A road trip with two vans, ten people, lots of gear, and nowhere to go. Simply put, Rip Curl had put together an excursion just before the U.S. Open in Huntington Beach and gathered five of the company’s top juniors from around the world. A talented young group with no idea which local destination would provide the best opportunity for surf and more importantly a decent-looking trip. We checked wave reports, called Surfline, and even prayed at the local church. After looking at everything, it came down to two places—Central California or Baja California in Mexico. Choices had to be made: angry locals or sketchy cops, fog or high clouds, south swell or northwest wind swell. We had options, but things like safety always need to be considered—two giant vans and ten people showing up at any break wouldn’t be welcomed—anywhere. After mulling over it, we finally decided to head down to Northern Baja for a good variety of breaks and an out-of-the-country experience.
We still had to get there. Gathering all our eggs in one basket wasn’t as easy as we thought. I mean, we were all in California—we were just interspersed throughout two counties. Brian Toth, a Puerto Rico native, was in San Diego having recently returned from a hell trip to Fiji where he got skunked. Ben Dunn and the Rip Curl film guys came all the way from Australia, but stayed in Huntington Beach. They also had Simon Marchand from France, and Jean De Silva from Brazil staying with them.
Kekoa Bacalso arrived in California fresh off a third place in the six-star Mr. Price Pro in South Africa. For a seventeen year old, or anyone for that matter, making a six-star final is one of the toughest things to do—especially after advancing eight rounds.
“I was trying to make the round of 64, said a surprised Bacalso. “After that, I didn’t have any pressure on myself and went out to surf. When you’re his age you just want points for a better seed next year, but after only a couple comps, midway through the season he’s number 40 in the ratings.
With a 6,000-dollar check in his wallet, he came to California to wait for the trip. The trip plans were up in the air so he went back to Hawai’i and found out the next day he had to come back to California. Hunted down by Team Manager Scott “Pod Banuelos, Kekoa flew back to the mainland a day later than we were intending to leave—at least we left.
Personally, I refused to drive in Mexico because I’m a f—kin’ chickenshit and the roads are sketchy—you can’t f—k around. Drunks, trucks, and dirty cops—there’s a lot of things that can ruin your life with one simple drive down the coast. Even if it isn’t your fault, you can still be made responsible and find yourself in a nasty-ass jail. The trick is to stay on the toll roads, drive the speed limits, and stay inconspicuous (boards on the roof are like easy-money targets for dirty cops). Luckily, we made it with zero problems.
After settling into our confines, we all did our own thing. The first thing Pod did was call home on a pay phone adjacent to a nearby road. Talking to his lady back home, all of a sudden he heard a car skid out and the sound of it smashing into pieces seconds later. In a rush to hang up, Pod said, “Sorry, baby, there was just an accident, I gotta go. Together with a nearby security guard, he rushed over to a smoking car with tinted windows. As he opened the door, he had no idea what he would find.
After veering off the road, for some reason or another, the car lost control. Both people in the car, a man and a woman, weren’t wearing seatbelts. Pod expected the worst, but lucky for the victims, the air bags went off. “Is there anyone in back, he asked the man. The woman slipped in and out of consciousness and the security guard tried keeping her awake—Pod wasn’t sure if they were dying or not. Smoke, engine parts, people in absolute misery, there wasn’t anything that could be done.hat’s the sketchiest part of all, the fact no help was coming and took twenty minutes to get there.
What bothered Pod more was that he was in charge of a group of young guys that could’ve been walking across the road to the store last night. What if one of them was hit? In the dark, he joined the cops and security guards and searched for possible victims.
After a couple days the crew began to mesh and grow more comfy with each other. The more time they spent with each other the more they threw out comments about each other’s mothers, personal hygiene, or home country. The quiet and reserved began to show their true colors. The most amusing relationship was the one between the Brazilian Da Silva and Frenchman Marchand. They loved to mouth off to each other, but the shitty thing was you couldn’t tell if they were serious or not. Marchand would get all hot under the collar and Da Silva would egg it on.
As for waves, the Southern Hemisphere blew some hints of swell at us, but we spent pretty much every morning driving around in a lost sort of way. The sun would play hide-and-seek until the late afternoon. Although it’s a Southern California/Mexico weather phenomenon called “June gloom because it’s just in June, we were in the middle of July, and the morning clouds normally associated with it were still around.
We also tried to find new spots we didn’t know about because exploring isn’t really exploring until you take side roads. What about the places you can’t see? You know, the other side of the empty fields. Baja, in fact it seems like everywhere around the world, people take the easy road and you can’t help but wonder what really lies off the beaten path.
We had heard about one spot, searched for it, and finally found a mythical left past Ensenada. The problem was, it was scary as shit getting to it. It presented a challenge because the road/trail down bordered on insane. It’s wasn’t like an unused road or anything, it was just super steep, filled with ruts, and more suited for the Baja 500 off-road race.
Off the side it was sheer cliff. Our rental vans were taller than wider—basically ready to tip over. The boys were crapping themselves. It’s probably the scariest road in Baja that’s used fairly often. Yeah, we made the journey, saw it was small, pictured Boogie-boarders slashing our tires, and turned around.
The way back up was even worse. You could gun it, but there was a chance you’d be bucked off the side. In our van, Pod made the boys sit in back for rear weight so the back wheels would grab. We watched as the first van pulled it and Pod amped up to charge it. After making it, we hollered as if we’d just escaped a twenty-foot set wave on the head. Seriously, if you look in the rear-view mirror going up, all you see is ocean.
That was definitely a bonding moment, but after about the fifth day, the anatomy of our trip took on a nasty feel. When work, or surfing, wasn’t getting done because of gloomy weather, the natives got restless, and no one seemed happy.
On the sixth day, we all wanted celebrate Kekoa’s eighteenth birthday. What did he do? He slept all day. We waited for the sun and surfed near a power plant in Rosarita Beach, but the “July gloom (morning clouds) stayed locked down most of the day.
At dusk, the first celebratory beer was cracked. After a couple brews, some heckles, and showers, we went to Puerto Nuevo for some of it’s famous lobster burritos followed up by a visit to a nearby club. More drinks and one demolished Hello Kitty piñata later, the kid was no longer a kid and his big day was over.
Kekoa’s birthday was supposed to be the biggest day for surf. It wasn’t. The seventh day eventually turned it on. Not only did the heavens open up, but the waves turned on. Somebody switched the switch. Everyone was content, and to celebrate we went to Mexican McDonald’s.
You know the saying, “When in Rome do as the Romans. When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans. For us, we went where the little punks begged us to. For three days in a row we went somewhat out of our way for McDonald’s or as they like to say “Macca’s. Instead of sampling the great cuisine of the area, “the athletes frothed over the place—they couldn’t get enough. I don’t know what it was, but they were simply addicted. On the same trip last year to Panama, all Clint Kimmins and Travis Lynch could talk about was f—king Macca’s.If the group had a choice they would have chosen a Big Mac over a lobster burrito—what has the world come to? As the eighth day wore down, we came to the realization we didn’t get the epic Northern Baja we wanted or know. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ves were thrown out, but the grass is always greener on the other side. The youngsters got waves, enjoyed some new spots, and most of all took down a Big Mac or four.
as the Romans. When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans. For us, we went where the little punks begged us to. For three days in a row we went somewhat out of our way for McDonald’s or as they like to say “Macca’s. Instead of sampling the great cuisine of the area, “the athletes frothed over the place—they couldn’t get enough. I don’t know what it was, but they were simply addicted. On the same trip last year to Panama, all Clint Kimmins and Travis Lynch could talk about was f—king Macca’s.If the group had a choice they would have chosen a Big Mac over a lobster burrito—what has the world come to? As the eighth day wore down, we came to the realization we didn’t get the epic Northern Baja we wanted or know. Could’ve, should’ve, would’ves were thrown out, but the grass is always greener on the other side. The youngsters got waves, enjoyed some new spots, and most of all took down a Big Mac or four.