja have calmed down, but it will never be the safe haven without a worry that it once was. But you should take your kids south of the border and have them experience the wonders of a remote and beautiful place.

I still take the boys down there, but I am a lot more careful than I used to be.

Surfing Baja : Punta Abreojos

I love Punta Abreojos which is located north of San Ignacio Lagoon on Baja’s Pacific Coast. It is a great place to do conservation, surf, and enjoy the best of wild Baja with a great village inhabited by people who protect their coastal and marine resources and love to surf. These are some images from our trip to Punta Abreojos in September to hold a regional surf championship for fishermen-surfers and their children.

Finalists for the Open Division of the 7th Annual Punta Abreojos Surf Contest

Serge Dedina and Punta Abreojos fishermen and conservationist Isidro Arce.

Ben McCue checks an empty wave in Abreojos.

This is what makes Punta Abreojos so special--a community of surfers and kids who love the beach and surfing.

Real Baja

There is something about the remote parts of the Baja California peninsula that remind us of what a wild coast is supposed to be. These images are by Zach Plopper from a recent trip we did to survey a national park in Baja California. Luckily we had a good tent to survive the harsh Santa Ana winds that hit.

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Serge Dedina dawn patrols remote Baja/Photo: Zach Plopper

WilLDCOAST Base camp in remote Baja/Photo: Zach Plopper

Baja campfire/Credit: Zach Plopper

El Hijo del Santo Fights for Cabo Pulmo

The Lucha Libre El Hijo del Santo appears in m...

Image via Wikipedia

In Mexico, there is no greater living legend than lucha libre star El Hijo del Santo.

In the ring he fights the bad guys.

In real life he saves the coast and ocean.

El Hijo del Santo has been the main spokesperson for WiLDCOAST for the past three years.

Wildcoast

Image via Wikipedia

And in our most serious fight, we have been trying to stop the Spanish resort developer Hansa Urban from destroying the fragile Cabo Pulmo coral reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Mexican National Park, from being obliterated by a giant new resort-city on the East Cape, on the park’s boundary.

So our team went to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup and unleashed El Santo.

Can you say GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Santo scored for Cabo Pulmo!!

Thanks Santo

Surfing Baja : Scorpion Bay

Of all the spots in Baja, there is probably no other more iconic break than southern Baja’s Scorpion Bay in the Pacific fishing village of San Juanico.

San Juanico has now become the Malibu of Baja. With three main points and a variety of even more reefs that break on select swells, there is plenty of surf here for the growing population of American expats (at times it feels like a surfer retirement village) and legions of visiting surfers.

Back in 2003, WiLDCOAST helped to stop a planned marina here that would have had a huge impact on surfing in the area–the main source of income besides fishing for the now fairly well off (by Baja Sur standards) community.

This summer, the boys and I took a close to 3,000 mile r/t tour of Pacific Baja and the East Cape. We had a lot of fun at our early summer stop at San Juanico.

The water was cold though–about 58-60–but there were virtually no crowds.

If you want to experience real Baja, avoid Scorpion Bay during the height of the summer south swell season. But for off-peak off season days it is a fun spot, especially if you have kids and a spouse that likes clean restrooms and hot showers.

Barrels for Breakfast Take 2

My Imperial Beach Patch surfing column from November 16, 2010.

I.B. does very well on peaky combo wind swells. That’s why the fall is my favorite season in Southern California.

Last Tuesday was a classic IB morning. The South Side finally came alive. There were also peaks from the pier to the Boc’s to be had.

I paddled out in the South Side channel just after 7 a.m. and greeted Todd and Tim Lang. Tim and I were second grade classmates at Berry Elementary. I shared the wedgy rights with Dave Thomas, Billy D., Ben McCue, Dave Parra, Dave Santos, Randy Putland and Zach Plopper among others.

On Wednesday the groms were out in the water at daybreak.

My son Israel said, “Matt Wilson was running into the water yelling, ‘Barrels for breakfast.'”

On that morning, Zach Plopper, Ben McCue and I left Imperial Beach early, crossed the border and surf checked the TJ-Ensenada coast.

We settled on San Miguel for a session with no crowds and 2-4 feet crystal clear waves. Just like Baja Norte is supposed to be.

Thursday morning IB offered up Santa Ana winds and 3-5 feet A-frames up and down the beach.

“The waves were typewriting,” said Billy D.

“I was there at about 6:30 a.m.,” said Alan Jackson. “I saw Terry and Josh on the south side and a few dolphins, but they were out a ways. It was so clear and beautiful that we could see the cross on Mt Soledad.”

With good waves come increased crowds at a few select sandbars. According to Andrew Pate, one way to maintain order in the water is to, “Never paddle out and swing into the first wave coming through when there are other surfers in the lineup.”

Early Saturday morning, my groms Israel and Daniel departed for Ventura with surf dad extraordinaire Jason Stutz and his son Jake.

Jason called me later in the day and said, “The boys surfed with Dane Reynolds at Emma Wood. I told them that we could go home. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Daniel said, “Dane is super cool. He was shredding and almost landed a backflip.”

On Sunday morning I checked the surf at dawn and was surprised to see waves breaking at the Sloughs. Chris Patterson and I surfed the shorebreak alone for a while.

Dave Thomas paddled out later in the morning.

“I got out at the Sloughs in the late morning just as the onshore winds started,” he said.

Dave is looking for someone to caravan to southern Baja with on December 26.

Speaking of the Sloughs, Phillip “Flippy” Hoffman, a North Shore and Sloughs pioneer, passed away on November 10.

“Flippy often came down to IB to surf the Sloughs with Dempsey when my brother Jim and I were just starting out,” said Jeff Knox. “We were very impressed by his ability and his impish humor. He was an absolute classic.”

Dempsey’s grandson and John Holder is in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. He writes, “Been busy travelling around a bit and trying to get things done here on this crazy island. Finally settled into my cottage so I can sit and write and think in peace.”

John will be home for holidays and is looking forward to some southern desert solitude.

A chapter about the Sloughs and its pioneering surfers including Dempsey and Walter and Flippy Hoffman among others are included in my new book, Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias, that will be out just before Christmas. Look for an IB book launch party in January.

Finally, I end with this quote from Zach Plopper, “Surfing for me means endless fun. There is nothing more fun than surfing.”

See you in the water.

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