Photos: By Moonwalker
Words By: Steven Thomas
Standing beside myself as a surfer I find that I often ponder the fact that surfers will go to outlandish lengths and conditions in hopes (I’ll say it again) hopes of getting good surf. I mean sure, usually you don’t chase surf blind without knowledge of a promising storm coming towards the direction of the desired destination but still with all the technology and weather data that is accessible at a click of a mouse, I and many others that chase surf find themselves in some desolate destination in the far corners of the globe waiting for the “Promising “ swell to deliver.
This time I was an hour and a half by car off what could loosely be called a dirt road in the middle of the desert in Baja Mexico on day 4 just a few days away from Christmas. Alone I sat in the quite isolation apart from the peers, hoping Mother Nature wasn’t playing some cruel joke and denying my fellows and me the surf we desire so much. It dawned on me at that moment that only a surfer would enjoy this environment of arid region and sand with nothing to do but kick rocks and look for signs of swell. Realizing that clouds were coming on the horizon I decided to walk back to the campsite that was setup on a sand dune over looking the flat point to see if the storm had made any progress since I had been away (which was only and hour). I saw no signs of change — just a group of friends that were beginning to resent the fact that I talked them into spending Christmas away from their families to score some surf in Baja.
There was talk of accepting the fact that we had been defeated and that we should leave first thing in the morning. However the group conscience was not unanimous. My friend and longtime Baja veteran Dustin Franks and I were trying to the avert the mutiny by convincing the others with a speech that William Wallace himself would have been proud of: we should just hold tight and see what happens after the winds passed. As the clouds came closer the wind blew harder with no sign of significant swell and the decision to abandon are chase became harder and harder to contain. Luckily night was on our side so nobody could go anywhere anyways because anyone who’s traveled in Baja knows you don’t drive around in the desert in Mexico on rocky dirt roads in the dark unless your asking to stack your ride or worse, DIE. So all we had to do is convince the boys that we should stay for the low tide to just make sure the surf is not coming. We hoped we would be able to see some certain signs of the expected swell at first light and just let the ocean do the talking and dammit wouldn’t you know it she talked.
Day 5 had come with an early Christmas present of 4 to 6 foot sets with slight off shore winds. The grumblings of the group had changed and Dustin and I rubbed in our prediction a little as I started to whip up some breakfast. The tide in the morning was too high to surf so we had to wait until the late afternoon before the surf started to turn on. In the mean time we all just freaked out at every building high tide set that came in the vacant point. Hours of mind surfing went on in my head. I gazed at the long-awaited sets pumping through until finally enough water subsided to begin the compilation of hard earned surf. I ran out to be the first to catch one of the valued gems. I began my well-deserved session by kicking off the party with a set wave that invited me inside. However the wave was a little to fast still it was plenty open to strobe inside for a while in the time stopping womb we all know and love resulting in closing out and snapping my board. I didn’t care because Jed Noll who makes my boards had been kind enough to supply me with plenty of stunt-rides to do that three times over and believe me if that’s what it was going to take to get this job done so be it. By the time I grabbed another board all my friends were out in the line up each answering back with barrels of their own. I almost wanted to cry I was so F@%!#N happy. Not like a sad funeral cry more like a wedding cry or an “I won the lotto” cry. I did win the lotto; I was filthy rich with surf. Not only was I loaded with surf but also there were only four guys out including myself and they were the ones I brought.
Wave after wave I traded off from shortboard to longboard trying to benefit from all angles of this hallowed swell. I found myself laughing at my friends as they came out of the umpteenth barrel ride as I paddled back. During the intervals of the sets we would repeat over and over how we couldn’t believe how hard we were scoring. Slowly the sun began to drop and my body began to fail from exhaustion. The last wave that I caught was ridden in simple trim. As I stood straight up picking a high line through the majority of my ending wave I felt the satisfaction and self-esteem of setting out to attain some surf and pulling it off. I believe my friends felt the same since of true accomplishment as well.
Over the years, Neil and I have successfully (and happily) collaborated on articles for Pacific Longboarder, Australia. Here is the full article from Neil’s perspective, titled “Baja Bumbling”. Pacific Longboarder lost its U.S. Distribution and the good news is you can still purchase it at the following web address:
If anyone who comes across my blog is interested in distributing Pacific Longboarder in the states please contact them through the PLB website. The magazine is great and it should be in the United States.
P.S. At the end of the article there are some additional Moonwalker photos of me surfing that didn’t make it into the article. Neil has always been super cool about sending photos of me that he’s shot. So, thanks, Neil, for all your contributions; I am looking forward to next time.