By Alex Navarro - Originally published in Destino Los Cabos Magazine
I remember the first time I headed out to the Pacific side about 22 years ago when I arrived in Baja. I took a bus trip from Cabo San Lucas to the town of Todos Santos, and right after we left and we entered the Baja desert I was amazed by the all extensive carpet of Cardon cactus that I saw. To me, the Pacific side has a special vibe for many great reasons. The mix of the Pacific beaches and the desert landscape with the Sierra la Laguna that rises very close to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, makes it for a very wonderful experience. The area from the town of Elias Calles to Todos Santos (a 30 mile range aprox.), is considered a micro climate due to the special conditions that exist from the breeze and humidity of the Pacific Ocean and the mountain range that acts as a container for this semi-permanent mist that makes it fantastic for the organic agriculture industry in the zone. You will find the most amazing farm-to-table restaurants in the Pacific towns, which are Cerritos, Pescadero, San Pedrito, Todos Santos and Las Tunas. The people are very cool and friendly, the community has a lot of surfers, farmers, fishermen, musicians, chefs and all kinds of artists from all over Mexico and the world. It's a very charming place to visit. All the restaurants are great and there are fabulous boutique hotels too. To me, the must places to visit are Cerritos Beach and downtown Todos Santos, and of course if you happen to be a skater, the Pescadero Skate park is an awesome spot to go. Plus if the surf is down, this place saves the day for all surfers.
Main surf breaks on the Pacific
La Pastora - it has a sandy beach and rocky point with peaks. There are usually more right waves than lefts. Also, usually the best time is early morning before the wind starts. This beach is in Las Tunas town very near Todos Santos, which is about an hour north of Cabo San Lucas. This is not a beginner wave.
San Pedrito - round rock bottom break with mostly rights, but has a steep left tool. This wave is near the picturesque and agricultural town of Pescadero. When you arrive you will get a feel of Pacific island nature as you pass the tall grasses and coconut trees on the narrow corridor on the way to the beach. This is a very uncrowded beach and is an intermediate and advanced wave. It is a great spot for camping.
Cerritos Beach - this is the perfect spot to take surf lessons. The sand bottom beach offers the ideal wave for beginners and in the outer break the waves peak left and right, and also there is the pointbreak which has a large right on big days. The surf schools on the beach are all amazing so your experience is guaranteed no matter who you choose.
La Curva - a little south of Cerritos near the town of Migrino is La Curva. A lot of local surf contests are held there. This is a deep water right pointbreak with large rocks. Great camping site with very little people and surfers. Great wave, but for more advanced surfers.
Monuments - I would like to include this break on the list because it is located on the tip of the Baja Peninsula where the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez blend. It's straight across from the famous arch and it is an amazing left. It has a reef and rock bottom with many tricky large and small rocks on the entry. This spot is for intermediate and expert surfers. Monuments is one of my favorite waves because
Scorpion Bay - it is considered an iconic wave of the Pacific. This wave breaks about 300 miles north of Cabo in the small fishing village of San Juanico, and its is said to be the second longest wave on earth. When a big swell arrives and the conditions are perfect, the waves break at four points and rides can last well over a minute. Small days are great for beginner surfers too.
Taking a surf Lesson
Baja Sur has great surf instructors and surf schools that offer the best lessons and equipment. Some general suggestions prior to doing a surf lesson are to get a good night sleep, eat nutritiously and light, stretch or do yoga, and do a few squats, sit ups and push ups.
I am "goofy" which means I ride with my right foot forward and therefore face the face of the wave when it's going left. If you surf with your left foot forward that is called a "regular" surfer.
Basically, a surf lesson can be divided into three parts: ocean environment, theory and practice. In ocean environment you learn and go over the environment you will be surfing in. For example, type of surf break, wave and beach, swell and ocean conditions, entry channel to wave break, currents and rip tides, hazards, reefs and rocks, type of bottom, other surfers and their surfboards, and sea life in the area. In the theory part of the lesson you go over your equipment and its parts, and the actual theoretical surf lesson on land where things are explained. And in the practice part of the lesson, you perform some surfing techniques on land with board on the sand, then go in the water with your surf instructor, and try catching waves by doing what has been explained as you are assisted by your instructor. During a surf lesson you will go over the following points:
General safety: ocean environment. Learn about the beach you will surf and its potential hazards. Wave size, general conditions, type of bottom, currents, riptides, etc.
Know everything about your equipment and using it: learn the parts of a surfboard and practice some techniques on land so that you can control your surfboard in the surf. Check the condition of your leash.
Paddling technique: how to balance on a surfboard while paddling. Find your proper positioning when you paddle the surfboard from a belly down position.
Standing up on a surfboard: proper technique, take off, drop, riding stance, arm position, how to stop the surfboard in a controlled manner, how to dismount off your surfboard and how to fall off safely which is usually landing flat on the water (parallel to the water).
Turning the surfboard: how to complete single and multiple turns on the face of the wave from a standing up position by using the rails of the surfboard. Learning the Bottom turn.
Types of surf breaks: identify the types of surf breaks.
Identifying ridable waves and positioning to catch a wave in the best possible spot and time: learn to read a wave, learn to identify the peak, learn where to position yourself. Some parts of the wave are the peak, the face, the lip, the bottom, the back, the close out, the foam or white wash, the tube or barrel, the line, the doggy door, etc. Waves can be measured in feet or meters and are usually measured from the back side.
Sitting on a surfboard: how to turn the board from a sitting position in order to position yourself to catch a wave. Balance on your surfboard from a sitting position.
Paddling out into the line-up: read the surf break, know where to paddle out into the lineup (past the breaking waves), practice techniques for getting through breaking waves like the turtle dive. Know where the entry channel is.
Surfing etiquette: be able to identify who has priority, learn the priority system for riding waves, understand what to do when you don’t have priority, learning how to keep yourself and others safe.
Being a smart surfer: know your limits and be able to recognize conditions and/or surf breaks that are or are not suitable for your ability level.
To conclude I would like to share some interviews about the Pacific side surfing experience from some good friends that are surfers here in Baja, to inspire us to go catch some waves this season in the Pacific Ocean.
Excellent surfer Juan "Paisa" Ramos, brother of awesome surfer Carlos Ramos, told me the following on behalf of both of them: "One of the most beautiful things about the Pacific Ocean is its fresh breeze, its perfect waves, its warm people and its warm life. I remember growing up in the Pacific coast and getting my food from fishing and my fruits from the orchard. One of my favorite things its the winter waves. I also love its white sand beaches and tubular waves. When we were kids, my brother Carlos won a couple national championships and I was considered one of the best as well. We opened a surf school in Cerritos called CRT about 8 years ago and I am a lifeguard in Cerritos too, having trained in Huntington Beach California. In the past 15 years we have represented Baja Sur in many national contests. One of the coolest things about the Pacific is that we have waves all year. And don't forget that the first surfboard that we had when we first arrived in Baja, which Carlos won his first state tournament and was a big part of our surf beginnings here, was given to us by you Alex, ha ha !" Check out Carlos and Paisa in Cerritos and contact them in advance if you wish at their website CRTsurfschool.com
My good friend Kiara Spinelli also shared with us some of her awesome surf experiences: "I've had many great surf experiences in the Pacific side, and for sure one of my best surfing sessions has been at San Pedrito. We camped there and before surfing, looking at the sky, stars, campfire, and listening to the waves was amazing. Being by the fire was great and then I woke up with the sunrise, I saw the sun come out which was amazing and the sky was pink, orange and yellow colors, and I got up with the sun and then caught some very fun waves. They were maybe 3-5 foot. I surfed all day, and I saw a lot of people and friends as well. And that was a great experience. Another great experience was at La Curva. I was also camping and after surfing I climbed up the mountain that's beside the beach, and the sun was setting and the moon was coming up. So, in front of me looking at the ocean the sun is setting, and behind me a huge full moon was coming out from the mountains, super bright! I thought: wow! And then, as I start to look out into the ocean, I see whales starting to breach. It was a mother whale and her calf. She was teaching her baby how to breach. I felt very moved by everything that I was seeing. Nature and its beauty. It was a very magical moment and there were beautiful flowers around me. I am very grateful for that experience. Lastly, I had another super fun experience at Cerritos. The waves were about 7 feet and I was catching lots of waves, feeling all the adrenaline, super happy, super stoked. I caught some good ones! I love surfing the Pacific, it has a different energy, the waves are a bit more powerful, and it's also great that when you surf the Pacific this time of year you get to see the whales and dolphins, and sometimes you can even hear the whales. If you go underwater you'll hear them sing, it's truly beautiful! I love it."
See you in the waves! Have fun on the Pacific side!