Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Surfers Guide to Baja California: Cabo San Lucas

The sunny, warm, south facing shores of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo in Baja California, Mexico lay claim to some great structured breaks for surfers of all abilities. On a recent vacation to the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula, I had the opportunity to explore a few of the breaks between the party town of Cabo San Lucas and the more relaxed San Jose del Cabo. Some of my insights along with directions to the surf spots and tips are presented below.

The closest surf spot to Cabo San Lucas is Monuments. A very rocky left break that bends around a rocky point into a small cove, Monuments is named after the view of the distinctive large rocks that protrude from the ocean and create the mellow swimming beach and port of Cabo just a few kilometers down the road. To reach Monuments, take the frontage road as apposed to the highway until you reach approximately the km-6 marker. If coming from Cabo, you will go up and over a newish overpass that enable you to cross from one side of the highway to the other. As you come down the other side, you will see an adobe sign for Misiones del Cabo and possibly some signs for Olamar, the new condo development right in front of Monuments. Turn down this road until you reach the guard gate. Like most prime stretches of coastline in Baja Sur, development has claimed the ocean frontage relegating surfers to parking off the beach and walking to the surf. As you pass the guard gate, follow the road down to the right and you will find Monuments in the cove in front of the new Olamar condos.

Monuments is a challenging break that should only be surfed by experienced surfers. The abundance of exposed rocks in the take-off zone and throughout the cove threatens inexperienced surfers with bodily injury and equipment damage. Monuments can easily hold size, but is a fast racy break that has the potential to close out with more size.

Playa el Tule
Playa el Tule is a beach break located in front of two long bridges at km-16. If you are looking for a relatively secluded break with low crowds, Puente de Tule may be your best bet. Pull off the highway and drive along the dirt paths, which some may characterize as “roads”, down to the beach where you can park. The break is a seemingly mellow beach break, but it does have the tendency to close out. On most swells, however, it has a well defined peak that rolls off in either direction. This is a good break for both long and short boarders.

Costa Azul (Zippers, The Rock, and More)
By far one of the more famous stretches of surfing beach in the area, Costa Azul can be found between km-28 and km-29 closest to San Jose del Cabo. Home to Zippers, the Rock, Old Man’s, and more, Costa Azul has a break for just about everyone, with many national surf competitions held at Zippers or the Rock every year. A convenient surf shop, Costa Azul Surf Shop, is located on the other size of the highway.

Old Man’s
Old Man’s is located right in front of the Cabo Surf Hotel on the western part of Costa Azul. Primarily a long board spot, Old Man’s has long mellow lines that resemble Cabo’s version of the historic Surfrider Beach in Malibu. The long right breaking lines enable long boarders to cruise across a small bay in front of the hotel. It seems that the hotel provides lessons and possibly foam board rentals for beginner surfers (I did not stay there so I can’t certify this as fact).

A View of Old Man's (aka Acapulquito) from the Vista on the Highway

The Rock
Possibly my favorite break in Cabo, the Rock is a great A-frame break resembling Wind-n-Sea in La Jolla, CA. The Rock, named for the large rock outcropping that marks the peak and ideal takeoff zone, is created by shallow rocks that litter the ocean floor. There is a vista off of the highway where you can pull off the road to check the conditions or just watch some of the best local surfers shred this great wave. The vista also provides a unique perspective of the break and terrain enabling you to identify significant rock positions and critical parts of the wave. From the vista, take the exit off the highway just before the bridge and park in the sandy parking lot near the beach. From there, walk to the right past Middles / Pescadito, a beach break created by yet again more rocks, and paddle out around the break from the end of the beach. Be courteous to the locals who have this spot dialed in and they will show you the same respect. The Rock is a better right, but you may be able to catch more waves by going left. On a decent swell, however, you can catch a right off the rock and ride all the way in to the beach as the swell bends around the point.

A View of The Rock from the Vista on the Highway

Beach Breaks
There are many beach breaks that can be found along Costa Azul. Most break close to the shore and aren’t that great, but are ideal for beginners and casual surfers that don’t want to fight the crowds. There are lots of rocks around, though, so be careful when riding the waves all the way to the shore.

Additional Advice
It would be best to rent a car (an SUV if you wish to pursue more remote locations such as Shipwrecks), but you can take a bus up and down the coast for relatively little cost. Costa Azul Surf Shop (appx between km-28 and km-29) rents quality fiberglass boards for $20 per day or $25 for 24 hours and includes a roof rack if you need one. Sea Urchins are common given the rocky terrain so consider bringing reef shoes or booties to prevent an embarrassing and painful experience. Unlike many U.S. beaches, lifeguards are not common so use appropriate caution.

A little exploration will lead you to find that Cabo San Lucas has some great surf to go along with the warm sun and blue water. South swells are ideally situated for Cabo’s surf breaks, creating ideal conditions during the summer and early fall. The water is warm and the sun is hot so a rash guard and board shorts should be sufficient most of the year. Enjoy the surf and share your experiences!

Also of Interest: Surfers Guide to New Jersey: Ocean City