Surfing Laguna: Baja trip brings back memories

Surf trips to Baja were a rite of passage for many a surfer growing up in Southern California.

The promise of clean, uncrowded waves being all the incentive any young surfer needed to make the trip south of the border — a brief, yet glorious respite from the crowded line-ups of our local breaks.

With Spanish being spoken and roads signs being few, the three-hour trip to San Miguel (from inside Mexico) was one always filled with plenty of excitement along with a measure of anxiety for the typical gringo.

Successfully navigating the Tijuana area without incident was always the first order of business. A wrong turn or fender bender were pitfalls that required all the focus a pack of 16-year-olds could muster.

Once through the downtown area, the road south quickly offered the first heavenly glimpses of surf from high above.

This week, Soul photographer Nate Harrington returned to Laguna after 10 days and 1,000 miles in old Mexico.

His partners in crime were a crew of young pro surfers, including Laguna standout surfer/lifeguard Porter Hogan.

Neither Nate nor Porter had been to Baja before. Hearing their stories and viewing the photos had memories rushing in from 20 years deep.

Epic uncrowded waves, fresh fish tacos, accommodating locals at every stop — I was in a trance as they recounted their stories while scrolling through hundreds of beautiful surf shots.

Absent on Nate and Porter's trip was any incidents of crime or debauchery that have filled news reports.

With the young Laguna surf crew clamoring for adventure, the debate on whether to revisit Baja had officially been reopened.

CHRIS WILLIAMS is a surfing coach and Laguna Beach resident, and father of four surf-crazy sons. He can be reached through his blog,

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