Tequila Suicide: The San Carlos Experience - Part One
Tequila Suicide: The San Carlos Experience
story and photos by John Carter
John Carter hit the road with Josh Stone and three young guns from Team JP. The adventure started in Los Angeles, California, and continued south into Baja, Mexico, to the legendary wave camp at Punta San Carlos. Under the watchful eye of Kevin Trejo from Solo Sports, Carter and the team spent seven days and seven nights cut off from the outside world, camping under the stars and drinking themselves stupid. Although often almost unconscious, Carter somehow managed to scrawl down a few notes each evening, faithfully keeping an unbiased journal of the proceedings. Upon his return home, it took Carter several days to decipher his own transcripts, and even longer to edit all of the unprintable material….
Meet The Crew
Josh Stone: Aloha! My name is Josh Stone, and I was born and raised on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii. For a while I’ve been going around to a bunch of crappy events, and I’ve really missed traveling to killer destinations, which is what I did when I started my career. Doing too much competition, you start to lose the love and forget that windsurfing is about enjoying the nature, the ocean and, most importantly to me, the adventure.
I decided to get back out there and find the love again. I missed the adventure side of things too much. Our JP team has some of the hottest up-and-coming sailors, and it would be a great idea for them to experience some of these adventures before they get too serious about competition. So I said, “Hey, let’s start a JP Team travel series. Get the kids going, get them out there having some fun, and start building some team unity and build these kids into future champions.”
I figured we could start off with a trip not too far away from home and get the kids there easily. My good friend, Kevin Trejo, invited us down to Baja for a clinic. He’s got a great setup at Solo Sport, kind of like first-class camping. It was perfect for the kids because they wouldn’t get too homesick from their mummies and daddies. What I didn’t realize was that I was going to be babysitting these guys 24 hours a day.
Dionicio Guadagnino: My name is Dionicio Guadagnino. I'm 18 years old. I grew up in Isla de Margarita, Venezuela. I’m now living on the island of Maui, Hawaii. My life has pretty much been spending time on the beach and windsurfing as much as possible. Now that I think about it, I guess you can say I was flipping lucky and maybe a bit spoiled. Ha, ha.
Now that I'm on Maui, my goals are to beat my babysitter, Josh Stone, and place No. 1 in freestyle and also in waves. I really want to thank my mom and dad for giving me this opportunity and getting me into windsurfing. I'm also thankful that I can share this experience with my sister, Colette, who is also gonna be a future world champ.
Robby Swift: Hi, I’m Robby Swift. I’m 16 years old and from the U.K. I signed on to the JP team in January of last year. I grew up sailing in Lanzarote and Shoreham beach park on the sunny south coast of England and was thrilled at the chance of going away on this little adventure. I’ve always been accident-prone––going on the rocks most days at Ho’okipa, breaking all my kit––generally a great source of amusement for the rest of the team through my misfortunes.
Baptiste Gossein: Bonjour! My name is Baptiste Gossein and I’m 20 years old. I am from Marseilles in the south of France, although at the moment I’m living in Maui. When Josh told me about the trip to Baja, without hesitation I said, “Count me in.” I’d seen the pictures from down there, and the waves always looked so clean and glassy. I knew all of the crew, apart from John Carter, the photographer. He was flying in separately from England.
Journey to San Carlos
John Carter: I flew into the States from Heathrow, London, at 11 a.m. on a cold winter morning, arriving 10 hours later at Los Angeles airport. (Note to diary: Economy sucks. When I get rich, I will always travel in first class.) Outside, Josh Stone, Dionicio Guadagnino (Dioni), Baptiste Gossein, Robby Swift and Kevin Trejo were all patiently waiting for me in Kevin’s Ford V10 van, loaded to the brim with gear and ready to hit the road.
The JP team had rolled into town in the morning and poor old Trejo was left with the job of entertaining the crew for seven hours until my arrival. Apparently the kids wanted a tour of the L.A. strip bars, but Kevin abandoned that idea and sensibly opted to take them for a meal at Denny’s. Swift was the standout in a mass eating frenzy, which had Kevin in such a panic he had to send an urgent message back to the office to send somebody out to buy extra rations for the week.
We all had itchy feet to get down to the camp, and consequently abandoned previous plans to spend the night in a hotel. After a brief stop at the Solo Sports office in San Diego, we hit the freeway headed for the Mexican border.
Punta San Carlos is located approximately 270 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border, and the road trip down there is a major part of the Baja experience. Our first stop was at a liquor store in Tijuana to stock up on supplies of tequila. Josh was adamant that we buy at least one bottle complete with a Mezcal worm inside––yuck! Next on the shopping list were vastly overpriced Mexican ponchos and Mariachi hats from a cunning salesman who must’ve known he was onto a good thing when he spotted us coming.
The next eight hours were somewhat of a blur––tequila and beer played a major part in the refreshment department. We made speedy progress through the night until we forked off the main highway just past El Rossario for the final leg of the journey. The final 36 miles to the camp is set along a dusty, bumpy and ragged dirt track, which can be inaccessible after periods of heavy rain. Proper planning for this trip can make or break your San Carlos adventure. From here on in, there is no electricity, phones, fresh water, food or supplies of any kind.
Apparently Brian Talma and Jason Prior came down to Baja several years ago and all they brought apart from their windsurf equipment was a case of spam and a few bottles of fresh water. Dishwashing was not previously on their résumé, but the word on the street is that they were excellent at it by the time they left.
Although the track showed signs of recent rain, we made it into the camp relatively smoothly at 4 a.m. Under the moonlight, we were guided to our tents, one dome per person, which came supplied with an air mattress, sleeping bag and Mexican blankets––our homes for the next week.
Stone: We had such a blast on the ride down. We grabbed some beers and kicked back, Baja style all the way down. We arrived at the camp in the middle of the night with, let’s just say, “not quite clear” minds. We had to organize tents in the darkness. I huddled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep with the noise of the waves crashing in the background.
Guadagnino: The trip down here was pretty fun; it’s my first trip to Baja. It was a 10-hour drive to get down to the camp, which was a blast. Josh immediately got us going on the tequila. Ugh. That was a new thing for me. I think I’ll try to save the drink for the special occasions.
Swift: I was sailing Ho’okipa the day before we left. I saw Josh and he asked me if I wanted to go to Baja. I said, “OK, fine.” I only brought three T-shirts with me. I haven't done my laundry since I left England three months ago. I went first class from Maui; Josh upgraded me. Baptiste was the cheapskate and went in economy. It was fun to sit down and be asked if you want champagne.
Gossein: It was a fun trip down to Baja. Somewhere in the middle of the night we stopped at this little hotdog place. I’ve never seen a guy make a hotdog faster in my life.
Our San Carlos Experience
Carter: I crawled out of my tent on the first morning, March 2, drawn by the aroma of freshly brewing coffee. The warmth of the rising sun felt pleasant, especially after having just escaped the depths of a bitter English winter. We had all risen at the crack of dawn, eager to explore our new surroundings and, even more importantly, to check out the day’s sailing conditions.
Apart from the Solo Sports setup at one end of the cliffs, there were six or seven other vans camped out along the peninsula. There are no permanent structures at San Carlos, unless you count the scattered line of white lavatories, situated out of smelling range, about 200 metres inland from the water’s edge. About two miles round the bay is a small Mexican fishing village which fishermen from El Rosario use as a base to store their boats. The rest of the surrounding terrain consists of rocky desert and a range of bare, pale-brown (faintly glazed with blue and purple) mountains, which overlook the camp from the east.
The wind kicked in by midmorning, and with stomachs still full after a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon, the team hit the water. Despite light winds, there were clean two- to three-foot waves and the boys had a fun session, which was, after all, a bonus day for us since we’d bailed on the hotel the night before. Later in the evening, Trejo’s right-hand man, Dale, turned up with the second Solo Sports van containing Kevin’s first four clients of the season.
We feasted on a superb meal at the camp: fresh lobster, tacos, refried beans, garlic bread, salad and a few ice-cold beers to wash it all down. A few of us retired to the warmth of the campfire after dinner. We soon realized that the evenings get chilly at the camp immediately after the sun dips below the horizon. Drinking tequila was as good a way as any to warm ourselves up, and after a few shots, it didn’t taste too bad either.
I lasted through a few hours of fireside stories and general banter before eventually staggering back to my tent, leaving Josh and the other survivors to work their way through the next bottle. Things turned sour when Josh and Robby came up with a crafty master plan to ambush Dioni’s sleeping quarters. According to reports the following morning, Messrs. Stone and Swift proceeded to jump all over Dioni’s tent. Dioni was not amused. He’d gone to bed early and was awoken from a deep sleep by the sound of sniggering outside his tent before the attack. He took swift action and pounced from his tent like a hungry lion ready to maul his attackers. Stone and Swift, however, were too fast and disappeared into the darkness.
(Note to diary: Hangovers definitely seem directly connected to the consumption of vast quantities of alcohol.)
At breakfast Dioni was in a bad mood.
No wind today, but killer surf. Our first visit into the water lasted about 10 minutes––not exactly what I’d call a hardcore endurance surf. The boys, led by Josh, launched through a gap in the rocks on the far side of a little island to the right of the surf camp. Josh paddled into his first wave and pulled straight into his first Baja barrel. He kicked out from the section screaming in elation, ready for an awesome session.
Two minutes later, Dioni was also screaming: “Shark! Shark! I just saw a big shark!”
We all paddled straight in, and with a mixture of relief and frustration, regrouped on the beach. Dioni looked petrified and stood by his story that he’d spotted a dorsal fin just outside the break. We watched from the rocks for 45 minutes, but only spotted a few dolphins and seals playing in the water.
Josh was pissed off that we were stuck on the beach when right in front of us there were empty perfect waves rolling in. “Dioni, are you sure that was a shark and not a dolphin?” he asked.
Dioni wasn’t sure. None of us wanted to risk it and we all sheepishly returned to the camp to inform Trejo of our dilemma.
Trejo couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “There are no sharks out there, you bunch of girls. I’ll personally take you out there after lunch.”
We eventually surfed for four hours in glassy perfection without interference from underwater predators, although Trejo did slip in a story about Mama, a toothless great white that apparently trolls the area. Dioni bore the brunt of a flurry of shark jokes and was clearly getting wound up. One thing you definitely do not do when on a trip with the boys is let them know you can’t handle a bit of harassment.
Robby surfed himself stupid. So much so, he ended up with a huge rash under his armpit. He capped off his day by cutting an ugly slice through one of his fingers while trying to light the campfire. Swifty was quickly gaining the disaster-area reputation.
We spent another evening by the campfire, another bottle of tequila. Later in the night, Dioni fell victim to his second attack. This time a more adventurous Josh and Swifty tried lobbing a six-foot picnic table on top of Dioni’s tent. Needless to say, Dioni was infuriated and pledged revenge on his attackers.
Sunny in the morning, but cloud and onshore breeze in the afternoon. More surfing, more food, more foosball, more tequila, and more taking the piss out of Dioni.
To be continued..........