Photos by Isaac Zoller
Surfing and words by Nate Zoller
California winters will always draw me back. I’d been out of the country for three months, mainly in Fiji on Tavarua island as a boatman and then in West Africa on a surf mission. I missed the only few winter swells to hit California, which always makes me homesick. I arrived home at the end of January to 75-degree sunny weather and 1-2-foot surf, more of a summer vibe than winter. But if you stare at the maps long enough they start to change. And when a little west swell popped onto the charts I began to plot my first winter strike mission. Somewhere had to be good.
I talked to my brother Isaac about heading south over the border to get out of the west swell killing Catalina Island shadow. He’s always keen so it was an easy sell. We then got Druku on the line and left my house at 4am the next morning, coffee in hand and semi guns and hooded wetsuits in the back. There’s something about crossing over the TJ border heading south that gets the blood moving. It’s a baby step towards as big of adventure as you’d like, because Baja will dish out plenty of hair raising magic. After a secondary car scanner detour we were on the way to the toll road on the coast. It was around 6am and the sun was starting to poke. At this point the coffee had gone south and I rarely make it past the first toll booth bathroom without making a deposit.
Feeling light on our feet, we headed further south past Baja Malibu and K38s, past your favorite secret reef wedge and cobblestone pointbreak. Downtown Ensenada was closed for Carnival due later that weekend, so in classic Baja fashion we followed another car around some cones to get to the harbor lot. It was around 7am at this point and the froth was starting to build. We found our captain and after a bit of haggling and lugging boards onto the tiny little boat, we were motoring out of the harbor past the cruise ships and massive containers. Once you get around the jetty jacks the brisk winter chill hits. But with the sun at our backs and a nice Mexican blanket around my shoulders we hunkered down and enjoyed the ride out, even though we couldn’t see out past the dense fog line.
By the time we had arrived at the spot the fog had lifted and left a glassy ocean behind. It was 8-10 feet and building. I couldn’t get the fins and wax on my board fast enough. It had been a few weeks since I saw my last overhead wave. There was a light crowd on giant boards way out the back, so I grabbed my 7’0 and sat a little inside. Most waves come in and hit a ledge, and if you are on top of that ledge you will not catch it, no matter how big your board is. But at the same time it seems like there will always be one set that catches everyone off guard and is twice as big as everything else to come in all day. That happened around 2pm when a solid set ledged on the outside. A guy out the back on a ten-foot board came flying down the face before losing control and ejecting at the bottom. Just watching a wave like that come in gets your heart pumping.
I spent the entire day in my hooded wetsuit, staying warm while remaining aerodynamic and stealth in the lineup. It’s a big playing field out there but if you are willing to put yourself in harm’s way you will be rewarded will some tube action. We didn’t leave until around 5pm when the sun was beginning to set. Druku, Isaac and I toasted our ice-cold beers to a day well spent doing what we love; chasing waves and surfing more.
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