Navigating Baja: Surrounded by Seas – Dispatch #6

Unknown surfer airs out of a wave near Todos Santos, Mexico; Photograph by Max Lowe
Unknown surfer airs out of a wave near Todos Santos, Mexico; Photograph by Max Lowe

What had been a slight swelling in the sea suddenly kicked up into a glassy wall of water overtaking the horizon line and cresting in white as it gained speed and proximity to the shoreline. The surfer turned with a single smooth pivot of board and body. He propelled himself with two strokes into the power zone of the perfect peeling wave as it began its pitch to the rocks. With graceful ease, the surfer, who undeniably knew this wave, slashed his board across the advancing face of water, gaining speed after each turn and cutting back before the surging whitewash caught his tail. With a quick cut he was suddenly airborne, suspended above the distant horizon for what seemed like a whole minute before returning to the sea and disappearing behind the crashing wave.

Mary, Austin, Hayden and Catherine check the surf near Todos Santos, Mexico; Photograph by Max Lowe
The crew checks the surf near Todos Santos, Mexico; Photograph by Max Lowe

We were on the Pacific Coast for some of the best surfing in Baja near the small town of Todos Santos. But just that morning, we had enjoyed a coffee as we watched the sunrise out of the Sea of Cortez on the East Coast of the Baja Peninsula. The tranquil waters of the Vermilion Sea, as the Sea of Cortez is also called, lapped quietly at the sand as if we stood on the edge of a mighty lake.

After a morning of paddleboarding, we had loaded our surfboards onto the roof of the car and headed West, charged with pipe dreams and thoughts of curling tubes. After a quick hour-and-half-long drive through hills and desert dotted with cactus throwing short shadows under the midday sun and lazy cattle trying to hide from the seething heat of the day, we found ourselves pulling up to a break just outside of Todos Santos. Pumping swell, breaking head high onto a point break was exactly what we had come seeking. With boards under arms, we took to the Pacific with delight.

The contrasting qualities of the West and East Coasts of Baja make the experience of this country incredibly unique. The Sea of Cortez side, with its shelter from the open sea provides a sanctuary for marine life protected from the constant chaos of breaking swell. The wild and wind blasted West Coast, from the tip at Cabo San Lucas to the California border, hosts some of the world’s most renowned point break surf waves. With ease we were able to experience both of these coasts and their bounties, as well as what the peninsula held between.

An abandoned beach on the coast near La Paz, Mexico; Photograph by Max Lowe
An empty beach on the coast near La Paz, Mexico; Photograph by Max Lowe

As the sun dipped low on the infinite Pacific skyline, our group of friends, with Tecates in hand, made our way out onto the rocky outcropping near Cerritos, just south of Todos Santos. The wind had turned and was now pushing huge, pitching waves to crash against the rocky outcropping and blast skyward showering the rocks around us in a mist aglow in the late afternoon sunlight. As we stood in silence letting the waves break around us, the world got smaller in the fading light. I recalled one of my favorite quotes about Baja, and one that I had experienced to be very true from Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck:

“Whatever it is that makes one aware that men are about is not there. Thus, in spite of the noises of waves and fishes, one has a feeling of… quietness.”

Read all the “Navigating Baja” dispatches.

The Adventurists blog series “Navigating Baja” is sponsored by OluKai, which provided footwear for this adventure.