PART II:

THE LAND OF
BLUE TECATES

CHASING TWO FRIENDS AROUND BAJA IN SEARCH OF TACOS AND WAVES

INTERVIEW - HARRY LYLES & SCOTTY LAMBERT
PHOTOGRAPHS - JAY NEELY & RICK ELDER

PART II:

THE LAND OF
BLUE TECATES

CHASING TWO FRIENDS AROUND BAJA IN SEARCH OF TACOS AND WAVES

INTERVIEW - HARRY LYLES & SCOTTY LAMBERT
PHOTOGRAPHS - JAY NEELY & RICK ELDER

"When you’re surfing you’re physically flirting with mother nature. You’re reacting to the water underneath you, yet anticipating what’s ahead. Sometimes surprises come out of nowhere and you have to course correct in an instant. Surfing is an analogy for life to be honest. Nothing else comes close to the experience. If I go more than 10 days without surfing I’ll lose my equilibrium. The ocean is my place of solace and a contributor to my overall wellbeing. There’s something so attractive about the ocean. It’s like the prettiest girl with blue eyes I’ve ever seen. But she’ll crush you in an instant if you lose the slightest bit of respect for her."

-Harry Lyles

Three days in Mexico is almost never enough time, but we definitely made the most of our quick strike mission down to Baja; waves, tacos, bad tequila, good mezcal, we did it all. We sat down with a couple of regulars, Scotty Lambert and Harry Lyles, to talk Baja, surfing, Tecates and a 70-foot fiberglass cristo.

 

What were your initial thoughts when we started planning this trip?

[Scotty] That we were going for much farther, for much longer. When you say Baja, you’re talking about a geographic feature you can see from space (I haven’t seen for myself but I’ve heard). It’s gigantic, so it can mean a lot of things to different people. When I picture Baja, I picture wide-open desert and calm, still waters with no life.

[Harry] My first thoughts were, “Are we going to score some waves.” It’s always tough planning a surf trip around a specific date because you’re at the mercy of the ocean. I’ve been on planned trips before where when you get to the spot it’s windy the entire time and unsurfable. A lot more beer is consumed on those trips, but not this one. A swell came through and the winds kept themselves at bay. We had a killer time.

 

TRAVELING INTO MEXICO ACROSS THE BORDER IS LIKE TRAVELING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE STARK CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TWO PLACES AND THE FEELING OF CROSSING FROM ONE TO ANOTHER?

[Harry] You are immediately humbled, especially when driving through the heart of TJ. There’s a lack of infrastructure everywhere you look. For example, some of the bridges don’t even have guardrails for vehicles. At any moment a sleepy driver could barrel right off of it into cars or people below. Also, there are people living in man-made caves alongside busy roads and that sparks a lot of thoughts and questions. But there are two sides to every coin. There are some absolutely beautiful places in Baja that aren’t like this. And the people are bar none some of the nicest and most generous people I’ve encountered.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES YOU’VE HAD IN BAJA?

[Scotty] I had just arrived to the dream spot with some friends and we realized we were going to be the only surfers there for the week. Perfect barrels and just us. All of a sudden, a small 2-wheel-drive SUV zooms over the sand and basically crash lands on the beach. Out steps everyone’s childhood hero pro surfer with his filmer. We spend the week exchanging perfect waves with him and camping. We dug his car out eventually and he broke into our truck when we locked the keys in. It was a pretty standard trip.

[Harry] Last summer, my two buddies and I surfed an empty break the entire day with all-time conditions. It was hot, sunny, not an ounce of wind, and waves thumping. I remember vividly that this one freight train of a wave I was on looked like a beautiful, curved piece of turquoise glass. I couldn’t believe it. I surfed a total of eight hours that day. I’ll remember that day forever.

 

HOW DOES BAJA’S SURF SCENE COMPARE TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, OR OTHER FAMOUS SURF BREAKS?

[Harry] Baja is a truly mystical place. It’s still kind of the Wild West of surfing and highly coveted in the surf community. It’s this way because every wave that breaks in California is known, and more often than not has a webcam so that you can see the live conditions 24/7. Nothing is secret anymore in Southern California. Baja is not like that. You have to do you research on blogs or weird web 2.0 sites to gather the information you need to surf and to travel safely. In some cases, you might even need to get a book to collect the beta on a wave or area. Overall if you find waves, share them with the locals. Etiquette goes a long way, especially down there.

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT K-38 SPECIFICALLY?

[Scotty] 38 clicks past the border you will find the biggest scene in Baja… K-38. It’s a scene for great reason: it breaks on every single kind of swell direction imaginable, and because it’s a cobblestone point break it can take more wind than most. It’s the first wave surfers started coming south for when they started coming here. It’s got a couple different personalities based on those swell directions too, and can be surfed by just about every kind of surfer.

[Harry] K-38 is named after the kilometer marker that the break lands on. Surfers are very literal people. Therefore, surf spots are usually named through a means of thoughtless classifications. But the break itself is awesome. It’s a true right-hand point break with a ride that longs over 100 yards on a bigger day. It’s the one of the best breaks south of San Diego. So, if it’s good, it’ll definitely be crowded. There’s even some infrastructure built around it now, which is great for the local community. Even a little surf motel called Robert’s with a Euro-hostel vibe that you can stay at for cheap.

 

HARRY, YOU PAID AN ARMED GUARD TO GET US INTO THE SURF SPOT. IS THAT PRETTY STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE IN BAJA? WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THAT?

[Harry] Not sure if it’s standard, but I’m definitely okay with paying a dude with an AK-47 five bucks to watch my van for the day. But a feeling of, “This is weird, but I’m thankful my stuff will be okay,” goes through your head for sure. I learned about it from the locals that my friends and I befriended. Making friends with the local surfers is never a bad idea.

AFTER THE FIRST MORNING SESSION, WE HIT A SPOT CALLED TACO SURF. WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THAT PLACE? WHAT MAKES THE TACOS SO GOOD?

[Scotty] Practice and opportunity. That guy runs the most popular taco stand for gringos in all of Baja. Like the 100-year-old sushi chef master, that guy just hones his craft all day.

[Harry] The tacos there are amazing. It’s a must-stop even if you’re not hungry. Everyone from moms on vacation to dirtbag surfers come through to enjoy. Taco Surf spawns a pretty eclectic crowd because the tacos are muy authentico. It’s legit.

 

SCOTTY, GIVE US THE RUNDOWN ON RED, BLUE, AND BLACK TECATES.

[Scotty] Red is for gringos, that’s your standard 4.5 percenter. The Blues are for the locals and the homies, they are the 3.5 percent. This is critical for an all-day-long vibe that never tips into sloppy surfing; they can also be called “T-minuses” … for multiple reasons. The Negras are off limits or for the last night of the trip only. These are called Titaniums; you usually buy these as 40s or tall cans.

SO AFTER WE TOOK OFF FROM TACO SURF, WE WENT TO CRISTO DEL SAGRADO CORAZÓN (CHRIST OF THE SACRED HEART). CAN YOU DESCRIBE THAT PLACE FOR US?

[Scotty] Cristo! Not much other than that it’s obviously the tallest point on that section of coast. A great place to scope both sides of the land with binos and figure out where to go next. You can also say your Hail Marys and have a T-minus with the big guy.

[Harry] It’s a 70-foot-tall statue of Jesus made entirely out of fiberglass. It’s pretty unreal, because it’s up on the hillside and he has his arms spread open as though he’s blessing the land below and the entire sea. You see signs everywhere around Cristo that say “pray for surf.” Which every surfer can get down with. I’m not super religious, but for some reason it’s comforting knowing he’s on the hill watching us.

 

NEXT STOP WAS OUR AIRBNB IN LAS GAVIOTAS… HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE OVERALL VIBE OF THE PLACE?

[Scotty] The house was beautiful! I am a sucker for Mexican art and design. This spot looked like a Margarita lived there.

[Harry] Christy (our host) was so radical. She knew all the local joints nearby and definitely wanted us to have the best time during our stay. We even ran into her at dinner and I actually was a little bummed she didn’t join us! She probably had some good stories to share after a glass of wine or two. Her place was amazing. I walked around several times to look at all the cool art she had to curate; such an amazing place and experience for her guests. 10 out of 10, would recommend.

 

THE SUNSET SESSION WAS ON THE LAS GAVIOTAS WAVE. HOW WAS THAT SCENE DIFFERENT THAN K-38?

[Scotty] This was the only session of the trip that I had a chance to ride my shortboard. Gaviotas is kind of like a US embassy in the middle of Northern Baja. It’s basically a gated community of gringos who have recreated Orange County 40 kilometers south of the border. At this point in the day most of the other surfers were chock-full of fish and beer from all-day BBQs on the beach, so they were just happy to float and let us get some waves.

[Harry] K-38 had a lot less wind and a lot less fraty bachelor bros in the water. What can you do though?

THE NEXT MORNING, WE DECIDED TO ROLL BACK TO K-38 AND MAKE BREAKFAST ON THE BEACH. [HARRY] WHAT’S THE KEY TO A PRIMO BAJA BREAKFAST BURRITO? CAN YOU GIVE US A BREAKDOWN OF YOUR RECIPE?

[Harry] I’m not the best chef, but I did my best to ensure the boys had a solid meal to start the day. Now I’m a recently turned vegetarian, so you have to get creative with your ingredients and spices. First, you dice up an entire red onion, and while you do that, place an iron skillet and bring it up to cooking temp. This is key. Oil the heated skillet with coconut oil and use your best Guy Ferrari impression and BAAM! Throw those onions on medium heat with some rosemary. Next you toss in your pre-diced bell peppers that range in color for diverse flavor. Then you can add in mushrooms, zucchini or carrots for added flavor and fun. Eat the rainbow, is what I always say. Next, sprinkle some cumin and/or smoked paprika for some spice. Stir fry the hell out of those babies and you have yourself the key ingredients for a veggie taco. Cook up an egg or two for some protein, add your choice of salsa, heat up the tortilla, and throw it together for a healthy breakfast. It’s a fast and easy breakfast that will sustain you for hours. Easy setup and cleaning, which is key if you’re out camping or quickly on the go. Plus the excess veggies make for great leftovers. Just add humus and spinach on some bread and you have yourself an amazing sandwich for lunch later.

SCOTTY, GIVE US A RUNDOWN ON THE MORNING SESSION THE SECOND DAY.

[Scotty] I forgot my wetsuit! I can’t say it’s the first time, but I have always had incredible sessions when I forget my wetsuit. This was the right place, time, and trip to do it as the water was just on the edge of “trunking it.” I already had the Ventum shorts and Harry had a wetsuit jacket with a broken front zipper, so I was in. We got into the mix at the main point that day. The surf was connecting a bit more through the middle and Harry’s friend Benito showed up, which gave us a bit of a pack to own a peak with the three of us.

"Surfing is an endless practice of being in the moment. You are still watching the future form in front of you and the past blow up behind you. Every now and then if you are good, you can slow it down, cut it back and make the best future possible for the long run. You get out of it exactly what you put into it and that’s life."

-Scotty Lambert

WE ENDED UP HEADING INTO ROSARITO FOR LUNCH. DESCRIBE THAT PLACE A LITTLE BIT FOR US.

[Scotty] Rosarito is built based on a Petroleum refinery for Pemex, as well as a thriving tourist flux of service members and college kids from SD. To be incredibly harsh, it’s like Chernobyl meets Islamorada, Florida, a semi-crusty spring break town. There’s half-built hotels left and right that remind you of scenes of much darker third worlds.

[Harry] I’m sure 20 years ago, Rosarito was the spot for people to hang. With all due respect, these days it’s a little run down, seedy, and littered with people trying to party. Parking is pretty damn hectic. It’s bumper-to-bumper traffic in downtown, and everyone is trying to get a spot right in front of their destination. You kind of have to get lucky with parking and fortunately we did. We got a spot near the taco joint we picked out and it worked out great because we still could keep an eye on our stuff.

 

[HARRY] YOU DECIDED TO GO FULL RIFFRAFF AND GET BRAIDS… WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

[Harry] Yeah! It was pretty wild. I’ve never had my hair braided so it was a surreal experience. The gal lacing me up with the braids did an amazing job and finished within 20 minutes or so. She was pulling my hair in such a way that it was kind of enjoyable, ha! I guess the masochist in me came out that afternoon. As for the return home, I felt ridiculous the entire time. So, the moment we crossed the border and I dropped everyone off, I pull them out. My hair was a kinky mess once I got all the braids out. I looked like a Mötley Crüe groupie from the 80s.

HARRY, YOU LITERALLY SURFED INTO THE SUNSET THAT NIGHT. DESCRIBE THE LAST SESSION OF THE TRIP.

If I had one word to describe it, it’d be spiritual. It was a solid reminder why surfing is such an important part of my life. During that session I was out in the water all alone. On one end of the beach the sky was putting on a live art show and displayed every hue of orange, pink, blue and purple imaginable. On the other end, the city beyond us was starting to liven up, while a gradient that ranged from the darkest of blues to blacks was appearing. It felt like I was in between worlds. “Thinning moments,” I like to call them, where the wall between the natural world and the supernatural world coexist for a brief moment in time. Instants like that don’t happen too often, so it’s a perfect reminder to actively stay present.

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