Some people say that all well executed adventures begin with a PLAN: for most that involves weeks, often months of planning, preparation and organization. For most surfers, the same adventure whether well executed or not, begins with a swell and this means pre-organization and pre-preparation is a crucial part of the entire process. Being in the northern hemisphere surf zone, having a week notice for winter swell is a luxury, typically 3-5 days is the norm: in this case Monday was the call, Wednesday was the departure.
On the road
Traveling south of the US border is an adventure of it’s own, no matter what the destination is. While avoiding night driving only reduces a portion of the risk associated with narrow roads filled with very large trucks, the abundance of blind turns and blown out guard rails on steep mountain curves are a sobering sign of what has happened and could happen at any moment. Traveling deep into Central Baja gives you plenty of time to talk about trips past and present, analyzing all possibilities of wind, tide, swell, crowds, military checkpoints, drunk drivers…beer, food and ice supplies. One thing remains the same, the desert will always be as beautiful as it is dangerous, no matter if this is your first, second or twentieth trip: needless to say, common sense, a little respect and patience are just as important as a good variety of surfboards.
Our vans travel to Baja!
Desert point breaks are a good thing! When the nearest town is a gas tank away, this usually means less people, but it also means you are basically on your own: if you need it, you bring it – if you need help, you are on your own. There are always basics that need to be included to make camp: water, food and shelter – the rest are extras that make life in the middle of nowhere just a bit more tolerable and every trip, that list grows.
Yes, it happens, sometimes you have the spot all to yourselves and this can be a good thing, depending on your point of view, the surf(or lack of), the whole sharing is caring thing but in this case, the destination was not completely off the map and depending on the time of year, the lineup could look like any neighborhood break in suburbia, packed and frustrating. As it was, we picked an off season swell and found only a hand full of surfers, all there for the same reason…good surf, good vibes, good stories.
All swells are different…direction, size, period, clean or disorganized, etc., and we knew that there was swell in the water, that the tides would be good. We also knew that there would be some strong winds and even though the breaks are somewhat wind protected, you always want it to be perfect. The swell did come in, as well as the winds and although the swell peaked on the wrong tide, there was more than enough “that one was worth the trip” waves to make the trip, well….worth it!
The rule in Baja, expect the unexpected and the more you prepare for what will come, the less frustration it is in the end. This trip was somewhat uneventful but not with out some stories: pulling half a screwdriver out of a flat tire, not so bad…having two dirt bikes practically fall off a joe-hauler on the night ride in, finding out they were DOA in the morning, along with a busted back window, a bit more dramatic.
For a photographer, a bag of new equipment on a trip is like traveling with a new quiver of boards, the anticipation of working with new glass, a new body and the unique natural lighting of the desert is a good thing. Only time behind the lens, just like feet in the wax on long point break waves, lets you know if the time and investment paid off. I’ll be honest, I made the film to digital switch a long time ago but the time between then and now was a bit long…but as they say, “better late then never”. What I will say is that I made the right choice. and the combination of an amazing full frame sensor along with the most amazing natural lighting, day and night, guaranteed at least a few keepers.
Back on the road
Packing up after days of surf, sun and beers is always bitter sweet! Finding out just how much the sand, dust and dirt seems to penetrate their way into every crack and crevice of vehicle and personal items is only the beginning of the return north, finding that last 6 pack of cold beer is the bonus. Like most trips, the danger lies in transit, the unknown of what lies around the next corner, the fine line of control in an notoriously uncontrollable landscape…but driving away from a fading swell seems to make it a bit easier every time.
Anytime you travel outside of your comfort zone, an adventure awaits, turning negatives into positives insures a memorable experience. Traveling with a Baja experienced pilot – well tested vehicles and equipment, seems to help out a little too.