Surfing at the Tropic of Cancer
Todos Santos and Playa Los Cerritos, Baja California, Mexico
31 August 2002
Playa Los Cerritos
I survived the night in the Way of Nature. Is it paradise or hell? Maybe a bit of both: paradise during the day and hell at night when the noises come out to play. Loud barking calls, sounding like castrated bullfrogs which turned out to be the conversations of little green tree frogs. I am grateful that I brought along earplugs, as I am sure the music of the night would have driven me insane.
Today, after a hearty brunch of homemade sweetbread, porridge and manzanilla tea we packed up the dilapidated van (one of the doors was falling off, held together by a magical amalgamation of duct tape and backpack straps) and headed to Playa Los Cerritos for a bit of surfing. It was just me, Craig and his son Shane who is a very cool guy: the blonde dreadlocked social director at the WoN.
The others staying at the B&B are a guy from of all places Franklin, Massachusetts, 20 minutes from my hometown, and his girlfriend from La Paz. He is a chef who works on boats, yachts and the like and has been in La Paz for one month. What a fabulous way to live! He’s been traveling for 6 years now, no home really, and not looking to stop. Rad.
The beach was a bit frightening at first. Some great waves and a lot of hot bronzed tattooed surfies hangin’ ten and all that. I let the guys go out first and catch a few olas while I acquainted my senses with the surf. I observed it, watched the crests of the waves, the sound and smell of the clean blue water, a mix of desert air and salt.
Where the boys are at Los Cerritos.
This is the Tropic of Cancer. Well, four miles north of Playa Los Cerritos to be exact. Which means we are the closest beings to the sun at that latitude. What a concept: high noon at the Tropic of Cancer. Sunburns all around! I could practically taste the sun it was so close. Not unlike the ocean, the sun tasted of salt.
Craig came to get me from his romp in the water. I was relaxing under a palapa on the rocks by a few fishermen with makeshift gear (fishing line with hook) and a cute blonde surfer doing a bit of Tai Chi behind me. I took in the energy, the waves, the cute blonde guy (I mean the Tai Chi, of course). I was ready.
Pretty good for a beginner. I wrapped the leash around my right ankle and grabbed the other end of the leash just above the knot where it attached to the board. I waded in. The surf was surprisingly warm but the current strong and pulling to the right. I got up to my waist, which was deceiving as the depth fluctuated with every surge, and grabbed onto the back of the board and rode it like a boogie board back into shore.
My view from the hill of surfers in action.
My attempts to stand were not quite as successful as the boogie attempts. As soon as I stood my balance wavered, and each wave seemed to know before I did that I was going to fall. I decided to let the ocean have its way and went to settle in with the gorgeous surfies under the lone palapa-roofed snack hut.
Before hanging with the guys I took my camera and climbed up the hill to the right of the beach. I began to feel the sun beat down on me, which was a good thing as I am so white I could blind small children and birds.
Playa Los Cerritos would be perfect with just a bit more shade. On the opposite side of the hill was a perilously rocky coastline, which made me wonder that the same conditions created the beautiful beach as that cliff-faced cove. And here I was, along the tropic of cancer, standing on a freakin’ hill. I was at that moment the closest to the sun as I’d ever hoped to get.
On the other side of the hill from Los CerritosÃ¯Â¿Â½rocky coastline and dangerous rips.
I came down from my mountain and wandered to the shade to bask in the golden-skinned beauty that were the 6 surfers under the snack shack’s palapa. They smiled, one of them commented that he was watching me and I did quite well for my first time out; another outspoken bloke, a tall bronzed figure with his right leg amputated just beneath the knee and in its place a metal prosthetic, commented on my whiteness and the subject quickly turned to how I would look tomorrow, burnt to a crisp or just red as all hell. I voted red as all hell.
I can definitely see why so many expats choose to live here. It’s all laid-back and relaxing. It’s small yet deceivingly urban with its internet cafes (3 that I saw) and tourism. The infamous Hotel California resides on its main street, across from terraced cafes and is open daily for tour buses from Cabo.
Welcome to the Hotel California
True, the bus stop might be in front of a taco shack, but it’s only 45 minutes from major metropolitan areas. I could have seen myself hanging there for a month, soaking up the sun and surf. That is, until I met other in-town expats.
That night after fish tacos at Miguel’s, homemade ice cream and a nap at the B&B, Shane played his handmade digeridoo for us in the bathroom. Always the best acoustics in the bathroom. Lights off. It was muggy and slightly uncomfortable leaning against the door and not knowing what kind of giant insect creature would want to play with you in the dark.
All was forgiven when the music began and the ground, the walls themselves, they were all singing. The vibrations were everywhere and at times were so intense they caused me to shiver in the sweat-inducing heat of the summer night. The free concert was the best bit of Todos Santos.