SUP, Sea of Cortez

soft light
still waters
the sky the color of the sea

blue footed boobies make like diving jets
silvery fish dance and skate on the water’s edge

yellowtail and small dorado race from shallow to shallow
stingrays ruffle the sand
puffer fish skitter across the sandy bar
shimmering cerulean sardines leap en masse

pelican wings glide millimeters from the water
cormorants beaks glow golden against black feathers

my paddle eases my board quietly toward the light
no real destination but exactly where i am ….

Always Dreaming …

Even when I’m not in Baja, I dream of her. The starkness and beauty of her deserts. The rugged cliffs of her mountain ranges. The two faces of her seas – the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. Blessed with a 2 hour reach of either side, I can trade surfboard for SUP board – cold fish for warm fish – crashing waves for serene waters.

Last evening, I paddled the Sea of Cortez and was rewarded with leaping fish and soaring birds. Here’s a small sampling:

SUP to “Tern Island”

Lured by their incessant chatter, I followed the tern-song south on my SUP to find “Tern Island.” Congregated on a sand spit created by the last storm at the mouth of the river and estuary, they gathered in a ‘clump’ all to themselves – surrounded by cormorants, pelicans and blue-footed boobies. A virtual chatter feast of avian calling filled the morning air as all beaks raised to join the chorus. Enchanting, really …. and worth the extra miles of paddle.

Arctic Terns in Loreto, BCS, MX

Arctic Terns

Blue-footed Boobies

Blue-footed Boobie Taking Flight

Blue-footed Boobie Taking Flight

Early morning SUP. The sun fresh from its rise behind Isla Carmen and the sea momentarily in stillness. The blue-footed boobies make the rounds of the shallows: soaring, gliding, spying, diving for tiny bait fish. I love to watch them speed toward the water, almost like a fighter jet, wings pulled in tight for a dive below the surface. Sometimes they actually swim underwater, only to pop up with tiny fish in their beaks. They fly low to the water after take-off, using ground effect to give them time to dry their wings before they are air-born again. The morning show goes on. The blue-footed breakfast bunch.
Blue-footed Boobie Hunting

Blue-footed Boobie Hunting

Sultry Summer Seas


Zen Float

Predawn paddle on shimmering seas.

I float with the sea.  The sky envelopes me.

A baby bat ray dances, his ‘wings’ like tiny shark fins breaking the surface of the water.   He swims toward me–another morning gift– and after a brief exchange of glances, he dives beneath my board and gracefully undulates toward deeper waters.

Blue-footed boobies dive for his breakfast.  Their aqua colored feet always surprise me.

A pelican flotilla glides inches from the sea’s surface.  How can they hold steady so close to the water?

I am so blessed to have these moments .. and thank you for letting me cryptically share them with you.

Honoring the day …….

Morning SUP Loreto

Morning SUP Loreto

yes .. there were gulls … and blue-footed boobies, arctic terns, curlews, herons, fluffy egrets, Magnificent frigate birds, cormorants, sandpipers, yellow-legs, and an osprey ……

there were big fish, little fish, jumping fish and flying fish ..

15 December 2012

15 December 2012

and there was the quiet stroke of my paddle in the early morning waters…

the water ruffled from breezes that clocked from north to west to south …

such an honoring way to begin a day …….

When Friends Come to Visit

Cynthia and Cal Wagstaff rolled into Casa de Catalina late Saturday morning.  They’d been making their way down Mex 1 through missing asphalt, torn up roads, water filled arroyos, and detours in the wake of Hurricane Paul.  The drive from Hailey, Idaho is part of their annual re-migration their beautiful casa in San Juanico.  I’d worried about their drive – and was glad to see their smiling faces on arrival.  Chica Bonita and Pancho piled out of the car behind their owners.

Cal wasn’t as convinced that they should stay – he was pretty much about ‘let’s get home,’ but Cynthia prevailed.  We swam, SUPd, laughed, we played with dogs, ate and enjoyed cocktails in the patio.  Love my friends – and all the spontaneity that seems to be what Baja is about.

Morning SUP with Friends

Morning SUP in post-Hurricane Paul waters with Kama Dean and Samuel Young. Paddled down to the Kinninger’s Rancho Jaral to ‘pick them up’ and headed north up the Loreto coastline. Fun to be with friends on a crisp bright morning. Hard to imagine that a mere 36 hours earlier we’d been hunkered down to weather out the storm. The Sea of Cortez – tranquil, if not loaded with lots of floater palms, cactus parts and bits of broken tree trunks.

A small swimming eel-like creature was very attracted to my board – and I thought he might want to hitch-hike, but kept swimming along head up and searching. Identification anyone?

Swimmers take your mark!

The last 1/4 mile …..

The second annual swim race from Picazone to Isla Coronado took place yesterday, 13 October 2012 just north of Loreto. One hundred forty four (144) people from as far as Mexico City and Ashland, Oregon, signed up to swim. The day before the race, the winds picked up and blew through the day and into the night, and were unabated in the morning. 20/25mph constant with gusts in the plus 30 range whipped the sea into a frothy stew of whitecaps breaking on top of 5′ ground swells. Perfect conditions (NOT) for a 5.5 km swim between the peninsula and the tiny islet (oldest volcano in Baja) where currents and tides make for a difficult passage even on a glassy day.

The race co-ordinator did his best to discourage swimmers who were not in extremely great condition, trained for the race and confident in their ability to make the crossing. In spite of his warnings, 122 men, women and teens jumped into the warm turbulent sea and began the journey across.

Pangas, sports boats and kayaks offered support and encouragement and pulled swimmers who became overwhelmed by the conditions onto their boats.

I had earlier decided to SUP (stand up paddle) and registered accordingly. There were three others set to paddle – but either did not show up because of conditions or did not enter the water. Maybe smarter than me 🙂

My initial goal was the first flag. Once I managed that I thought, well, the second flag. This all the while with a backup plan of turning around and heading back to shore (as my girlfriend had requested that I do). But once I passed the second flag I was, okay .. now to the third flag. Of course, by the third marker, the seas had kicked up in the 5’/6′ range, and while standing up on my board I’d find myself in the trough of these large groundswells with no clear view of the horizon.

When the second 6 footer tossed me into the sea, I switched from SUP to SDP (sit down paddle). Even with a reduced face to the blasting wind, I was being pushed south (had to go north to make the island) faster than I could paddle. I also found it near impossible to keep the nose of the board into the wind — finally, I put my left leg into the water – an extra rudder, and while paddling with my leg created drag and slowed me down (more), at least I was heading in the right direction. Several adjustments, like pulling up leg and using foot only as a directional rudder until the wind took the nose again, allowed for forward motion. Every muscle in my body was screaming at me – and I just dug down and found more to pull from.

I encountered a young woman swimming alone. She looked up in a 360 motion – like where is everybody? I paddled toward here and paddled near her while she made her way past the rocks into the cove and onto the beach.

When I reached the sand, it was almost anti-climactic. Like – where’s the battle now? I rang the victory bell – signed in – and photographed other swimmers making their way.

To each and everyone who completed yesterday’s difficult crossing – Congratulations! And even for those who were turned back, congratulations on your efforts!

Can’t wait for next year!

Gifts from the Sea …

Morning paddle out past the point and back. I had headed out with nothing really in mind except some exercise. Chewing on life issues and decisions that need to be made, I was preoccupied and distracted. I should have known the sea would change everything.

On the horizon, small black protrusions. Marlin? No, too close to shore. Nor were they the fins of sleeping seals. Instead, a pair of small bat rays had caught my eye, ‘flapping’ their ‘wings’ in an undulating pattern as slowly they made their way through the glassy early seas. In the distance, one of their buddies did a couple of back flips. When one crossed under my board, I tried to grab a photo – but the image doesn’t do justice the the ray’s elegant form.

Bat Ray : Sea of Cortez

But the rays presence triggered a clearer focus of the richness around me. Overhead, the gentle glide of the Elegant frigatebird. Nearby, a cormorant surfaced, a small fish gleaming from his beak. A school or rainbow runners, their hypnotically blue fins trailing, raced under my board, likely chased by a bigger fish. Several jellies drifted just below the water’s edge, the flower patterns in their gelatinous bodies so lovely from above.

And then, surprise of surprises – a marine show! A medium size fish began to leap and skip across the water – chased by a large green and yellow dorado, who leaped in equally high arcs following his prey.

Such wonder and beauty so near “mi casa.”

What was I worried about earlier?