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BAJA "Sessions"

Kathy and Roger Nightingale

The following is an account of our experiences on the Baja Peninsula in the Spring of 1993. We had originally written this up for a friend, but it has evolved over time in response to "baja info" requests on rec.windsurfing. So, we figured we'd put into html form as a learning exercise. We have only been there twice, so this is by no means a comprehensive guide. But if you are a neophyte Baja windsurfer, you might find some useful information on this page.


General Info

On our first trip, we spent 7 weeks living out of a full size Ford cargo van, which got us anywhere we wanted to go. We sailed 21 out of 45 days, but that doesn't include days missed while we were on the road, or just taking a break. It also doesn't include 5.6 days, which we never rigged for. I (Roger) weigh 145 lbs, sail an 8'4" wave board and wave sails, so scale your sail sizes accordingly.

THE PACIFIC VS. THE SEA OF CORTEZ - The Pacific side is primarily a wavesailing destination, but there are plenty of flat water sites. The most consistent winds are in the summer, with hurricane swell from the south. The winter is less consistent wind wise, but there is good north swell. The west coast of baja is not a warm place in the winter and spring. The Sea of Cortez side works best from November through mid March. Most of the consistently windy sailing sites are between La Paz and Los Barriles. The sailing conditions are mostly bump and jump, but with a little exploring, it's easy to find sheltered bays with flat water suitable for beginners. I would recommend trying Punta Chivato if you're looking for ridable waves on the Cortez side.

STUFF TO BRING: A tarp that can be rigged to provide shade (there is none). A second tarp that can be staked to the ground is convenient. A third tarp to cover you sails if you leave them rigged. A shovel to dig yourself a toilet. A sun shower. The ability to carry at least 5 gallons of water/person (I would recommend 10 for off-roaders). One extra full size tire. Tire patch kit. A DC air compressor. Extra fuel filters and air filters. Lots of books to read and trade. Tons of peanut butter. All your own seasonings.

NEOPRENE: We were there in early March thru April. If you are a big person, you can use a 3/2 shortie on the Sea of Cortez, but I got a little chilly after a few hours. My drysuit was too warm, and my spring suit was not quite enough. On the west coast, plan on wearing a steamer or a drysuit and a heavy coat after sunset.


Places To Sail

The following summarizes the places we sailed and the sail sizes we used.

LOS BARRILES: early March. 5.2/4.7/4.1 in North to NE winds. Outside swell was up to shoulder high, and there was a lot of cross chop. The wind is a little stronger and more consistent at North Beach (about a mile north). Hot showers, groceries and anything else you might want. Martin Verdugos campground is a excellent place to stay. Good food and beer at Tio Pablos.

LA VENTANA: mid March. 4.7/4.1/3.7 in N to NE wind. The swell here is smaller than at Los Barriles (waist high), but there is a sand-bar 100 meters off shore which makes for great jumping. There is a small bay about 400 meters to the north of the launch with a nice rideable swell. The winds seem to blow a sail size smaller here than at Los Barriles (which is about 30 miles to the South). We really liked this place. No toilets or showers, and a short drive for water and food. There was actually a stand of trees here which provided some shade. We also had livestock come wandering through camp everyday. The cows were no problem, but the goats ate everything in site. Apparently La Ventana is much more devloped now with windsurfing gringos galore.

CABO PULMO: mid March. We only spent 4 days here and sailed 2 (5.2/4.7). The wind one day was south, and the other was N. There is a shallow (exposed) reef here with an unsailable break, but it has great snorkeling when there is no wind. This is the only living reef on the West coast of both American continents! Swell here is bigger than Los Barriles in a N wind, and more rideable, but there does not seem to be a good wave sailing break (relative to the west coast). Pit toilets, no showers, or food, but water within walking distance.

TODO SANTOS: late March. Stayed here one day in a campground south of town. Supposed to be an excellent surfing spot. Not much wind while we were there but I tried sailing anyway - and busted my finbox in the shorebreak. Nice facilities - beach palapas, cold showers. The town is fabulous with an active art scene. The Hotel Califronia (yes, the one on the album cover) looks like a nice place to stay.

PUNTA CHIVATO: early April. No wind while we were there, but looks to have great potential. Blows here during the same season as Los Barriles, but is more exposed. Supposedly the best wave spot on the Sea of Cortez. Water, cold showers, pit toilets, and a nice hotel/restaurant (a little pricey, though).

LORETO: early April. Sailed here one day while passing through (4.1). The beach is north of town and the wind is fairly onshore. We've heard its consistent in the winter through March. Big town with all amenities and a good regional ariport.

PUNTA ABREOJOS: mid April. 4.7/4.1/3.7 This is on the West Coast. The point to sail is the one a mile or so east of town. Great wave sailing breaks here but its a fairly advanced spot with lots of rocks near the launch. Boyd, Kalama, and Meyers show up here every summer (or at least they used to). The surfers called the 2 main breaks "Razors" and "Hamburger", which was sufficiently intimidating to keep us from venturing too close (there were no other windsurfers there). We sailed 5 out of 6 days is very consistent thermals off a SE facing beach just east of the point. Watch for stingrays and whales. No toilets, water, or showers, but the town has everything you might need, including a small restaurant (look for grafitti on the walls by surfing and windsurfing legends). Also, the kids in town are always asking for windsurfing or surfing stickers or decals.

PUNTA SAN CARLOS: mid April. 5.2 - 3.2. This is a now legendary (and not-so-secret) wavesailing spot. We got 4 out of 7 days, but could have sailed at least one more. Waves were up to 5 foot over mast high and ridiculously long. My best was 7 bottom turns on a single wave, but it is theoretically rideable for over half a mile if the conditions are right. The break is fairly forgiving in most spots so you can usually hold on to your equipment if you blow an inside jump or jibe. This makes it a good place to learn to wave sail if its not too big. The launch is a sand beach at the base of a bluff with no appreciable shore break. I managed to get a bad head laceration while in the rinse cycle, but fortunately one of the few campers on the bluff was a surgeon and he stitched me up with his wife assisting (turn around time, 20 minutes). John, if your reading this, thanks again. The one drawback to PSC is the tough road in and the total lack of any food or water (actually I would consider this an asset). Plan on a 5 hour round trip to re-provision. We happened to be there over Easter weekend and during that time there were as many as 20 sailors on the water. It is more crowded now than it was in 1993 and there has been considerable controversy over Solo Sports's commercialization of the point. However, the new outhouses ease the pain of the camping fee, and Kevein Trejo has done a great job keeping the place clean