Thursday, January 20th, 2011

The perfect day (words by Al Mackinnon):

The following morn we were on the road by 5am, jet skis in tow, crossing the border into Baja by 6:30 with a couple of Greg’s friends joining. A thick fog lay over the freeway all the way down and Greg’s friends almost bailed, but we were going no matter what. I think our resolve convinced them to hang on. The fog followed us across the border - driving through Tijuana in fog and near darkness is not much fun - but by the time we made it down to the boat ramp in Ensenada it was more misty than foggy. Having said that, there was no one around and we still couldn’t see Isla Todos Santos, the site of the legendary big wave break from the mainland. Greg was adamant this wasn’t a problem and given he’s not the type of guy to make stupid (read: dangerous) decisions and that he’s driven the 12 miles to the island a hundred times I wasn’t concerned.

It was maybe my fourth trip to Todos and on the back of Greg’s ski - several miles offshore - it appeared we were taking a different route. I questioned Greg on this, asking were we “going around the opposite side of the island to our normal route?” Turns out he couldn’t actually see the island yet! He changed the course and we made it around the correct side and on to the lineup in one piece.

Tendrils of mist undulated over the glassy waters and every now and then a set would come through. It was difficult to say what size it was, definitely not big, but certainly there were good waves coming through, grey and a little spooky. Given the flat light and bad visibility Greg advised he had a board for me as photos weren’t an option. Stoked. Sort of. The day before we’d been surfing playful head and a half waves in balmy autumn sunshine, but misty Todos, even small misty Todos was a little different.

Greg handed me a board, it felt insubstantial, light and very thin. Greg is about 25 pounds lighter than I am and his boards are shaped accordingly. Oh well, either sit and watch or go get some. I wasn’t about to sit and watch.

We shared the lineup with Greg’s friend, tubemonger Dane Ward, his good friend Bryce Young (Nat Young’s son) and Dane’s father (an accomplished surfer), we had it to ourselves all day, a rare thing in this day and age. The lads were ripping, steep drops, tubes, huge hacks, it was impressive to watch. On the other end of the scale was my first wave was. Those who’ve surfed a lot will, no doubt at some stage, have experienced the embarrassment of a hand slipping off the rail just as you’re getting to you’re feet? I was in the rotation, the boys had all caught waves and the last in the set was mine. Greg’s board felt like a toothpick. As they paddled back out, I paddled like hell aware that the little board wasn’t exactly ‘gliding me into it’ and at the moment of popping up I faceplanted into the deck of the board and went straight over the falls. When I came up there was much mirth - Greg was laughing his arse off - I was unscathed and had to laugh too, what a start, well at least I’d got the wipeout out of the way!

I didn’t fall again and ultimately had some incredible waves, it was a wonderful experience to be sharing waves with such good company and to finally surf a place I had previously only visited to photograph. It’s funny, one of the things I remember most was the sound of the giant boulders clunking underwater as I duckdived, that and making a virtual airdrop later in the session. Truth be told I wish there’d been someone there to photograph me so I had something tangible to remember the session by, oh the ego!

After trading waves for several hours the swell was easing so absolutely famished and with shoulders burning we paddled back to the skis for lunch. Whilst we all shared about waves from the session, the usual mixture of cheeky and self-effacing banter, the conditions began to alter. By the time we’d finished our sandwiches afternoon sun was bathing the island in sumptuous Mexican light, a photographer’s dream.

I was back in the water, housing in hand for some water shots, sadly the bigger sets were no longer coming through, but the water was gin clear, the light perfect and the surfing electric. I swam around marvelling at the water’s translucence, noting all the details on the spherical boulders below. Eventually I managed to get a picture of Greg driving through a small but sweet backlit tube and the job was done.

As the light faded to that wonderful Baja desert afterglow we headed back to land in high spirits, myself particularly as getting to surf and shoot in the same day - and not feel guilty for surfing - is a rare thing.

Attached is a shot of the route down through Baja, once we crossed the border and the fog was easing. The ocean is a few hundred yards to the left and you can imagine the prospect of blasting by jetski twelve miles out to a big wave break in a ‘pea souper’ was not enticing!