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 4x4, 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, and the author of Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.