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January 06, 2011

The Real Baja

"Exploring off the grid in Baja with a crew of Coronado and Imperial Beach surfers"

By: Serge Dedina

From January 5, 2011, Coronado and Imperial Beach surfing columns

My first trip to "real" Baja—the area south of El Rosario—was in 1979 at the age of 15. Tim Hannan and I loaded up my father's 1964 six-volt VW camper van with surfboards, camping supplies, shovels and an old bicycle.

On the way into the fishing village of Santa Rosalillita, 400 miles south of San Diego, the van broke down.

My father grabbed the bicycle we brought along and rode in search of help. Hours later he returned in the back of an old Fort LTD filled with a fisherman and his family. The car paused briefly to permit Dad to inform us he was hitching a ride to Guerrero Negro, two hours south, to look for a mechanic.

As the sun set and the desert sky came alive with stars, Tim and I grabbed my German shepherd Pippin and locked the van doors and waited. We were scared.

Dad finally returned with a mechanic who fixed our problem the Baja way—with an old sock, some motor oil and a rusty wrench and screwdriver.

After that I have always made it a practice to be prepared for the worst that Baja can throw at you.


On Dec. 26, the boys and I left our house at 3:45 in the morning on our way south to Baja. The 4x4 Tacoma was loaded with shovels, gas cans, camp chairs, my homemade canvas wind shelter, tents, the Baja atlas, seven surfboards, a homemade Alaia, and a satellite phone.

Our destination was the southern end of the Central Baja coast, which WiLDCOAST is working to conserve through private land purchases and conservation easements. So far we have conserved more than 20 miles of coastline.

John and Mikhail Tolmosoff and Island Surf's Joe Cowan accompanied us. The Holder brothers, Thomas, John, and Will also joined the convoy.

More than 11 hours later we arrived at the beach and set up our camp. The surf was flat.

The surf picked up the following morning. Over the next three days we surfed small perfect point waves, hiked the empty coast, tracked osprey as they cruised overhead, enjoyed stunning sunsets, and spent the evenings huddled around the campfire.


"Even though the surf was small," said my youngest son, Daniel, 12, "the water was crystal clear and I loved exploring the point. Especially since we found a cool sea cave."

One afternoon we cleaned about six large plastic garbage bags of debris from an old fish camp dump. The Holders brought the bags back in their van.

"What a fantastic trip to a beautiful and pristine area in Baja with fun little longboard waves," said John Holder, who was on a break from his Peace Corps duty in the Dominican Republic. "It's always refreshing to go south and find some peace in Baja."


The launch party for my new book, Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias, will be on Saturday, Jan. 29, from 6-8 p.m. at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor's Center. For more info, contact

Since the beach is closed due to lots of Tijuana River runoff I'll see you in the water somewhere north.

Serge Dedina is the executive director of WiLDCOAST.

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