Many thanks to Jen Kleck and Jake Stachovak of Aqua Adventures for flying me in to coach in San Diego at the Southwest Kayak Symposium . This was my first time teaching in Southern California and it was good to make acquaintance with a number of people that I have corresponded with, including members of the Greenland-style community such as Duane Strosaker and others. I taught a mix of both Greenland-style skills and “Euro” skills using a narrow Greenland paddle. Kudos to Jen for understanding that these skills are not mutually exclusive. I enjoyed the students in all of my classes!
Symposiums, for those on the “circuit”, is akin to being part of a diverse, entertaining and sometimes, …..well…, gloriously dysfunctional family. It is amazing to travel over the world and share the experience with a collection of special friends. The catch, of course, is that you don’t see these friends very often, but that is partially what makes the experience so special. Fellow Floridian and paddling buddy Russell Farrow, of Sweetwater Kayaks (Clearwater, Florida), was there, along with Nigel Foster, Steve Maynard, (born to be wild) Phil Hadley, Tom Bergh, Sean Morely and a number of other colorful characters.
Following the symposium a number of us assembled a rag-tag convoy of kayaks and gear and headed south. We pushed past the noise and chaos of Tijuana on our way to La Bufadora in Baja, Mexico, a small tourist town located about 17 miles south of Ensenada, at the end of the Punta Banda peninsula. We saw no sign of the recent violence, probably due to the fairly heavy military presence. Along the Transpeninsular highway were a number of checkpoints manned by troops in full battle regalia including Hummers outfitted with machine guns.
The roadside taco and tamale stands were fantastic and extremely inexpensive. We stopped in Ensenada for critical supplies (…meaning Negro Modelo cerveza) and soon afterward rolled into La Bufadora. Our camp, on a high bluff, overlooked a fabulous rock garden close to “the Blowhole”, one of the largest in the world and capable of spewing water 80 ft above sea level. A blowhole, or “marine geyser” is produced when the ocean swell pushes water into a sea cave and is compressed with air drawn down a natural “pipe” from the surface, the result of a pumping action caused by the receding water of the previous swell. The air/water mix has nowhere to go, is compressed and explodes, accompanied by a tremendous roar, “BUUUUUUUUUUUUUSH”, sounding ominously like coming from a gigantic beast trapped inside the cave.
Our time in Baja was spent playing in rock gardens, sea caves and pour-overs during the day, relaxing in the sun, and sampling the local spiced tequila at night. One “interesting” incident for me was a result of mistiming the swell. I was in my kayak behind a saddle-shaped rock encrusted with razor-sharp mussel shells, waiting for a suitable surge to carry me over. Finally I felt the bottom drop beneath me and I sprinted forward, expecting the following surge to carry me clear. The expected surge didn’t materialize and my bow grated against hard rock and shell. I came to rest with my bow hanging well over the rock and perched at a precipitously steep angle. The water receded and with nothing to brace against, I capsized. I was high and dry and fully tucked forward. I again waited for a suitable surge in this very awkward position, my body only inches away from the mussels. Very soon a large swell lifted the kayak, I rolled up, and was carried clear — fortunately without my body touching either rock or shells!
One hilarious highlight one evening was Phil Hadley taking over the microphone at the local bar (Phil was once the lead singer for a rock band), and Russell Farrow, on lead guitar, jamming with the house band to a very energetic (not to mention profane) version of “Born to be Wild”. Words just can’t describe it….
If you get the chance to go to Baja, go! The desert climate is fantastic, the paddling is superb and the tequila — well, I’ll leave that one for you to decide…