A quick update for our sailing friends. No we’re not off course. Escapade is still in Trinidad while Dawn and I have some time ashore.
So far that has been in Miami, Ibiza, Guernsey, London, California, and this trip to San Carlos in Mexico..
Everything you need and nothing you don’t
Punta San Carlos is a remote point break around 300 miles South of Tijuana on the Pacific coast of Baja, Mexico.
The landscape is rugged desert between mountains and ocean. The nearest tarmac road is 50 miles away.
In this unlikely spot Kevin Trejo has established a remarkable surf camp in the wilderness.
This was our second trip down there and I’m sure we will be back.
I like to ride waves on a windsurf board and this place offers some of the best and most consistent conditions for this that I have found anywhere. (And I have searched.)
We have spent a total of 3 weeks there and I could have surfed and windsurfed every day. (I did need to rest my shoulder for a day!)
There are several surf spots and a local thermally enhanced wind effect which is perfectly angled for wave sailing.
The place is magic. There are no crowds (of humans) but the ocean is popping with life: seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales. And the squadrons of majestic pelicans flying in formation with wingtips on the wave-face.
Life is simple at the Solosports camp: glassy surf in the mornings, windsurf in the afternoons, eat great homemade food from Emerita’s camp kitchen, drink a few Baja Fogs* and sleep soundly in a tent by the ocean.
There are racks of surfboards, paddleboards, kite and windsurf gear, (including exactly the same boards and rigs I have on Escapade) as well as great mountain bikes and miles of trails through spectacular terrain. Dawn and I enjoyed hiking and biking the surrounding area.
The desert is rough and rocky, but the whole camp area is carpeted! Barefoot ‘luxury’ to your tent and ideal for oceanfront yoga and stretching sessions after all that exercise.
I also came to appreciate all the things the camp does not have. No phone connection, no wifi, no light pollution.
In the same way that our most memorable sailing trips are to wild and remote places, San Carlos is a detox from civilisation. The joy of simplicity.
Returning to the crowds and commerce of a US city after 2 weeks in the desert was a shock.
Pritchard Windsurfing Clinic
I have made a couple of discoveries rather late in my windsurfing career, the first was how my sailing could be improved with some coaching.
Last August we had a great week in camp sailing with pro coaches Matt Pritchard and Kevin McGillivray. My first ‘lesson’ after 35 years of self-taught windsurfing!
These guys watch you, record your riding on video, analyse the playback and explain the fine details of how to do it better.
I was so impressed we returned for more this year. Matt couldn’t make it, so we had to make do with his brother Kevin Pritchard instead. (Matt and Kevin are both multiple world champions.)
We were blessed with a solid swell and wind every day for the training week. Windsurfers from US, Hawaii, Canada, Europe, Australia and Scandinavia had made the trip. A great group to sail and camp with and all the water time we could handle.
Our patient coaches KMac and KP pushed me to improve my riding, turn tighter and hit the lip of a wave in the right spot to land an aerial back on the wave face, rather than crashing behind it.
After a full day on the water, the group would gather in comfy chairs on the cliff to drink a cold beer and watch the ‘Golden Hour’. The last hour of sunlight with wind and waves still firing. The last guys out were generally KP, KMac and local prodigy Joey Sanchez. Throwing themselves in to huge turns and aerials on the biggest set waves right in front of the camp, all to loud cheering from the assembled audience. What a show.
The following week was when the American Windsurf Tour were holding their annual contest in San Carlos so we stayed on for that.
Second discovery: I enjoyed competing in my first ever wave contest! New kid on the block, aged 50.
AWT Desert Showdown
The contest week was a whole new game, with more riders arriving from around the world and plenty of talent on the water.
The AWT team arrived and the point became a competition site with a judging panel stationed on the cliff above the waves.
Riders are judged on their wave-riding skills, like a surfing contest. Typically a heat will see 4 riders sail for 20 minutes. The judges will score every wave, with each rider’s two best scores to count.
So great to see the pros sailing their heats with such style and power. I could watch them all day. The standout performances were from Boujmaa Guilloul (Morocco) and eventual winner of the Pro division Kevin Pritchard from Maui.
Another sailer from Maui made a big impression. Jake Schettewi won both the youth and amateur divisions, winning a place in the pro division.
He is 14 years old and already sailing with plenty of style.
Full results are here:
Now I have said before on this blog that I’m really not a competitive person. I’m generally happy just to be sailing in good conditions.
But.. when you’re out there in a heat, gybing on to a set wave and riding it in front of the judges and the crowd on the cliff, it is all rather exciting!
I progressed through the heats in two divisions, Amateurs and Masters.
I made it as far as the Amateur semi-finals and was defeated by much better (and younger) sailers. Very pleased with a 5th place.
In the Masters division I had great fun sailing with my own generation and came second! Those aerials came in handy.
The heats were run over a few days and I was also invited to sit with the judging panel and score a few heats. Not an easy task and requiring intense concentration, especially when three riders take off on waves simultaneously!
Throughout all of this Dawn was very busy with photography and physical therapy to keep us injured competitors on the water.
Many thanks to all at Solosports for looking after us, PritchardWindsurfing.com for the great coaching, all our new friends from the clinic and the contest.
Thanks to all at AWT for producing a great event. What a trip. We had a great time and we hope to see you all again soon.
Many thanks also to the photographers who shot the following images:
Clark Merritt at www.Solosports.net
Mark Harpur at www.Luckybeanz.com
Dawn at www.Escapadesailing.com
*Baja Fog is a bottle of cerveza topped up with tequila and ‘fogged’ with lime juice.