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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Old enough to know better. Young enough to do it anyways.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

La Fondle

One of the best things about LA is its close proximity to Mexico, which is good for those looking for cheap thrills (read: pharmaceuticals), but even better for those looking for surf. This past weekend I encountered both the the thrill-tweekers and the surfers in Baja Norte.

On Friday, my brother, his girlfriend, my girlfriend and myself all loaded into the car and took off south with boards firmly strapped up top. Our destination was La Fonda, Mexico. Our directions as told by my brother OS were "Drive to Tijuana and take a right." We all made fun of his third-grader-like simplicity. Turns out he was pretty much right. When we saw the ramshackle shanties of TJ sprawling out in front of us, we veered right onto Hwy 1 and sped down the sunny coastline.

Monitoring the kilometer signs like it was a lottery, we waited for our number. Somewhere in the high thirties we found a taco stand and a statue of Jesus Cristo. Just below the all-knowing's watchful eye was supposed to be a regional classic of a right point. After order eight tacos and one torta, OS and I walked down to see what we could see. Not much as it turned out. You could see the perfect set-up, unfortunately it was missing one key ingredient - waves. So we got one of our key ingredients - Dos Equis beer - and headed on down the road.

After checking into the La Fonda Hotel, my brother and I checked into our wetties and grabbed the boards. As we wound our way down the concrete staircase, we got a glimpse of the conditions. It looked pretty flat, but there were still guys milking the waves for all they were worth. Paddling out was easy, and just like that we were floating in Mexican waters. The waves were no preparation for Todos Santos, but what they lacked in size they made up for in consistency. The repeat motion of paddling furiously, popping to my feet and cutting down the line was great for my muscle memory.

With a few hours logged in the lineup, we sat down to an apres surf dinner on the terrace overlooking the break. A lot of carne and carnage later, the four of us stumbled off to bed.

Saturday promised more of the same, but peeking out the window at the pre-dawn swell was disappointing. My indigestion was bubbling and hissing with more venom than the surf. Turned out to be a day of recon. We drove south to a reef break that's supposed to be very hard to leave. Looking at it you could see why - sharp red cliffs dropping into turquise water. But on this day the swell didn't agree, so we headed back. Then in the late-afternoon, we finally ventured into the water. Mostly to get some exercise and keep our paddling arms going.

Sunday, however, was a different story. Same pre-dawn surf check, but this time the little crumblers had shot-up with 'roids over night and now were legitimate head-high peaks. As OS and I rushed down to the cold, gray beach we heard footsteps behind us and realized we had been followed. A spry surfer in his thirties walked up to us with a slight grin. Under his arm he had a beautiful Pavel Speed Dialer fish. That would make me smile too. He introduced himself as John, and the three of us waded out into the water and began our last surf of the weekend.

We were the first ones out, but I knew the bros would be on it soon. So when the first peak popped up my way, I paddled with all my bean-fueled might and pulled into a clean, reeling right. My KG came alive as I pumped up and down the face. All the practice of generating speed in small waves paid off with a bit more size. Almost too much though - I nearly outran the shoulder, but a little cutback brought me back to the pocket and kept me speeding to the shallows. As the wave reached up in its last pitch before a watery death, I angled up the face to snap off the lip. At least that's what I tried to do. I'm sure it looked more like an epileptic in the final stages of a ferocious fit - but I was happy that I at least tried something.

Stoked to finally be surfing waves with some power, I headed back out. When I made it out I couldn't find my brother. I spun around and saw him on the shore messing with his board. The red sled had given him some problems earlier, so I just assumed it was more of the same. For the next hour, John and I shared waves, hooting each other into fast, steep drops. I caught one of my best waves during this period. I could here John yelling me in as a head-high peak popped up in front of me. It was a left, and as I dropped I grabbed the rail to pull me up into the pocket. This sling-shot the board forward and I had to lean into it to stay on top. The wave just unfurled in front of me for what felt like eternity. My body somehow figured out how to pump going backside, without my brain even knowing how. I connected sections that I didn't think I had a chance at, and then in the final push I saw a surfer paddling toward me shouting encouragement. It was my bro on his way back out. Glad to have a witness to the ride, I dropped off the back of the wave and began paddling out with him.

Turns out he broke his leash and had to fix it with some twine and a rudimentary, boy scout knot. We kept surfing well into the morning, and saw some phenomenal surfers putting on clinics. One guy right next to us pulled into consecutive tubes. I saw his second as I paddled back out - tucked high in the pocket he was right in the almond-shaped eye of the storm - perfect.

The surf ended and the Sunday brunch began. We feasted and then jumped on the road. Somehow everyone in Baja had the same idea, and we crawled across the border at a snails pace. But it was fine - just gave me more time to daze and dream about a great weekend with friends and foam.


Blogger Patch said...


Sounds fun. You gotta love the hang ten Jesus.

4:45 PM  
Blogger OS said...

What the trip lacked in swell, it more than made up for in goodtimes. Looking forward to coming down and fondling some more waves with ya hermano (sans the boarder patrol line-up and lulls).

5:26 PM  
Blogger G said...

You're more than welcome to come fondle as many waves as you can get in to. You've got all the gear here now.

Hang ten Heyzoos is no surprise, afterall he can walk on water.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Chum said...

Nice! Sounds like it was a tough spot to leave. I only wish I could have been there. I still have stretchmarks from the buffet there... but... y'know... gotta put in some time so Nicaragua will be guilt-free!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Foul Pete said...

Rad times, Gabe. Glad you are getting some.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Slim said...

scorage, bro, scorage. baja access is probably your biggest asset i'm jealous of. nice work.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Slim said...

geographical asset, that is.

2:42 PM  
Blogger G said...

What other assets are you jealous of? My chest hair, ability to grow a mustache...etc.

I'm in Santa Cruz right now, but heading to Carmel to surf some beach break...break yo' self fool.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Slim said...

mustache ability, yes. carmel will give you a sand enema. thumpy.

3:05 PM  
Blogger G said...

Hah, funny you should say that. I got tossed like a salad. Super choppy and closed out. Took a couple of minor beatings.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool story and brings back memories. Had some good times at La Fonda. Love that punchy beach break and the $2 margs at the cantina. Between trips to Baja and if you head up to Ventura come winter for those big WNW's, well you'll be laughing at us and our quirky breaks up here.

3:46 PM  
Blogger G said...

Yeah, I'm definitely excited about all the different options. Now just got to figure out which is best for which conditions. If you don't mind my asking, where is it best in Ventura for WNWs?

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everywhere, seriously! Place just lights up. When it gets gnar gnar up here for an extended period of time, I look for a cheap ticket and fly down. Poke around town a bit. A good place to start is C Street. From there drive North. U can see most everything from the hwy. Maybe this weekend? 15 feet up here so....

2:50 PM  
Blogger G said...

I was driving down from Santa Cruz yesterday (post to come later) and saw a few guys in the evening glass off round about Ventura. I'll have to check it out when I've got a little time on my hands. Let me know anytime you're heading down. Always up for a new surf adventure.

6:45 PM  
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5:47 AM  

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