The day started like every other day of surfing we’d had since I landed in Encinitas -- wake up, make coffee and eat a SANS, stretch, start to gather the boards and wetsuits…but today our gear list has a few extra items. Tent, sleeping bags, cooler, camp stove, and oh yea -- passport.
I’ve been staying with my close friend, Chris -- a long-time brother and fellow photographer/creative. We get to see each other every few months, but my love for climbing and Chris’ love for surfing tend to put our respective home bases in different parts of the country -- my heart is in the mountains, his is with the sea. But I’m in his world now and my desire to spend more time surfing is finally being fulfilled. We spent the past few mornings at Grandview, a little Encinitas break that’s friendly enough to accommodate a mountain goat like myself as he gets his feet wet again, but today we’re going a little further.
Our friend Jay shows up with a slightly tired smile after sleeping through his alarm, but he wasn’t going to miss this adventure. Chris pours Jay a little coffee and we start to load up the trucks. We give some final double-checks and start heading South down the 5.
Coming from the heavily developed coastlines of California, the scene reminds me of one of those sailboats in a bottle -- a scene from another time, immaculately constructed and protected by some invisible veil. This must have been what the Southern California coastline looked like 100 years ago.
We pull around the village and into the “campground”. There are no designated camping sites -- no fire rings or signs with the “campground rules”. Just a small smattering of tents and vans perched along the cliffs overlooking the sea.
But the wind is whipping so we take a hint from a clever camper and nestle our trucks as far up as possible against a small hill some forty feet back from the cliffs. Even with this slight reprieve, the wind still laughs at our attempts to set up our hilariously large tent, but it’s no matter. The sun is starting to get golden and surfboards are calling our names -- setting up camp can wait.
As we start to think about making a fire, we notice our neighbor, a middle aged elementary school teacher named Alan, already has a pretty good one going. Alan had given us a little bit of info on the area when we got there and invited us to come by to hang out later, so we walk over and take him up on it.
Shortly after settling in and getting into conversation, it becomes pretty clear that this is not Alan’s first rodeo in Baja. In fact, outside of his weekend jaunts, he makes a yearly pilgrimage to Scorpion Bay, taking a couple days to drive south from Encinitas through nearly 700 miles of Baja, stopping to surf wherever is looking good. It’s his happy place. “Even my wife knows I need this”, he jokes. We spend the rest of the night sharing stories and laughs as our little renegade fire whirrs and pops in the wind until our pile of wood is gone. We all sign off with a little stumble and crawl into the back of the trucks, happy and content with an arguably epic day. As I fall asleep I feel some gratitude that there are some “Alan’s” out there -- still in touch with the spirit of adventure.