It always starts with a crazy idea, doesn’t it? Let’s quit our jobs. Then say goodbye to the comforts of home finding new horizons to experience each passing day. It’s a common enough story, but the path chosen to achieve this might be the most interesting detail. The amount of self-inflicted hardship folded into the equation speaks volumes about the constitution of the traveler.
This is a borderline insane adventure by all accounts. Let’s start with the numbers: 1,000 miles down a remote peninsula, traveling a coastline until it ultimately gives way to the sea. That sounds manageable enough, perhaps like a vacation many might be pining to take. Now let’s get into the terrain: mostly desert, covered in cacti and inhabited by more poisons creatures than people. The language: not your own. The method: walk the first half then swap boots for a stand up paddle board going headon into an intolerant and often tempestuous sea.
To track down the two unflappable individuals wild enough to attempt this extreme journey, I rent a car in Phoenix. Of course you never tell the rental agent that you’ll be taking their compact across 2,000 miles of undomesticated bush; it’s a secret they just don’t need to know. The long drive takes a little over 18-hours, a distance that has taken these two men 10-weeks to reach. Now, they’re half way to their goal.
Justin Deshields and Bryan Morales have selected this path of uncertainty. They wait for me the a dusty forgotten town of Mulegé, Mexico (though I doubt the town was ever known by that many). My lovely girlfriend and I will join the friends as they walk onto their stand up paddle boards for the first time. Up to this point they’d traveled by foot from San Diego, CA. We break into their hotel room after midnight, the friends are quick to wake. Grizzled and happy despite the intrusion, they cheerfully offer a celebratory sip of tequila.
Not only will this be their first time on new boards, it’s their first time trying the sport! Stand up paddle boarding or SUP as its commonly known is a rapidly growing pastime seeing the same commercial growth that sea kayaking witnessed about 10 years ago. Deshields and Morales will attempt to SUP 600-miles along a coastline known for its punishing winds. In a kayak you sit lower to the ground, reducing the drag, and maximizing any kind of gain in a strong headwind. When you’re logging SUP miles without much experience, wind is fatal to progress.
Departing though this sleepy town at dawn, the men epitomize abnormality. Their glitzy boards offer a stark visual contrast to the muted pre-dawn streets. Smiles are exchanged by community members who are unaccustomed to such a site.
Ours is a shaky start. Everyone falls off their board as hours pass during a mounting wind storm. High pressure winds blow 30-knots and seas build to 8-feet. Each day is a battle endured with endless smiles. Evenings are spent cooking lobster on the fire and preparing chiviche with rationed limes (seafood the boys caught by hand). We see 100 pelicans for every person, and when the wind dies the warm air wraps around you like a favorite blanket. These are the insights between the hardships. The moments of bliss between the blisters.
Deshields and Morales expedition is sponsored by a grant from National Geographic. Above is a short video introducing the expedition. The boys will produce a documentary film that will highlight the beauty and mystery of Baja. To follow along visit What is West.