The Beast of Baja
Simply put, Baja is a beast. A beast made of thirst, adventure, and risk. Crossing into Mexico is nothing short of abrupt. The cute, cookie cutter lifestyles of Southern California fade away as shanties, bumpy pot-holed roads, and a smell that you know is something so foreign that you hesitate to try and ask what. If I were to associate the border of Baja from California with a body part, the border is without a doubt the mouth of the beast. And once you survive the first bite, you can’t help but battle its breath and follow along its dry bumpy roads. Because there is a silver lining, there are waves deep within this beast.
The fake police, corrupt government, and the outrageously spicy peppers aren’t the only law enforcement hurtles to get through to find these waves. Shortly after the culture shock kicks in and you slowly get accustomed to the way of Baja, a new barrier has made its presence and demands respect. The army of cacti is humbling. The towns slowly begin to fade away becoming nothing more than gas stations and taco stands. Soon enough you are deep within the heart of the beast, the desert.
Trying to find surf is similar to what I would think blood cells do in our body. Bouncing from one vein to the next, then alternating their path more coastal and jumping on an artery. These arteries however, are rarely paved. For what is known as the, “Mexican Massage,” the small ruts in these dirt roads make for teeth chattering, eyeball shaking, door rattling buzz, reminiscent to what could only be described as the worst agave hangover of all time. The odometer was set, but no one believes it for how long 10 miles seem to take. Exhausted at the hours spent digging because the car got stuck in what could only be described as moon dust. And after the outrageous amounts of effort laid forth, the car finally rattles up a hill to look down upon a shimmering mirage.
The road continues on, however the ocean is now present. And after a long day of driving down the veins and arteries of this beast, its extremities reveal a gift worth it all, waves. Perfection sculpted by sand blown directly into the ocean from strong winds and large polar storms. Everyone gets out of the car as the latest set rolls through. Untouched, unworried, graced by our presence and showing all that’s in store for our arrival. Wetsuits couldn’t be put on fast enough; boards couldn’t be finned and waxed without missing a spot or not getting the screws on tight enough. However once all has been accomplished, with camp still to be set up, you forgot your leash back at the car. But as the friend that sat in the passenger seat the entire trip begins to drop into the first wave of the trip and gets completely slotted across the sand in front of you, begging you to ask the question if it’s worth the effort to go back to the car and get it.
The offshores weren’t the only thing to leave a burn on our faces after a welcoming gift as such. The sunscreen may have been forgotten to be put on too. But with the awkward run up the beach without stepping on a muscle shell to the car and wind block to change, a few of the beers from the latest gas stop have been cracked and the deadest of yucca and other desert plant life is gathered for a burn. The tents are getting put up and tied down as the offshores haven’t decided to calm yet. Chips and salsa have been opened, and like this desert, it dried out rather quick. The third and fourth beers begin to go down as perhaps the alcohol caused a neck roll with the comfort of leaning back to look up at the sky. A desert sky with no ambient light for miles, to shine over us in thousands of tiny shimmers. One of the beasts most underrated gifts. The beers keep going back, some agave is passed around, and some of the barrels ridden are now told into unfathomable depth. A winning situation for all parties involved.
The morning hours are greet with cracked lips, tight skin, sand all throughout the sleeping bag, and the potential for something painful waiting in your shoe if not checked. But you curl back the rain fly of the tent and witness something unbelievable. The ocean is onshore and flat. You wonder if you’re still drunk from the night previous or if dehydration has caused you to hallucinate, but everything you thought the forecast was, seems to be rather short lived. So coffee gets poured, conversations of relocation seem possible, however they shouldn’t be taken.
The beast is fickle, otherwise it wouldn’t be a beast. But this is the opportunity to take in the desert life. Not to abandoned what you scored the night previous. Patience is the biggest game to win over Baja. And with the fishing rods that were questionably packed, now excitingly rigged and casted out with cracked open muscle attached. A day nap in the shade with the odor of sunscreen, body odor, and cooked beach life in the natural oven, and what appears to be an absolutely awful lay day. The flies are everywhere and the heat of the day really begins to skyrocket. The mid day sun seems to be at its all time high, but suddenly there is a change.
The back of our necks felt a slap of air. Our hats had to be held on to as suddenly there are gusts of wind coming strait offshore and directed at the ocean. The sea begins to show texture different than it has all day. Then slowly, that knee to waist high onshore lumpy wave, turns into a waist high off shore barreling pointbreak. Again, with the same hurry of the night previous.
Countless offshore foam balls roared down the point, flying past our tents unridden. The length of session goes from just an hour or two into a 4-5 hour conveyor belt of waves. Every single, “last wave in,” turned out to be better than the one previous, begging you to stay and catch another. You turn around to see your friends paddling back out after arguing with themselves about going in just like you, and nothing but the most open and arid landscape with a few yucca on the cliff above the beach and the last unridden wave rolling though the inside with plumes of spray skyrocketing upward from the winds.
The sun rolls down its window and collects the last couple breathes of wind before the sun departs for the day. The orange glow on the horizon indicates the daylight is coming to a close. Clouds are hardly present unless a storm is predicted. The winds continue to blow and unlike earlier, instead giving an uncomfortable chill down your spine, begging to get changed out of the wetsuit, and into some comfy warm clothes. Again, the driest of nearby desert life that was uncollected the night previous is now being used. The beers are cracked, the agave is being passed around, and the wave tails continue. But there is a deadline.
Waves sadly in Baja do not last forever. In fact, getting skunked in Baja seemed to be the tail of the campfire before the trip departed. But patience, hope, and agave all persevered to make it into the greatest score of your life. But the beast always has a plan to get rid of you. It without a doubt has some of the most delightful cuisine on this planet. But that could simply be its greatest downfall.
The beast is infected with what is know as, ”Montezuma.” The slightest drop of water, unwashed apple, or the undercooked Al Pastor are all brewing away inside of you. Camp is completely packed up, the mood is somber because we all know that it had to come to an end eventually, and you are completely pale. The drive ensues, but that stomach is still churning and grinding, gurgling and boiling. With no bathroom anywhere in sight, Montezuma attacks. The car gets screeched to a halt in the middle of the desert. One sprints out into the desert to hide behind a cacti and explode what could only be described as the worst diarrhea one has ever had.
With several hours left on this battle of sitting awkwardly with the latest fart coupled with the bumpiest road of all time, the forgotten military checkpoints are thorough and plentiful on the way back. Standing there simply dancing the dance of Montezuma, quietly cursing under your breath as the inspection seems to be more inspected than usual. But with these hurdles out of the way, the beast still has its last trick to make the drive even longer; its teeth and the border crossing.
With what has to be one of the worst borders on the planet, or so it seems, the Tijuana crossing is the most unpredictable for getting through in a timely order. You can cross on a holiday and get through in five minutes, or simply cross on a Tuesday in the middle of the week and wait four hours. But I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than to say that the beast is no different than anyone of us. Our thirst and hunger differ nearly daily and so does the beasts. But for those that are hungry and patient enough, the beast will happily reward you, just after a few bathroom stops.