June 22, 2017
It’s a straight shot, but about 14 hours from Santa Cruz, California; we head south through the Salinas valley, then down highway 5 before hitting LA’s horrific rush hour traffic. Suffocating in metropolis smog, we struggle in bumper to bumper traffic until I5 terminates at the Tijuana boarder. Packed with surfboards and kites, our truck is flagged into secondary, scanned and our passports stamped along with our pre-paid tourist visas (someone did their homework). Following the wall to avoid downtown TJ at all cost, we hit the toll roads and then take turns negotiating the remaining seven hour drive along the Carretera Transpeninsular (“wider than ever” says the know it all baja verteran in the car in a reminiscent and mournful tone). We pass some of Baja’s most notable surf breaks, through rich and fertile valleys and dusty Big Ag towns. Our biggest hold up turns out to be the crowded streets of Ensenada; the Baja 500 is in town and spectators line the streets gawking at everything from rattle trap VW bugs to million dollar trophy trucks. Two military checkpoints later, both of which we are summarily waved on without investigation, then Mexi 1 takes its turn inland towards Catavina and we dodge off, air down and pose in front of the Punta San Carlos sign; draped with a battered, weather-beaten kite, the sign confirms our suspicion that we’re close[r] to our destination. Even with soft tires, it’s two more hours down a dirt track slated with Cardons and Cirios resembling something out a a Dr. Sueus book. Every rut a close blow to the oilpan or flat tire, we rallied past a goat farm, an abandoned schoolhouse and a brightly colored fish camp before we hit the ocean.
A peeling right and not a soul in sight as we make our way down the last part of the road, past the campers, RVs and sprinters scattered amongst the cliffside before pulling into the only commercial enterprise for miles — SoloSports. And right out front, four of the most pristine rights we could have imagined. The Bombora is just off the outer reef of the island. The wave hits the shallow reef and jacks up, creating a powerful pitching wave. It’s probably the biggest wave in PSC but more so a one hit wonder than any of the other breaks when the swell size is medium or small. Most campers stick to the Beachbreak out front of the camp; it’s oftentimes a long ride but can also section out so it’s perfect for riders to practice and hone their skills; hit the lip, race around the section then hit it again. Further down the cliffside is the Point — we had some of our best surf sessions here. It’s a steep peak that breaks further from the beach and offers a long ride through racing sections if you don’t mind getting caught inside and bouncing off some underwater spires and ledges. Finally, even further down the cliffside, there’s the infamous Chili Bowl. You know those photos/videos you’ve been frothing over from PSC? They’ve most likely been from this break. The Chili Bowl jacks up in the middle and sends you cruising on a long ride deep into the bay.
It’s been a very long two days traveling by a car, but for most that stay at SoloSports it’s a quick Cessna flight down the peninsula. Bumming our way on the trip of a lifetime as an industry rep (Billy) and two magazine shmucks (Brendan and myself) we do not get the expedited travel package. For those lucky enough, especially this week as it’s week 2 of Mitu Monteiro’s wave camp, to book a stay with Solosports, it’s a quick and easy trip. Pick up from San Diego’s Brown Field and it’s a three hour flight; the plane soars down the coastline, hugging the cliffs with bird’s eye view of Baja’s best surf before touch down on the secluded landing strip in Punta San Carlos. After some quick highfives, you say hello and goodbye to last week’s guests, sit for a quick lunch while Mitu gives a quick overview of the kite spot and explains launching instructions, wind direction and which breaks are working best, then it’s out on the water. We’ve got some good gear options this week and are treated to Bandits of every size and color as well as the chance to shred Mitu’s Pro model.
To the average spectator familiar with a big wide beach, the launch in Punta San Carlos can seem a bit hairy, but with proper instruction and a bit of teamwork, it’s safe and easy. The kiter climbs down the cliff using a clearly marked path with their bar in hand while another person clears their lines, making sure they don’t get snagged on rock or brush and finally, when their lines are clear, a third person launches their kite from the cliffside above.
For side-on devotees such as ourselves, we found the first day on the water in Punta San Carlos to be a bit tricky and oftentimes frustrating — especially if you’ve never kited side off conditions; it defiantly takes patience and an adjustment period. Kite placement is key and figuring out how to fly your kite (or not fly it in this case) to avoid getting ripped out of the back of every wave will take a while, but once it clicks, it’s smooth sailing. You’re out on the water until nearly dark if you don’t know how to pace yourself, but it’s all good — a hot shower, a Baja fog (Corona, tequila, lime). . . or two and a delicious and abundant dinner and you’ll be down for the count, tucked away in your sleeping bag and personal tent as the melody of crashing waves against the cliff serenades you to sleep.
Morning fog suggests a glassy surf or SUP session, yoga class or a mountain bike ride through one PSC’s many trails before it gets too hot. Although Punta San Carlos is notorious for its rights, a goofy footed Billy took his F-One Papenoo out each morning and snagged all the lefts he could find.
A lot of the guys on this trip were Silicon Valley entrepreneurs associated with the former MaiTai event. Disconnected from their daily grind (being as remote as it is, SoloSports has extremely limited internet and zero cell service), the conversation quickly swapped from startup and tech talk to kitesurfing tricks and technique. Every morning, Mitu gave a daily briefing and video review as campers fire questions — everything from kite positioning to how to jibe or how to land Mitu’s signature rodeo.
Staying at SoloSports really does seem like you’re out in the middle of nowhere… so everyone was pretty surprised when legendary Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath showed up with his crew and took some of the campers on an extreme Razr ride before heading out for a SUP session.
On the days when the wind picked up a little later, Tkb’s editor Brendan Richards got out early and dropped in on some point waves with a strapless Pelican Surf Foil in less than 10mph wind with a Breeze 11m (light wind one strut kite from F-One). Trading tacks with windsurfer/kiter Derry McIntyre, you can see the two had a blast before the day’s stronger wind arrived. Drone footage by Konstantin Othmer.
Naish pro rider, Jesse Richman also tagged along for the week. Both Jesse and Mitu bring a different level of stoke; Mitu’s a bit more reserved — mellow, chill and always smiling, while Jesse’s upbeat and sprightly attitude makes him the life of the party. When Jesse wasn’t busy kiting, biking or surf foiling, he could be found at the bar, calling the shots and sending it deep into the night. Both powerhouses on the water, if campers were any what short of entertainment, they’d find it simply by looking out on the water and watching the Mitu/Jesse showdown playing out in front of SoloSport’s cliff-front spectator seats.
By the end of the week, everyone’s riding had improved immensely. How could it not? Endless kiting on four different breaks with no more than 15 people out. Guys who had barely ever ridden waves were riding down the line. They’d learned etiquette and were figuring out timing and kite positioning to get themselves in the most critical part of the wave. There were now more contenders for waves, and by the last day of camp, when a set rolled in, not a wave went unridden.