Baja ha ha
The following is part I of a two part chronicle of our recent surf
odyssey from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas:
Garrett – (yours truly)
Dave – roommate, partner in crime, surf brah, author of part II.
Gretchen – budding surf fanatic, lifeguard, very polite and strong
Fiona – more mellow budding surf fanatic, guitar goddess in
We’ve decided to take two cars. There is much scrambling as we
two wanna be boy scouts pack our truck with everything including
the kitchen sink.
Garrett: “I got new back tires for my truck and changed the oil, it’s
ready to go.”-ironic foreshadowing
Dave,11:30 p.m.(one hour past his bedtime): ” It’s Gretchen on
the phone, it seems that I forgot to buy propane for her camp
stove like I was supposed to and now she’s mad at me. ”
We spend an hour trying to find propane at midnight, fail
miserably and collapse in defeat.
Gretchen, 5 a.m.: ” I bought some propane. ”
After wrestling with boards and bungee cord spaghetti we depart.
Garrett: ” Great way to start a trip, the women are pissed at us
already and we’re not even in Mexico yet. ”
We drive. And we drive. And we drive some more. After three
Garrett: ” Dave, the driving’s getting to me. Could you drive for a
Dave: ” Yeah, sure. Oh… wait, is this a stick? ”
Long silence during which I picture various forms of torture being
applied to my former friend.
Garrett: “You’re joking, tell me you’re joking.”
Dave: “I didn’t know your truck was a stick, I never learned stick.”
Garrett fumes, vents, fumes some more and remains rather
bitter as we drive, and drive, and just keep driving over the most
incredibly windy, narrow, pot hole inflicted, sorry excuse for a
highway I’ve ever bounced my truck down. Dave doses off,
Garrett fumes, cranks the tunes louder . . . and drives.
The mighty surf truck seems to be pulling rather strongly to the
right. In the middle of the desert I pull over and discover that
some pieces have shaken off from my front suspension.
Garrett (after venting more about driving): ” It’s not critical, but we
need to fix it. ”
Gretchen: “O.K.” seems unphased by driving the whole way.
Fiona: “Garrett, I’ll drive if you wanna break.”
Garrett, feeling machismo seriously in question: “No that’s O.K., I
can hack it.”
The mighty surf truck limps along. We come over a hill to
interrupt a flock of buzzards ripping apart a carcass in the middle
of the road. My mighty surf truck wobbles into Guerro Negro
where, after much broken Spanish and drawing in the sand we
find a wizened old mechanic with some rusty tools who sets to
work on my shiny truck.
Garrett: ” I’ve got to worry about anyone who’s favorite tool for
working on a car is a large hammer. But he’s doing exactly
what needs to be done, amazing.”
After much rejoicing, the mighty surf truck is on the road again.
We climb up a mesa in the desert and pitch camp.
Gretchen: ” Fiona, I can’t seem to find the hose for my camp
Dave, ears perking up: ” What did you say Gretchen? ”
Garrett: Begins laughing hysterically.
We drive. We drive some more.
We near La Paz. I can practically hear the waves breaking in
Cabo by now, but it’s getting late. Gretchen wants to drive into La
Paz to get a camp stove hose.
Garrett: ” We can either look for a hose or we can surf. ”
Gretchen: ” Well, we need that hose. ”
Garrett once again contemplates inflicting a slow painful death as
we follow the women around La Paz. They circle the city asking
random men where they can find a special hose…
Despite many colorful offers, they fail to find the hose, so we
drive. Sweat bursting on my forehead, we come over the hill at
San Jose del Cabo to see . . . flatness.
Garrett: ” aaaaaaaarrghhhh ”
Dave: ” Well, there might be waves at Shipwrecks. We just need
to find this dirt road . . .”
The dirt road from hell is bouncing the mighty surf truck to pieces
as the daylight fades. The worst washerboard possible reduces
our speed to a jouncing crawl. The engine of the mighty surf
truck pulls us over another hill, gasps, and expires. The engine
turns over but won’t start. I decide that right here would be a very
nice place to camp.
Some donkeys wonder around our camp looking for food.
The mighty surf truck starts right up. We are stoked. We drive
about two hundred yards. The engine dies. We are bummed.
Dave walks back to tell the women. Garrett jumps in the ocean.
It’s still flat. We camp on the beach. I pull out the shop manual
and proceed to dismantle the engine. I try not to worry about
having my car die on a dirt road in the desert a thousand miles
from home. I decide to go spear fishing. The other campers
laugh as neptune boy enters the ocean. It’s amazing. There are
huge fish everywhere just off of the beach. I tag a couple and
Garrett: ” Well, we won’t go hungry tonight. ”
Crew: ” No way, you actually caught something? ”
The mighty hunter scratches his head and tries to recall how to
gut a fish.
Garrett: ” Sushi for lunch anyone? ”
Crew: ” Ew, yuck. You’re not just going to eat that are you? ”
Garrett: munch, munch, ” mmm yum .”
I go back to learning about my car and all the various necessary
tools that I don’t have.
Dave: ” How’s the car. ”
Garrett: ” It won’t run. ”
Dave: ” We’re bummed. ”
Garrett: ” uh huh. ”
The crew plays poker and Fiona teaches guitar licks by the fire.
The donkeys wander around, I think they’re feeling amorous.
Garrett: ” Gretchen, can I use some of the windshield wiper tubing
from your car to syphon out the gas from my tank? ”
Gretchen, looking like I just asked if I wanted to play a hunch and
required the use of her left kidney: ” uh, yah, O.K. ”
Garrett: ” Thanks, I’ll put it back. ”
We pack up our camp. The mighty surf truck starts up and heads
back towards San Jose del Cabo.
Dave: ” We’re stoked. ”
Garrett: hesitantly,” yah ”
The engine dies.
Dave: ” We’re bummed. ”
Garrett: with certainty,” yah ”
Gretchen drives Dave and Fiona into San Jose del Cabo to find a
mechanic. I fiddle with the truck. The buzzards circle… maybe
seagulls aren’t so bad. I am comforted by the sight of a rusting
truck frame in a field. I doze off. The cavalry comes over the hill
with a tow truck and we bounce back to town. The mighty surf
truck sleeps nice and cozy in a mechanics’ garage. My wallet
loses some weight to the tow guy. We pile into Gretchen’s car
with the boards and look for a camp.
We surf Zippers anyway. It’s good to surf even if it’s tiny. I’m
ecstatic about not driving or working on my car. Thank god for
friends. We set up camp in a trailer park at CostaAzul. We learn
the meaninglessness of time as we snooze under palm trees.
I give my wallet and it’s contents to the mechanic who spent all
day with the right tools to find a wire that had semi-frayed inside
the wire casing.
Still flat, but maybe a little swell starting to show. We surf Zippers
anyway. We drive into Cabo San Lucas to be tourists and…
look for that special hose. We drive back towards San Jose del
Cabo looking for a reputedly good surf spot named Monuments.
We can’t find it. I think a donkey ate our “Surf Report” bulletin
with the directions on it. I spot a VW with boards on it pulling out
of a dirt road and decide to give it a go. At the end of the road we
see a hotel but there’s a wet guy walking with a board.
Dave: ” Is this Monuments? ”
Surf guy: ” Uhhh… Uhhh… No. ” (there are seven boards on my truck)
Dave: ” It is, isn’t it. ”
Surf Guy: ” Yah ”
Dave: ” It’s good, isn’t it. ”
Surf Guy: ” Yah. You guys lucked out. It just started coming in. ”
We park, we hoot, we jump up and down, we jam down to the
beach with our boards. There’s nobody out. Solid seven foot
waves are coming into a very rocky left point. It looks kinda
sketchy with all the big rocks. I try to mark the best take off spot.
The crew is gonna let me paddle out first. I paddle out and hop a
shoulder. Then I line up deep, take off late, and jam down the
line towards a mean looking rock…the soup gets me and I get
pulled towards the beach. Paddle back out. Dave paddles out.
His board is way to short for these waves but he manages to pull
into some anyway. I specialize in taking off late and trying to pull
it off. Dave and I are way stoked. Some other surfers paddle out
and it’s a killer session. We surf till dark then surf in with huge
The swell holds. The stoke is flowin’. We surf at dawn. We
grind. We sleep. We surf at dusk. We grind. We sleep.
Life is good. Time is irrelevent. This, this is a good surf trip.
And that was just the first half…
Dave, it’s your turn brah. Time for part II.
Dave’s 1/2 :
We pulled in to Brisas del Mar trailer park in San Jose
Del Cabo tired out, stoked, and relieved by the new swell.
Relieved because we scored waves when it wasn’t at all certain
that we would get any surf when we left SD. This is because
early June is still usually too early for good Chubasco
(hurricane) swells, and strong Southern Hemisphere swells
come about once a month it seems. Doubters included fellow
net surfer and Windansea local Tom Tweed, who told me of a trip
he took to Cabo in which he experienced “total skunkdom”,
words which send a chill down every surfer’s spine. But we
went on the assumption that – as far as South Swells go – Cabo
could be no worse than San Diego.
San Jose del Cabo (SJDC) is the last place in the world
you would want to go if you hated surf – if there’s a swell
(they average 6 days between swells during August-Sept).
Taking a shower, you’re reminded of the swell by the
shaking of the pipes every 10 s or so. Sitting by the truck, you
can’t help but notice the whitewater geysers shooting twenty
feet in the air, over the steep sand berm of the beach. And we
were supposed to sleep? HAH! Also SJDC must be one of the most
ideal surf cities in the world. Situated at the tip of Baja
California, the long, curved beach at SJDC faces southeast into
the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez. The surf breaks in and
around SJDC act as swell magnets for SW, S, SE, and even East
swells generated either by local storms in the Gulf and Chubascos
or Southern Hemisphere ground swells. Surf breaks to the East
along the Sea of Cortez are accessible via the infamous washboard
road and include Shipwrecks, Tres Palmas, and many other quality
uncrowded right point breaks. The road, however, requires either
a very gnarly vehicle or a thrashable rental car.
Lacking the capacity to travel the washboard, Gretchen,
Fiona, Garrett, and myself turned our attention to the breaks
to the West – between SJDC and Cabo San Lucas. The closest
break to Cabo San Lucas is Monuments, the Todos Santos of Los
Cabos. A spooky break, Monumentos is about 1 km west of Cabo
San Lucas (road at Las Missiones devlp.), accessible via an improved
dirt road. Huge swells come out of a deep water canyon offshore
and jack over a rocky shelf – producing a long, fast wall (left!).
Longboards need not apply. The place has a cool view of the
harbor at Cabo San Lucas and Land’s End, but don’t stare too
long or that 10′ set will break on your head! More on this later.
Just outside of SJDC are a collection of breaks :
Acapuquito, Old Man’s, La Roca, and Zippers. Acapulquito and
Old Man’s are right point/reef breaks that are mushy in general
but get extremely lined up and good during a swell. La Roca is
a faster right point break with its namesake large rock in the
takeoff spot. This spot of all the spots we surfed has the worst
crowd factor. Because of the small takeoff spot and competitive
crowd, which includes some local hotshots who don’t hesitate
to drop in. Finally, my personal favorite is Zippers, a fast
racetrack right wall that will give you the ride of your life
right to the sand. The name Zippers comes from the shape of the
plume formed as the backwash hits the incoming wave. Legend
has it that during a huge swells one can ride a wave from outside
Acapuquito all the way to the beach at Zippers – a distance of
about 1 mile! The Mexicans probably run a taxi service back to
the takeoff spot on days like this!
On the fifth day I awoke to the sound of wax scraping on
fiberglass. If you haven’t been surf camping this is a joyous way
to wake up, second only to sex (this is debatable). Anyway, I
floated out of the tent to find a sweet sight. Eight foot lines
exploding at Punta Palmilla (3 miles away), and then hitting in
succession Acapulquito, Old Man’s, La Roca, and Zippers with
machine-like consistency. Equally amazing was the sight of
Garrett being up this early in the morning (he’s a notorious
MID-morning sessioner). The sun wasn’t up yet, but the air was
85F, the water was 80F, and he was yipping uncontrolably like a mad
puppy. We waxed our boards (me 6’6″,G 6’8″ twinzers) and hiked
1 km to Zippers.
Surfing Zippers is remarkably simple. You paddle out
about 50-100 yards from the beach and wait. This part is not
so bad because of the warm water and the abundance of sea life,
some of which probably wouldn’t mind eating you. When a set
explodes at Punta Palmilla you know your in business. A big
wall comes. You turn around. You go. Any questions? As long
as you keep your lineup, you’re set cause every set wave breaks
the same – like a machine. The walls were 1.5-2X overhead and
fast, so there was no time for a bottom turn – half way
down the face you turn right and its off to the races! Working
the face for speed, your knees absorb the shock as the wave
humps with the backwash as you streak down the line – your
hand tinkling the wall behind you. After about 100 yards,
you’re at the sand and you kick out as the wave explodes onto
the sand in front of you. You paddle back out slowly, savoring
the memory of the ride, and the crowd hoots. Life is great!
(Multiply this by 20 and you have a Zippers session).
The other break I surfed was Old Man’s. Like all
breaks named Old Man’s, this wave was ideally suited for long
boards, with an easy takeoff and long walls well suited for
styling and trimming. Gretchen and Fiona went out here with
us and charged, although Fiona was slightly freaked by the
size (too much Del Mar and LJ Shores for her!), which reached 10′
(face) on the set waves. Of course I went out on my 6’6″ and
scored some sweet carving bottom turns on some set waves.
Hey, I enjoy outpaddling longboarders for set waves (okay,
so they’re outashape geezers)! I saw Gretchen catch the biggest
wave of her life going backside – easily double overhead on
her – and make it, proving once again she’s a total hellwoman!
Of course I can’t conclude this saga without
mentioning the return to Monuments (Garrett would kill me).
We decided to check it out during the height of the swell so
we drove over – sans the women who had said “no thanks”. We
got there and – surprise – it was huge. Big mysto walls
were coming in and threatening to close the whole place out.
They must have been 10-15′ faces easy. Garrett immediately
charged on his 7’6″(there was one guy out), and I said
“F***it, I’ll paddle out in anything” (this is my credo).
So I paddled out on my 6’6″ which is my only board save the
9′ longboard, which I would have used had I been Joel Tudor.
Well, I remember reading that Buzzy Trent and those guys
use to swim out (no fins) at inside Sunset on big swells
to practice getting pounded, and I think I know the feeling
now. I got caught inside on many 15′ sets, and I didn’t catch
any waves, but man what a rush! And hell the water was 80F!
I must say Garrett scored some sweeeet 15′+ walls, including
some Munga-esque drops and gnarly bottom turns. And to all
you doubters out there – the quad fin can handle the juice!
I eventually washed ashore and we were thoroughly stoked
surfing an epic swell on the first day of summer!
In summary, this was a sweet trip to an epic spot.
Except for Gretchen’s bout with a jellyfish at Old Man’s
and Garrett’s truck problems there were no major downers on
the trip. Good vibes were had by all, and we enjoyed meeting
cool people, such as: Ernie and his dad from Humbolt, the
guys from Monterey at Zippers, Luis the Mexican local, and
local surfbums Steve, Alex, Mariah, and Kelly. Cool company,
good vibes, and great waves. What more can you ask? Es todo.