Tequila Suicide: The San Carlos Experience - Part two
John Carter hit the road with Josh Stone and three young guns from Team JP - Part Two.
It rained all day. Hard. Powers from above opened the sluice gates right above us. The approach of the storm passing over the whole of Southern California and Baja had caused of the lack of wind over the past couple of days. We had to sit it out. A neighbouring camper in search of a carton of milk came by in the morning. He’d heard on his radio that it would clear and the wind would return by the following morning.
With a nippy southerly onshore ruining the surf, we spent the day in the sanctuary of the games room playing out full-scale foosball and table-tennis competitions. Baptiste was without doubt the king of foosball. Josh was the worst, although Dioni was only slightly better. I came out on top in the table-tennis championship, which was, for me, the highlight of an otherwise forgettable day.
Later that evening, after yet another excellent dinner, Dale suggested poker. From an innocent card game, the night developed into one of those spontaneous classics. We drank all of the tequila in the camp. It was a simple format. The person with the worst hand in each round drank a shot of tequila, and then poured the next measure. Cheating became the norm, Baptiste and Robby (conversing in French) the major culprits. Luckily I spotted what was going on in the early stages and started up my own devious system of storing aces under the table. Josh and Dioni, on the other hand, had failed to realize that they were being duped and became the innocent victims of a major stitch-up. Three bottles of tequila later, they were both absolutely hammered.
For the fourth consecutive night, I staggered back to my tent and crawled inside. Shit. I’d left the zipper open all day and a duck pond had formed in one corner. Oh, well. I was too wasted to bother clearing up, so I simply collapsed into my sleeping bag.
(Notes to diary: 1. Must practise foosball in readiness for similar competitions. 2. Cheating works. After seeing the state of Dioni and Josh, who cares about honesty?)
I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of the wind shaking my tent. I popped my aching head out of the entrance and breathed a huge sigh of relief at the sight of clear skies above. Yesterday had been pretty damn miserable, so I was happy to see the back of the rainstorm. The surf sounded louder, too. Perhaps we were in for some decent action at last. Not that the trip had been dull so far, but we were in dire need of some blistering action for our story.
It ended up a moody but epic day at San Carlos. The sun spent most of the day diffused by a band of high cirrus cloud before finally disappearing behind a huge bank of black storm clouds late in the afternoon. The wind filled in around midday and the team sailed until dark. Josh was setting the standard, trying to push his protégés into busting out big moves for the camera. Dioni responded with radical Goiters. Baptiste replied with monster airs. And Swifty kept up by throwing himself into spectacularly tweaked one-handed aerials.
The prevailing direction at San Carlos is side-off. According to Kevin, it’s not uncommon to catch a wave in front of the Solo Sports camp and ride it until it wraps round the point. The wave then reforms, walls up, and continues through several sections into the next bay, where you eventually kick out way down the coast at the fish camp, nearly two miles from your point of origin.
The wave in front of the camp, known as Old Man’s, is a great place for sailors who are after a friendly introduction to wavesailing. Round the point, the wave is known as the Chili Bowl––definitely the spot for grinding out powerful carves and big airs. The Chili Bowl peels super-smooth due to the side-offshore wind and extra shelter from the overlooking cliffs. There are two or three super-hollow aerial sections where the wave literally barrels toward you, not extreme top-to-bottom closeouts but challenging enough, fun for the most skilled wavesailor. If for some strange reason you get fed up with classic down-the-line conditions, then the Bombora, just off the little island in front of the camp, provides perfect halfpipe ramps for side-on jumping.
That evening, the camp was all smiles. The whole crew had experienced an afternoon of logo-high San Carlos perfection. Robby broke his record after devouring six full plates of food, although Kevin reckoned Baptiste had eaten more lobster than any previous guest in the history of the camp. Exhausted after what they call a “tough day at the office,” the boys refrained from drinking and retired to their tents at 9 p.m.
Stronger wind, more waves, more sailing, more food, beer, and a farewell game of poker.
Our last day at camp finished on a high, another edition of epic sailing. Once again, the weather refused to play ball for the photos, although we did score an occasional burst of sun peeping through the clouds. After another killer session at the Chili Bowl, the team spent the rest of the afternoon riding the waves at Old Man’s before a final jump session at the Bombora.
We finished the night with a final game of cards, but we never managed to reproduce the magic of our initial poker evening. It must’ve had something to do with the camp being dry of tequila.
Stone: I’ve never scored Baja as well as we did on this trip. The wave was sick. The Chili Bowl was working and we had some good logo-high sets. It’s always a super-fun long wave. We all had a five-hour session one day. Everybody came in with big, big smiles. For me to see the kids super-stoked like that was ultimate. Now I know they’re motivated. The action was classic San Carlos, super-smooth waves, easy to ride and easy to rip. There were some sections on that wave where you can do all kinds of shit, like Goiters and one-handed airs.
Dioni has a great style already. He has only been wavesailing for a year because he was from Margarita originally. He kind of has a Francisco Goya turn. Robby is very powerful, but at the same time his style is also smooth. Baptiste reminds me of a classic wavesailor; he seemed to score more waves than the rest of us.
Guadagnino: The waves were incredible, logo to mast high. They were so perfect you can really go for it hard. This must be one of the best places in the world for waveriding. The waves were so glassy you couldn’t really screw up any turns at all. The bottom turn was a dream come true, nothing like Ho’okipa, which can get choppy. I don’t know why it was so perfect here. The waves were a touch slow, but they kind of throw a little and have tubes in them. You could line up way above the wave, wait for it to break, and then start going down the line full-speed and hit it as hard as you can.
Swift: I got a big rash under my armpits after a four-hour surf session on the second day, which was a bit of a bummer. I’d borrowed Baptiste’s wetsuit, which was too small. Hence the rash. The sailing was brilliant; the waves had a lot more power than I expected. This ranks up there with my best-ever sailing sessions. There were no people around and the waves were perfect. Baptiste and I caught a set and both rode the waves for miles. I had at least 10 bottom turns and four aerials on the same wave––and they weren’t small aerials. The waves were big with nice juicy lips. It was easy to time the waves. I will definitely come back here.
Gossein: The sailing was so good I didn’t want to go in. I kept saying, “Last wave, last wave,” but just had to go back out and get another one. The waves were glassy, pretty well perfect and uncrowded, although Robby did drop in on Kevin a couple of times. Kevin didn’t mind. He said that Robby ripped it a lot harder than he would have anyway.
Carter: We loaded the vans and bid farewell to the camp staff. Luckily, the past two days of sun and wind had dried up the dirt track enough for us to make it back to the highway. The vans traveled in convoy, passing through huge cactus fields and several farming communities before hitting the highway. It was kind of strange returning to civilization after our escape from the stresses of the outside world in San Carlos. We stopped at a restaurant in San Quentin for fish and shrimp tacos. Yummy. Six hours later, our adventure drew to an end as we passed through the border and back into the six-lane freeways of the United States.
Wrapping It Up
Stone: It’s amazing down in San Carlos. You are lying in your tent and you can never sleep past 7 a.m. because the first person gets up and starts screaming, “Look at that left!” Everybody is freaking out about the surf. It is beautiful to be in bed and be able to hear the ocean and the waves. That’s one thing Solo Sports has that most places cannot match. You completely forget about what’s going on in the outside world. It is a real escape.
It’s not like roughing it at the camp. When it rained we weren’t suffering because they have good shelter. This is first-class camping. To me, that’s the way to go. I’m totally over sleeping in board bags and shit like that. I never counted that as one of the highlights of my adventures. This is like having the adventure without suffering.
One evening, after a few too many tequilas, I didn’t realize the zip was closed on my tent and I just dove in right through it. Somehow I went straight through the screen. I wrecked the tent and, in the end, I had to buy it.
We had a few tequila sessions. Dioni lost on the Baja drinking scale. When we played cards, Baptiste was by far the worst cheater. Swift was by far the biggest go-getter, but he also paid heavily on a long-term basis. For a bunch of kids who never drink, I can’t believe how much they could handle. It was incredible.
We really got to know each other on the trip. After a week, I saw their true personalities shine through. Dioni, the Latin lover, is our team’s most aggressively motivated windsailor, which makes him semi-moody when he’s not having a great day. You can get him wound up really quickly. He also knows how to give it back. The only problem is that his comebacks are muffled because English is not his first language. And the tent was kind of small for Dioni.
Baptiste is the typical Frenchman: cheating at everything. He was by far the best at foosball, however.
Robby is the little power pack of the group. The word for Robby is explosive. I want to say this to Robby’s father: We definitely did not let him drink any alcohol on the trip. The one thing Kevin didn’t count on was Robby eating three pounds of food every meal. Unfortunately for the guests and everyone involved, we ran out of food on a nightly basis.
Not only has this trip changed my perspective on big families, it has made me realize that I’m underpaying our babysitter. I wouldn’t change my adopted family of JP grommies in the least, but next trip I’m definitely hiring a nanny.
Guadagnino: The camp is such a good setup. It’s incredible to wake up in the morning and be in such beautiful surroundings. We all got to know each other a lot more. We got to pull each other’s hearts out sometimes. It’s a good thing when you get to know your friends more. I met Swifty at King of the Lake once and thought he was a dick. Nah, I’m joking. I didn’t know him then, but he turned out to be a cool kid. Swift was really good at table tennis and darts. After the trip to Baja, I got to know the JP team more, especially after the drinking sessions. It was the best trip of my life.
Swift: It was cool to hear the waves from your tent. I loved the camping; the tents all have mattresses, so they’re really comfy. It’s not like normal camping. When it rained, we went into the games room and were totally dry. The food was incredible––I ate most of it.
I knew Baptiste quite well already. I had met Dioni at King of the Lake last year and we got on pretty well. Josh is a cool mentor. He’s not really strict; he likes to let us enjoy ourselves. We all know each other better now and are more like a team. We used to meet each other at Ho’okipa, sail together and talk on the beach, but we didn’t really know each other. Now we’ve all stayed for a week together. We’ve found each other’s faults, but we’re still good friends.
Baja was one of the best locations I’ve ever sailed, and the camp that Kevin has set up down there made the experience even more enjoyable. I can’t wait to go back down there and catch the famous Chili Bowl firing again, windy enough for a 4.7. I’d like to thank Josh for organizing everything, and being a great inspiration for me and the rest of the team, on this trip and wherever else we go.
Gossein: The camping was pretty cool; you could say it was rich camping. The tents were really comfortable and the food was incredible.
I kind of knew all the guys before, but now we all got to know each other better. Josh was really cool; we could do whatever we wanted. We are all motivated to go sailing, but he just gets us more into it. He’s not lazy at all. When the conditions are good, we’re all super-motivated to sail all day. I’ll definitely come back here. Maybe I’ll bring my girlfriend along next time.
I was the best at foosball. We played cards one night, and it was one of the funniest nights I’ve ever had. Robby and I were the only ones who could speak French, so we were cheating in front of everybody and getting away with it. We were swapping cards under the table. Nobody knew we were doing it.
Kevin Trejo: Everything was cool until we went to Denny’s in San Diego and I saw them eat. I immediately called my office and had the staff double-up on food. I’ve never seen anyone eat as many lobsters as Baptiste. As for Robby, he’s an eating machine.
Our typical guest is a little older. Here in the States we don’t hear of much young blood in the sport. After seeing these guys, I realized that there is some youth. The kids coped with the camping pretty well, although I’m still trying to figure out how they managed to cram a six-foot-long picnic bench into a small tent. The customers here enjoyed having the kids around. My customers come here and kick back. It was good for them to see the kids––reminds them what they were like in their youth. They are amazing sailors. I think the kids gave Josh a few grey hairs, though.
Carter: San Carlos is a real escape from the outside world. We had a blast. And despite a little glitch with the wind, there was killer surf every day. The young guys from JP were all funny, although I wasn’t particularly amused when Dioni and Baptiste started taking the piss out of my English accent.
They’re all lucky to have such a motivated and cool team boss. Josh is one of the great ambassadors for the sport. He seems to have struck the perfect balance between furthering his professional career, looking after his family and still finding time to have fun. Stone finished last in the foosball and table-tennis tournaments but did play a nifty rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” on the guitar. He ended up buying two tents from the camp after sustaining irreparable damage following his midnight raids with Swifty on Dioni.
We made it up to San Diego, where Kevin finally got rid of us. He dropped us at a hotel near his office. As it turned out, we just happened to be sharing the hotel with over 150 16-year-old cheerleaders who were staying overnight on their way to a competition the following day. But that, I’m afraid, is another story.
(Note to diary: One week away from women in Baja + 150 sixteen-year-old cheerleaders = recipe for disaster.)
“The Solo Sports camp is like having the adventure without the suffering.” ––Josh Stone
Kevin Trejo’s trips to San Carlos are five-star camping experiences. The package includes pickup from the airport, camping facilities, all the food you can eat and as much ice-cold beer as you wish to drink. The site also boasts shower rooms, equipment racks and a games room, which definitely comes in useful if the wind doesn’t blow.
The alternative option is to organize the trip yourself and either hire or bring your own vehicle, food and camping equipment. Trejo has the lease on the land at San Carlos and charges a daily rate of $6 per vehicle for camping ($4 if you come to the camp and pay in person).
Regulars to San Carlos have refined their wagons and evolved their camp setups specifically for Baja. You probably won’t have the best of times if you simply try to rock up with a car, no booze, provisions, and insufficient camping equipment.
What to bring:
The water is cool, so bring a 3 x 2 wetsuit for sailing and a 5 x 3 for surfing. The daytime temperature is warm, but thick jackets and warm clothing are a must in the evening. A flashlight is also essential, especially if you need to visit the toilets in the middle of the night. Tequila is not supplied but can be purchased on the way down. Finally, bring plenty of books for the breaks between sailing sessions, and spare batteries if you have a mini-disc or CD player.
We didn’t see any, but the Baja desert does contain rattlesnakes and scorpions.
For more information on Solo Sports, call (949) 453-1950.
Address: One Technology, Suite E305, Irvine, California, 92618
Eight-day trip cost: $1,350
Wave gear rental: $300 per week