Of Surf and Ceramic Monkeys II

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

The recent act of turning down a dirt road brought back memories of Baja. Memories of surf, but of other things too. Of campfires, washboard ruts, Federales, questionable taco stands, close calls, tarantula hawks, trippy-looking cacti, blistering heat, watery feces, fly swarms, flat tires, sandy tents, hospitable locals, lobster for trade, rain squalls, bribe strategies, panga rides, and ceramic monkeys.

Like warm urine in a fresh wetsuit, it all came flooding back.

The welcome delight of these peripheral, non-surf memories made me realize that for a California surfer, going to Baja is less about finding waves than I thought. It's more about finding an alternate universe. About the possibility of getting into a vehicle and driving yourself and your friends from one world to a very, very different one.

Further down the road, I picked up a whiff of something. I couldn't quite identify it, but then I realized why: it was a combo smell of some sort. Maybe boat gas and burning trash and tamales. Maybe not. But it was definitely a Baja smell, an odorous reminder of things past: tequila chased, scorpions blowtorched, mahi panfried, Bullfrog smeared, beans digested, carburetors flushed.

It is with this sensory driven nostalgia that I recently dug through my files and selected some lesser and non-published photos to post on this blog. Maybe not the best photographs, but treasured moments just the same.

Only in Baja can an abandoned, ablaze VW van seem normal. Photo: Gilley

Read instructions carefully: A found-on-the-side-of-the-road Baja security baton left us in stitches. Photo: Gilley

The old days: A twenty-story condo tower now stands in this exact spot.

Just one solid tube at Razors can make an apocalyptic fly swarm seem trivial. Photo: Gilley

Mark Cobb and Roscoe turn a thigh-high day into a memorable session. Photo: Gilley

Having the right tool for the job is the key to maximizing your Baja surf experience. Photo: Gilley