By Kyle Hargrave
It's nearing the end of summer and I am already sick of friends and acquaintances telling me of their jaunts and gallivants. Normally I am not a bitter man, but as it goes, I have fallen asunder to all work and no play...so I glance at my work schedule and then at my bank account to assess the viability of a holiday reprieve. The situation is bleak to say the least. With less than a thousand dollars of semi-disposable funds, and less than two weeks of arguably free time, I begin to lose hope. As the fiery red summer sun sets, my Blackberry rings, beeps, vibrates, scratches and claws for my attention. With the resolve of an inmate sentenced to life without parole, I hit the off button on the phone, pull out my old stained map of Baja and commit myself to an escape plan.
As a surfer born and raised in San Diego, Baja has always been the grass, that is not only greener, but thicker, softer, and all around more inviting. For those of us who have continued to frequent the beaches of Baja throughout Tijuana’s "dark-ages," Baja’s grass just keeps on getting greener so to speak. Yet the crowds have not reappeared, a situation that is more than comforting for surfers - those individuals who sometimes seem to be a bit agoraphobic when it comes to surfing. Thus, when planning my surf getaway with a very limited time frame and an even more modest budget, destination Baja were the words that I found falling from my lips.
My kitchen table is in a state of disarray. Surf guides, maps, swell charts, a laptop, and old surf journals are assembled in organized chaos. I feverishly draw lines, calculate driving times, check miles and cross reference with gas stations, then I take a deep breath as my surf destination begins to reveal itself. The exact number of rideable surf spots on the coast of Baja is still unknown. The number of known surf spots is immense, and of those known, more than a few are described as world class. An old article from a surf magazine crosses my mind...something about a wave being ranked, by those considered in the know, 36th best wave in the world. I remember hearing tales of this wave as child; stories of a wave taking on mythical characteristics, a wave like no other, a wave that is said to break for miles. A wave notoriously called Scorpion Bay.
The internet has simplified travel in some ways and has made it more complex in others. The blogs highlighting the preferred route to Scorpion Bay have more contradictions than consistencies. Some individuals speak of three roads to get to San Juanico, the closest fishing village to Scorpion Bay. Other bloggers tell of two roads, while some are adamant that there is only one road worth taking. However, anticipation consumes my desire for further planning; thus, without answering another email I pack up the map, the tent, the dog, the girlfriend and throw the boards on top of the car. Locked and loaded I feverishly begin the descent South.
With competing opinions of bloggers wreaking havoc in my mind, I finally narrow my route down to two options: I can brave the North Road, ignore the suggestions for four wheel drive and warnings of immobilizing sand flats, or I can embark on the South Road – paved and relatively stress-free. As San Ignacio approaches I realize the need for a decision is eminent, one that will either make or break the trip. The North Road, the short cut, is filled with mystery and danger, to take this road and arrive successfully would amount to sizable bragging rights and an inflated ego. However, the sex-appeal of the North Road could end my trip as quick as it started. When it comes to Baja surf trips, I have over the years learned the hard way, and so I acquiesce to the old saying, better be safe than sorry.
Its about 5:00 p.m. and I am about 15 minutes outside of Mulegé. My eyes are red and my legs are cramping from the 13 hours of driving. By this time the girlfriend is showing symptoms of cabin fever and the dog is staring at me with pleading eyes. Signs for Hotel Serendad catch my attention, and my desire for some much needed serenity guides me to the front desk. The hacienda style hotel turns out to be an excellent choice. The amenities and recreational activities offered at the hotel tempt me to extend my stay. Specifically, the diving options are most alluring, reminding me of Jacques Cousteau and his description of the Sea of Cortez as the "aquarium of the sea."
With the prospect of surf on the horizon, we leave Mulegé bright and early, and find myself awe struck as the morning sun crests over the aqua green waters of Bahia Concepcion. Five hours after leaving Mulegé and 17 hours outside of Tijuana we finally arrive at our destination. What I find does not disappoint. An empty right hand point break with waves that appear to have no end. Unfortunately, the line-up did not stay empty for long. Within minutes a group of 4, then another group of 3, and then 2 more surfers all with 10 foot boards trickle into the water. Before I know it the empty line-up has turned into what looks like a Sunday morning in one San Diego’s overcrowded surf-breaks. Come to find out, that San Juanico is home to about 400 expatriates, all with one thing in common, a love affair with the surfing.
Scorpion Bay consists of four different right-hand point breaks, each with distinct qualities. All four points are seasonal, coming alive with strong south swells arriving most consistently during summer months. The first two points harbor long stretches of beaches and camping. The two points furthest from San Juanico are more exposed to the open ocean and tend to have bigger waves. Not long after arriving, a seasoned Scorpion Bay surfer tells me the unthinkable...on the right tide, with the right swell, all four points can merge together and become one cohesive super wave, capable of lasting for miles on end. This surfer, self-proclaimed Scorpion Bay historian, continues to relay tales of days where the surf was so good that just one wave could change the rest of your life.
For the next week I do nothing but indulge fresh fish, cool sea breeze and clean surf. The waves are as good as I imagined; even better than the tales I heard as a boy. I begin to forget about my cell-phone and the endless list of menial tasks. The planning, the drive, the destination, have all come together in beautiful harmony. My skin is tight, sun crisp and salty; my body aches from countless hours of surfing; my belly is full; my face tattooed with a stupid grin. As another summer sunset descends into a bruised Baja skyline, I take a sip of my frosty cold Mexican beer and muse over the excursion...this little trip to a small fishing village home to an increasingly popular wave...this expedition Baja can only be described by one word-EPIC.