Vela'a Baja 1997

by Karl Moeller

Vela's Baja resort is located near the tip of Mexico's Baja peninsula, in Los Barilles (about 60 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, on the eastern side of the peninsula). It takes about two hours to fly from Los Angeles to the Los Cabos airport, and about an hour to drive from the airport to Los Barilles. Many windsurfers drive in and stay for extended periods at the beach-front RV park in Los Barilles. The drive takes about 17 hours from San Diego and most people break up the drive over two days.

Vela operates out of the Playa del Sol Hotel and for about $120 a day provides room, three meals a day, and unlimited use of windsurfing equipment, mountain bikes, sea kayaks, and snorkeling gear. Airport pick-up and drop-off is not included and costs $60 to $80 each way.

Los Barilles is a tiny town with two hotels, four restaurants, and about 60 houses. All of the beachfront houses appear to be owned by Americans and some are available for rent. The town seems to be populated entirely by Americans who spend their summers in Oregon and Mexicans who work in the local tourist industry. A slightly larger town (Buena Vista) is a few miles south of Los Barilles and is the home of another windsurfing resort (Mr. Bill's windsurfing)...

You should definitely plan on making your own entertaiment if you go there. There are no TVs or newpapers and the Vela staff jokes about 9pm being "Baja midnight" since everyone seems to be asleep by then. Bring some books and magazines to read on those days that you're sitting around waiting for the wind to blow.

Vela is only open from December to February. Vela's literature advertises that sailable winds blow in 4-days-on, 3-days-off cycles. The day I arrived, the departing sailors claimed to have had only one day of sailable wind, right at the beginning of their stay. For the first three days of my stay the weather was warm (low 80's), dry and windless. On the night of the third day, a cold front blew in. The following morning was much cooler (60's at best) and breezy. Wind from the north picked up around 10 am and most sailors were out with a 5.5 or 6.0.

The launch out into the Gulf of California is pretty difficult. A nasty shore break crashes onto large slime-covered rocks. The Vela staff spends their time carting boards around on trailers pulled by ATVs to the better launch spots, but none of the spots are easy once the shore break has come up. Once out on the water I sailed in steady, side-shore winds over widely-spaced 2-ft. swells.

The mountain biking is quite good there. On windless days, someone on the staff will lead a guided ride through the surrounding desert terrain.

The only other thing I can think of to comment on is the food. It's not too bad, but it's not too good either. The hotel staff tries to make meals that they think Americans want to eat ( deep fried shrimp, pork chops, etc.) instead of meals that taste good. By comparison, the meals I had in the local restaurants were very good. Maybe you can get a package that does not include food.


Baja 1999

Story by Robert Netsch

Introduction: If you are interested in the Baja wave sailing experience, and can't go there in person just yet, then pickup the latest WindTracks Journal because it contains an unbelievable 60+ page story about Baja's not so 'Secret Wavesailing Spot,' Punta San Carlos. If still shots don't quite cut it, get Wind Obsession, Spring Loaded, and Surface Tension from Side-Off productions, or some of the older Ian Boyd/North videos. Look for the perfect peeling point break rights ridden by wetsuit-laden rippers and you'll most likely be looking at San Carlos. If you are too cheap to spring for the Journal, or too lazy to get the videos, or just can't get enough of that wave sailing stoke thing, then continue on .....

After the airport hassles (parking ticket, oversized luggage debates, and standby reservations) Dean Norris and I (Robert Netsch) met in San Diego for a trip to Baja. After a mad dash for grocery store supplies we were set and headed south...

Okay, we get past the boarder gate, then go a mile or so and watch helplessly as traffic and highway divider take us off the main road and square into Tijuana. If you've been there then you know this is not good. At least if your driving what we're driving. After some time and some luck we find our way out of town and headed towards the playa or beach or whatever. It takes us past this 3rd world scenery and on to Ensenada by dark. We make it through the Mexican version of a perpetual strip mall in San Quintin before we pull into a camp area for the night.

We took our last showers for a while (10 days for me, maybe 10 weeks for Dean), loaded up with fuel and made the last of the 250 miles of pavement before breaking off onto the 40 miles of dirt to the point which is marked by [the] 'classic' sign.

Did you get that Windtracks yet, how about the videos? If so, you know what this road is about. Well we figured we were lucky because we had our double puncture a mere 10 miles in. After plenty of expletives, eventual successful use of the worst jack Ford could provide, a low spare, 3 or 4 hours in desert including time for Dean to make a trip to El Rosario to get the tires patched, we were back on our way. Unfortunately, the dirt road gets much worse for the final 15 miles. That said, my hours waiting with the trailer in the desert was some of the most peaceful and quiet time I've ever had, the journey on the dirt road (some of which I road on the Mountain Bike) was kind of cool too. Now with that said, lets get the xxxx out of here and to the water!

Remember I said it gets much worse? Well [pictures] just dont capture what we were dealing with, for hours and hours.

Made it! We could feel the air getting cooler for the last few miles. In fact, we could see the ocean from some of the high passes on the route. This was the first good view we got when we backed onto our spot. Doug [Cullom] got there by way of Solo Sports for the Chris Wyman wave sailing clinic.

Every day for a week it was chest to logo high surf with side off wind. This is the place to wave sail. Never saw one mast get broken. Very un-Hatteras!

Chris Wyman. He is unreal, even on that crappy little wave he rips and does a flip/forward/wymaroo or something out the back. Every night, for 30 minutes before dark, I'd come in, grab a beer, some snacks and sit by our trailer and watch the show.

I have to say, before I broke my board it was unreal during the light air (5.4, 5.0) days. It flew onto a plane and ripped on the wave face. John Parton of Protech assures me that when this 2000 prototype gets into production it will have beefed up construction. Lastly, I need to mention here that thanks to the good graces of Chris Wyman and a Swiss/French camper down the road, I had boards to use for the rest of my stay. Thanks!

Doug, Dean and I took a walk up into the hills one morning. On good days [at Bombora] you can pick up an outside set wave there and ride it for a long, long way!

Go with Solo Sports and get to sleep in [a] tent. They have good gear and great meals for about a grand a week.

For 4 consecutive days I went out early, before the wind filled in, and practically had the place to myself. This was probably the best sailing for me the whole time. Schlog or puttz out, pick a set wave to my liking, ride it in, jibe out of it and do over again about 15 times before the rest of the sailors couldn't stand it any longer.

You learn to study the rocks at low tide to save your feet, ankles, shins, and fins when the water is in! This place is murder on your feet (I had to use booties for the last 3 days) and you can really chunk your fins.

Most of the waves for the week were good for beginners and long boarders. The paddle is easy and the waves have a really mellow take off. On two days early in the week the surf was really nice at the point, both times there were just a few of us sharing a clean and glassy overhead break.

The day before we left the wind was 4.0 and surf was chest to head high. Dean poured it on during this session and was going for full-on, fully wound, aerial off the lips on the inside break.

Dean hit the lip and got lauched out the top and back of the section. He did this a few times. Shortly after, I saw him wave to me. When I got close I heard the news 'I broke my xxxx'n foot!'

Well its time to go. Chinook makes a good crutch. Of course the swell is back up and the marine layer is a sure sign for another perfect day.

Thirteen hours after breaking camp we made it out of the dirt, past the Federals, past the US Customs security, through Tjuanna (Again! Damn it!!) and to a San Diego hospital. Dean got x-ray confirmation of his fractures and a mandatory holiday from his last 18 months of windsurfing travels.

That's it, kind of. If you want more out of me it will cost you some late nights and cold beers.



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