My New Book, Surfing the Border

I will launch the tour for my new book, Surfing the Border, on Saturday January 24th in Coronado and Imperial Beach. I will be speaking and signing books at the Coronado Library Winn Room from 2-3pm and then from 5-6:30 pm I’ll be at the Pier South Resort in Imperial Beach. Should be a blast!!

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A Trip to Todos Santos Island

A couple of day’s before Christmas we celebrated my oldest son’s 18th birthday with a day-trip out to Baja’s Todos Santos Island. It was a magical day in a very special place.

Israel.

Israel celebrating his 18th birthday.

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A cyclops wave.

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The lighthouse dominates the land and seascape.

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Because the waves come out of deep water, it is hard to see the sets coming until they break on you.

The wave at Todos Santos is a beauty.

The wave at Todos Santos is a beauty.

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That’s me on a fun one.

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My youngest son Daniel (15)  gets a set wave.

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One of the sets rolling through.

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Israel.

Israel and Daniel sharing a small one.

Israel and Daniel sharing a small one. It gives me great pleasure to watch my sons surf together.

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Daniel after a long day in the water.

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Israel after his birthday surf session. He’d been asking me to take him for a couple of years.

Tijuana-Ensenada Toll Road Alternative Route Update

Traffic backing up on the start of the descent just south of La Mision

Traffic backing up on the start of the descent just south of La Mision

For those of you wondering about the toll road closure from La Fonda to San Miguel (northern end of Ensenada). I traveled on the La Mision-San Miguel free road twice in the past week. Expect the trip to take 30-45 minutes depending on traffic. Don’t try to pass on curves, don’ expect to travel more than 25-35 mph on average. Just enjoy the scenery and be safe. Get used to it because we’ll all be traveling that road a lot.

The section of the toll road that collapsed. This was totally preventable.

The section of the toll road that collapsed. This was totally preventable.

 

My estimate is that 75% of the free road could be widened with little enviro-social-and economic impact within the existing highway/utility easement which is very wide. The exception is the La Mision section and hill which is incredibly dangerous anyway and areas near businesses and homes.

Truck accident just south of La Mision on what is one of the most dangerous curves on the entire transpeninsular highway.

Truck accident just south of La Mision on what is one of the most dangerous curves on the entire transpeninsular highway.


The fact is that the entire Ensenada community needs to pressure federal and state governments to quickly expand and make safer the free road and then seriously make an attempt to address the shocking underinvestment in upgrading the safety of the toll road area that collapsed. Anyone who traveled that road knew that authorities were making a less than stellar effort to improve the highway.

Another Weekend of Perfect Waves at San Miguel

We spent the weekend at San Miguel for the 3rd Annual Walter Caloca Open, a surf contest that brings together competitors from Mexico, the U.S. and around the world.

The waves were a blast!!

Sunday morning--San Miguel channeling Lowers.

Sunday morning–San Miguel channeling Lowers.

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That’s me channeling Terry Fitzgerald at J Bay in 1975.

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My eldest son Israel.

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My youngest son Daniel.

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IB surfer Sean Fowler.

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San Miguel local Kevin Meza.

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Zach Plopper

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Israel

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Israel

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Contest organizer Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

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From left to right: Me, my youngest son Daniel and friends Josh Johnson and his dad Daren Johnson.

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Junior boys finalists including from left to right: Gavin (3rd), Daniel Dedina (2nd), Dakotah Hooker (4th) and Josh Johnson (1st).

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Daniel.

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Daniel

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Josh Johnson

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Daniel

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Beach cleanup Saturday.

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The WiLDCOAST Ensenada Ocean Art Wall

Our WiLDCOAST staff in Ensenada (Baja California, Mexico) worked with local artists to create this super cool mural in the surfing and fishing community of El Sauzal. Due to the prevalence of graffiti it is critical to create ocean art that educates the public and inspires people to love our coast and ocean. It was very cool to work with Napenda Love, a hip hop and visual artist who helped us carry out projects in southern Baja. DSC_1632

 

 

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Napenda Love some rhyming at the opening of the wall.

Napenda Love some rhyming at the opening of the wall.

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Surf and Turf: The Baja Renaissance

Javier Plascencia of Mision 19.

“Last week I surfed K-38’s,” said Javier Plascencia, the chef and proprietor of Tijuana’s Mision 19. “But the surf was pretty bad.”

Plascencia is from Tijuana, attended high school in Chula Vista, and grew up surfing in Imperial Beach, OB and his home breaks in Baja.

The rock-star handsome Tijuana surfer, along with fellows chefs such as Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra, Benito Molina and Solange Muris of Manzanilla, and brothers Javier Martinez of Boules and David Martinez Muelle 3 in Ensenada are leading a gastronomic revolution and Baja Renaissance that is bringing the endemic and earthy colors, tastes and textures of Baja’s land and sea into our palates and hearts.

“Baja is undergoing a virtual renaissance now with a renewed interest in the region’s gastronomy, culture, eco-adventures, lifestyle and unique accommodations,” said Jim Pickell, CEO and founder of Baja.com, a Baja-based company dedicated to helping travelers enjoy an authentic Baja California experience.

This new renaissance and revival of the authentic in Baja is an important and much needed antidote to the ongoing doom and gloom reporting on Mexico that has convinced many Baja fanatics to stay away from their favorite home away from home.

But due to the amazing things happening in the kitchens of these chefs and the still heartbreaking beauty of Baja’s wilderness landscapes and coastal treasures, there has never been a better time to head south across the border.

My first trip across the border was in 1967, when I was three. My mother, an English immigrant, and I joined our Los Angeles neighbors, a Mexican-American family, on weekend trips to Ensenada, where we rode horses on uncluttered beaches.

Later we traveled to San Felipe with my Aunt Jill and Uncle Emile who were visiting from Switzerland. There we reveled in the fresh fish, unfiltered kindness of local fishing families, the endless beauty of the Gulf of California and the towering peaks of the Sierra San Pedro Martir.

That me on the right with my brother Nicky, my mother, and my Uncle Emile in San Felipe either in 1972 or 1973.

After I started surfing at the age of 13 in 1977, I frequently traveled south of the border to surf the coastline between Tijuana and Ensenada. Those quick trips turned into longer expeditions with my father and friends to central Pacific Baja in a beat-up olive green 1964 six-volt Volkswagen van.

We found friendly fishermen, pristine beaches and surfed perfect waves.

In the 1990s my wife Emiy and I spent two years in the remote coastal lagoons of southern Baja to carry out our dissertation research on gray whales and fisheries management.

During those two years, besides the perfect waves I surfed and the incredible encounters Emily and I had with gray whales, sea turtles, sea lions, osprey and sharks, some of the best expeiences I had were sharing freshly harvested seafood with ourfishermen friends and their families.

In San Ignacio Lagoon, Maria Luisa, a fisherman’s wife and daughter, would lead me and my wife on low-tide searches for pulpo, or octopus. These elusive creatures hid in the empty shells of callo de hacha, or hatchet clams. Maria Luisa would use a gancho, or metal hook, to pry the shells out of the tidal flats and then open up the shells to occasionally reveal an octopus hiding in a shell.

A couple of hours later she would serve us up ceviche de pulpo in the dining room of her plywood house on the shore of the lagoon accompanied by a cold Pacifico.

I thought of those meals when I sat down with Plascencia last week at Mision 19 in Tijuana’s modern Zona Rio district and ate grilled pulpo with pistachio and garbanzo. The complex and satisfying dish was a direct connection to Maria Luisa’s pulpo ceviche.

Sashimi is one of the other signature dishes in northern Baja that is offered up at Manzanilla, Muelle 3 and Boules.

“The only time I had eaten sashimi in Baja,” I told Javier, “was with the fishermen of Punta Abreojos.”

Years ago after being hit by an obnoxious mantaraya or stingray, I savored fresh yellowtail sashimi while sitting under a ramshackle fish shack in Estero Coyote, a mangrove lagoon midway between San Ignacio Lagoon and the rocky points of Abreojos.

My fishermen friends Javier, Isidro and Miguel plied me with cold cerveza that combined with delicacy and sabor of the sashimi, dulled the acute pain of the stingray barb.

For the Baja fans who long to return across the border, you can no longer afford to miss out on the experience offered up by these chefs and the great waves in Baja.

But if you need to quickly experience the sabor of the Baja Renaissance, you can catch, Javier, Diego, Solange and Benito at the Baja Bash on June 2nd at the Harbor Pavilion on San Diego Bay. There these master chefs will offer up the best of their innovative cuisine to the background of Tijuana’s genre busting musical innovators Nortect Collective: Hiperboreal.

You can’t afford to miss out on the new taste of Baja.

Seafood Suite at Ensenada’s Muelle 3

On Thursday I spent the day at the WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE office in Ensenada. Our team went out to a simple but delicious meal at Muelle 3, David Martinez’s stunning simple new restaurant in Ensenada.

Our first course was sashimi and seafood ceviche. Both were fresh and sumptious.

We then had a sort of new twist on a fish taco, with smoked marlin. It was amazing.

Gigliola the chef at work.

That was followed by a bowl of steamed mussels and almejas blancas.

Muelle 3 is at the north end of the malecon in Ensenada. This is where the pangas leave to head out to Todos and where fishermen bring in their daily catch. While we were there a parade of pescadores walked by with sharks slung over their shoulders.

Historic Surf Weekend in San Miguel

Sean Fowler nails it during the final heat.

“My brother Travis and I were competing in the Vans Pier Classic and lost out on Friday, March 30th,” said Mexican-American ripper Dylan Southworth, who lives in Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta. “We saw the swell was on the rise and figured we would head down to Ensenada.”

Dylan and Travis were part of an international crew who found themselves surfing a historic swell at San Miguel in Ensenada on Saturday and Sunday as part of the 2012 2nd Annual Walter Coloca Memorial Open Surf Contest organized by United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO) and WiLDCOAST.

Luis from Venezuela during the opening heat.

That wasn’t all that was going on.

“On Friday March 30th, the day before the surf contest we held the first ever forum, La Nueva Ola, on the state of surfing in Baja at CETYS University in Ensenada,” said Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

“Scientists, surfers, coastal conservationists, politicians and business owners discussed issues related to coastal access, water quality, the economic value of surf spots and efforts to improve the current situation of the region’s coastline.”

Speakers from Pronatura, Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), WiLDCOAST, Surf Ens, CETYS University, Locales Surf School and UAPO presented their collective efforts to engage youth in the sport of surfing and reestablish a clean and accessible surfing environment.

“Although limited coastal access and poor water quality is currently limiting economic and recreational opportunities for surfing, there is a new wave in Baja California to improve the situation,” said Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST.

Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

The forum was a good way to launch the Walter Coloca Open over the weekend. More than 60 surfers from Mexico, Venezuela and the U.S. came together to surf in the second year of an event organized by Ramirez.

“The contest is about one ocean, one passion and one family,” he said. “We share the same ocean so it is important to come together and surf together. Waves bring us together across the border. We are all part of a surfing family.”

Saturday was for the junior, school and body board divisions. Venezuelan Derek Gomez ripped his way to both finals in both the age 12-15 and 16-18 divisions. Judges and spectators were amazed by his solid style and explosive surfing.

Travis Southworth.

Equally impressive was Imperial Beach’s Josh Johnson who scored a perfect 10 (the only 10 of the event) in the 12-15 semi-finals with a double barrel ride across the entire cove section of San Miguel. Josh placed second in his division.

Zach Randall, 13, from East Lake Middle School came in third. Second place in the 16-18 division went to Andres Aguirre from Ensenada.

Also making the final were Michael Roccoforte from El Cajon, and Jorge Olvera from Ensenada. Paloma Aguirre of San Diego won the Open Body Board division with Ensenada’s Jose Peralta coming in a close second.

The Open Division of the contest took place on Sunday with an increasing combination of swells. I joined Imperial Beach surfer Sean Fowler and South Mission Beach’s Craig Macias in the rising swell Sunday.

Dylan Southworth

“The swell was the product of a compact, but intense, storm that was located just a few hundred miles off the California coast,” said Kevin Wallis, surf forecaster for Surfline. He said it brought 30-50 knot-plus winds and seas of over 30 feet.

“Because of the storm’s proximity to California, the swell it created rapidly filled in and it was kind of like someone flipped on a light switch, going from small to moderate size surf from a previous swell to very large surf in a matter of 30-60 minutes as the new west swell filled in. Definitely a cool thing to witness.”

Mysto waves north of San Miguel.

When I arrived at San Miguel on Sunday, the surf was in the 3-4’ range. By the time the contest was over the sets were 6-10’.

“This was definitely the latest I can remember seeing a swell of that size and westerly direction, which allowed it to get into many SoCal breaks,” said Wallis.

“Thirty surfers put on an exceptional show of surfing for the spectators and judges,” said Plopper, who helped to sponsor and organize the contest.

Women's finalists.

Dylan Southworth surfed consistently to the final and took home first place. In a close second was Imperial Beach’s Sean Fowler.

Placing third and fourth were Cheyne Willis from Hawaii and Travis Southworth. In the women’s division big-wave surfer Narra Nunez took the win and Everardo Montoya won the longboard division. Both surfers are from Ensenada.

Zach Plopper and Men's Open Finalists.

“The 2012 Walter Caloca contest at San Miguel in Ensenada was one of the best contests. The vibes were great; surf was pumping all weekend, especially with only three other people out,” said Fowler. “Thank you to the locals and all the sponsors for throwing such a great contest.”

“Travis and I we found ourselves in the final with great waves,” said Dylan. “Super stoked to get the title,” said Dylan. “A lot of good competitors entered and everyone was ripping.”

Travis Southworth.

Zach Plopper after the contest was over when the swell started pumping.

That's me in my first or second heat. I stared the semi right after finishing my second heat, competing against the Southworth brothers and Luis from Venezuela. I was super tired and they all ripped! it was an honor to surf with them--all great guys and great surfers!

Surf and Boules in Ensenada: A Super Day in the Biarritz of Mexico

Zach Plopper ripping San Miguel after the surf started pumping after the contest was over.

Spend the day yesterday in Ensenada at the 2nd Annual Walter Coloca Jr. Memorial Surf Contest organized by UAPO and WiLDCOAST. It was an epic weekend with one of the craziest NW swells I’ve ever seen in April (the surf jumped from 2-4′ in the morning to 6-10′ in the afternoon). I’ll post more about the contest later this week.

Javier Martinez the propietor of Boules in San MIguel in Ensenada.

But besides the great surf the highlight of the day was strolling over to Boules, a 2-year old restaurant that is perched above the inside break at San Miguel. Located inside a restored vintage building, Boules is a great addition to the Ensenada food scene. Owned by Javier Martinez (Javier’s brother David owns the insanely great Muelle 3) and his wife Galia Ahlborn, Boules is Biarritz meets Mexico. An earthy unpretentious and rustic location and similar tasty, simple, but delicious food.

Efrain with the mushroom and roasted zuchini appetizers.

While I sampled roasted zuchini with parmesan, roasted artichoke, mushrooms, fresh yellowtail (jurel) sashimi, and risotto with mushrooms and duck, with my staffers Sofia and Efrain, I watched the surf roll into San Miguel and chatted with Javier.

The bar at Boules.

Surfing is just part of the reason to visit San Miguel. But like a lot of surfers and foodies, I am finding that the innovative and original food being offered up throughout Ensenada is what is going to have me coming back for more. Don’t wait to visit Ensenada before the whole scene blows up. But for now get down to Boules for a pleasant afternoon lunch or dinner. You won’t regret it.

WiLDCOAST staffers Efrain and Sofia at Boules.

Risotto with mushrooms and duck.

Sofia and Javier. For such a cool place, Javier and Galia are incredibly down-to-earth. Javier sat and chatted with us for a while. We had a mutual friend, Luis Guerena the legendary founder of Tijuana No! a seminal Mexican ska-punk band who passed away and who I wrote about in my book Wild Sea.

Mural at Boules.

What could be better than great food and watching world-class surf. That's me in one of my contest heats. My bottom turns couldn't match the vertical surfing of fellow competitors who were half my age and seriously ripped.

Baja’s Booming New Food Scene in Ensenada

Ensenada has always been Tijuana’s cooler, hotter but more elegant and down-to-earth cousin. A seaside town with a vibrant port set in the magnificent Todos Santos Bay, the collapse of the tourism economy hit Ensenada hard. But thanks to the energy and passion of a small group of vintners, chefs and restauranteers, Ensenada is back –in a big way.

For sure the inspiring allure of the Adobe Guadalupe Winery and the wineries of the Guadalupe Valley has had a positive impact on the restaurant scene in Ensenada. Restaurants like Kalifa in the Viento seaside complex between San Miguel and the port are also destinations along with Boules at San Miguel. And for a post dinner coffee and desert check out Luis Arriagas art-filled cafe, Cafe Arabica at #1010 Second Street, just off downtown.

Last week I had the pleasure of eating an amazing lunch–one of the best seafood meals I’ve ever eaten in Baja at the amazingly down-to-earth and unpretentious Muelle 3 located on Ensenada’s malecon.

Owner David Martinez has put together a simple menu that is all about serving simple, fresh, and incredibly tasty seafood.

Calamar frito. Very tasty!

Our WiLDCOAST group sampled the menu starting with clam chowder, then moving on to fish and clam ceviche, mussels and frites, plates of sashimi, and then squid and octopus risotto. It was all fantastically fresh and delicious.

The best ceviche I've ever eaten. Photo: Lenise Andrade

Check it out at: Blvd. Teniente Azueta 187 (sobre el Malecon), Ensenada: 646.174.0318, 646.151.9292

David Martinez (left) of Muelle 3.

Luis Arriaga, the delightful owner of Cafe Arabica.

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