Find Your Place: An East Coaster's First Baja Expedition

It's summer. It's Orange County – and it's the weekend. One has come to expect the crowded zoo that overtakes the oceanfront at each week's close, but there comes a time when enough is enough. A mixture of zinced-up kids with boogie boards and bleach-blond golden boys donning Volcom rash guards have occupied every nook and cranny of every surf break you have become even remotely familiar with, and you just want to find some sort of refuge from the scene. Residing in Orange County was probably your first mistake, but your solution might lie within the problem itself: you live in Orange County. Orange County rests conveniently about an hour and a half from Mexico, and Mexico hosts miles upon miles of empty lineups.

In Baja, red dirt creeps into mountainous horizons, and gaping cliffs overlook emerald waves. Sounds perfect…so why not place yourself somewhere within that frame? With a little bit of anxiety and a burning desire to experience a bare-bones, camp-out, cook-your-own-food style of surf trip, my buddy and I decided to do just that. Within a few hours we had loaded up the truck and were heading South – to Baja.

Being an East Coast transplant, I can't indulge in nostalgic memories of family trips to Baja common to so many San Diego natives. To me, Mexico is an intimidating foreign country full of barbed wire and merciless terrain. I don't know my way around, can communicate only marginally, and in my head thoughts of machine gun-toting Federales frequently swap places with visions of empty sunsets. Maybe that's a good thing – that feeling of discomfort, because no matter how familiar you are with Mexico – it's Mexico. If you're not with a surf camp or tour group, you're resourcefulness dictates your welfare (along with a little luck), and finding success in that causal relationship can be one of the most gratifying feelings on Earth.

As far as resources go, we zoomed across the Mexican border armed with a SURFER Travel report, a crappy map of Baja, and enough camping supplies to last about four days (courtesy of my Eagle Scout friend). Our tentative destination was a relatively well-known spot not too far South of Ensenada. The Travel report describes it as "a good right point break off rocky headland" filled with chop-reducing kelp beds. I would confirm that assessment if I could, but about 25 miles past the designated turn-off, we realized we were about 25 miles past the turn-off. We never even laid eyes on the place. So the trip, as all quintessential surf trips must do, evolved.

While darkness was really the only time that mattered, the Ford's clock read 10:30 PM, and neither of us had ever been South of Rosarito. Nightmares of worst-case scenarios crept into our heads, but we regrouped with a morale-boosting strategy session. The results: Check the map. Check the surf guide. Hit the next town, and figure out how to get to the closest beach using my broken Spanish.

Ten minutes later a bright-eyed young Mexican kid greeted us at a gas station. Looking at our distraught faces he chuckled and said, "Erndira? S. Sigue el calle casi veinte minutos al norte y dobla al izquierdo al seal. Es fcil."

My friend looked dejected, but I informed him of the good news. Erndira was the closest beach – about two hours South of our initial destination, and it turns out that the road leading there is one of the finest beach access roads in Baja – it's paved. A "Buenas noches" later, our truck swerved around back north, turning on the correct road to Erndira, and within minutes we were really in the middle of nowhere.