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The trusty automobile upon which the three friends rely to carry them to Panama: A Chrysler PT cruiser.

Mike Bishop

The trusty automobile upon which the three friends rely to carry them to Panama: A Chrysler PT cruiser.


The Beginning of the Surfers’ Journey

Finishing Finals and Scoring in Baja


I was sitting in my living room one day in Isla Vista when the phone rang. I was excited to hear the voice of my good friend Shawn, who had moved from Los Angeles down to Panama a few months ago. After hearing all his stories of how much he loved his new life in Central America he dropped the big question, “Hey Mike, I know you’re into going on crazy trips, so would you be willing to pick my car up in LA and drive it to me down here in Panama?” Before he could finish the question I responded with a very excited “YES!”

That was about two months ago, and the only thing I’ve been thinking of since then has been this trip. It would be an amazing adventure for anyone, but for a surfer from southern California, this is the trip that dreams are made of. Uncrowded waves, warm water, lots of tacos, and lots of cervesas, what else could you ask for?

The three amigos. From left to right: Ron Hogen, Mike Bishop, and Roee Salem
Click to enlarge photo

Mike Bishop

The three amigos. From left to right: Ron Hogen, Mike Bishop, and Roee Salem

My two partners in crime on this adventure are a couple of my best friends who also reside in IV, Roee and Ron-all of us are students at UCSB. We left from Santa Barbara on a Friday afternoon with Shawn’s trusty 2001 PT Cruiser packed to the brim with sleeping bags, surf wax, wetsuits, backpacks, all the CDs we could find, a few boxes of cereal, a few gallons of water, a handy ding repair kit, some car repair stuff, and 5 surfboards strapped to the roof. Our first stop was a big party at my friend’s house in San Diego to celebrate the end of finals, and more importantly the beginning of winter break. After a long night of celebration and nowhere near enough sleep we woke up early with our eyes set on the border.

There was something indescribable about that moment we first crossed the border into Mexico. We all quieted down a little bit and took a deep breath because we realized that this trip we had all been talking about for so long was now reality. The first stop was a surfer’s little dream motel right next to a great surf spot in northern Baja right across the street from the 300 foot tall statue of Jesus on top of the mountain-you can’t miss it. We pulled up to the spot around an hour before sunset and got in the water as fast as possible. To our surprise there wasn’t anyone in the water except an older man who looked like he’d been surfing since before any of us were born. The surf was great, about shoulder high and peeling right forever. It was getting dark as I was paddling back to the top of the point after catching one of the best waves of the session, when I saw the black silhouette of what I made out to be Ron carving up and down the face of another set wave, back-dropped by the entire sky, which was a bright shade of orange that I’m convinced only occurs on certain special nights in Mexico. We surfed for hours until it was too dark to see the waves coming at us. The end of that night was filled with lots of tacos, lots of laughs, and lots of Pacifico. It was the end to an amazing day, and the beginning of an amazing trip.

A post-sesh cerveza overlooking the long lines at scorpion bay.
Click to enlarge photo

Ron Hogen

A post-sesh cerveza overlooking the long lines at scorpion bay.

There’s only one word to explain the next day:DRIVE. If you aren’t up on your geography, the Baja peninsula is 1,100 miles long, and we had a lot of ground to cover. Our next stop was a place known to surfers as scorpion bay in the very remote town of San Juanico. There are only two options to get to San Juanico. The first being the north road in which consists of 110 miles of off-road non-sense only accessible with 4-wheel drive, not really an option with our front wheel drive PT Cruiser, and the second being the south road in which is an extra 300 miles of driving that leads to a graded dirt road 40 miles south of scorpion bay. We decided that the southern road would probably be a better option and headed out. It took two days to get there with a stop in Santa Rosalia at Hotel El Morro, a drastically under priced hotel with beautiful views of the Sea of Cortez from every room. I think we only slept for five hours before we got back in the car before sunrise and hit the road. The drive on the dirt road in to San Juanico was probably the bumpiest car ride I’ve ever experienced to date, but against all odds we made it. As we pulled up to the cliff over looking the surf we stared in shock. The wave at Scorpion Bay was mechanical, a perfect right that goes on and on longer than any wave ever should, and absolutely no one in sight for miles. If you’ve seen the classic surf flick Endless Summer and remember the part after they hike for hours through the desert to find that perfect wave, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Roee, Ron, and I paddled out and surfed perfect Scorpion Bay all by ourselves for hours. I can’t believe I just said that. We feasted that night at the only taqueria in San Juanico with some of the biggest smiles any of us had ever smiled plastered on our faces. We camped overlooking the ocean and fell asleep to the sound of all the unridden perfect waves rolling by the cliff.

Looking at the Sea of Cortez.
Click to enlarge photo

Roee Salem

Looking at the Sea of Cortez.

From Scorpion Bay it is only a few hours drive to La Paz, the capitol of Baja California Sur, which is where we are now. La Paz is a beautiful port city on the Sea of Cortez, not yet affected by the high tourist traffic of nearby Cabo San Lucas. As I write to you now I’m sitting in a small restaurant listening to the sounds of a local guitarista as he serenades the few people in the restaurant. Early tomorrow morning we will head just out of the city to the wharf. There is a car ferry there that goes to Mazatlan. It’s an 18 hour boat ride but I really don’t mind. I can’t really think of anything that could bother me right now. Next stop, Mainland Mexico.

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