Cabo Mexico Surf Trip: Surf Travel Pandemic Style
In this episode, we talk to Mark about traveling to Cabo Mexico during the current pandemic. He walks us through getting to Cabo by air via Tiajuana and tells us what the experience is like being in Mexico during his pandemic surf trip.
Mark reviews his first surf sessions at The Rock, Zippers, and Shipwrecks on a solid south swell.
His stoke comes through strong as he unravels his first trip to the Cabo region.
Links & Connect
- For more on traveling to Cabo, see Wave Tribe's extensive article: https://www.wavetribe.com/blogs/surf-travel/surfing-cabo-baja-mexico
- Connect with Mark on IG: https://www.instagram.com/steadyoc/
Hello, hello, hello, Mr. Mark Steadman, are you there?
Awesome. I'm so stoked to have this conversation with you, brother. I am sure you are the envy of many people listening and everyone's thinking. Why is that?
One or two people would leave, right? Lots of people, bro. Lots of people. Because you just went on a surf trip.
Yeah, bro. Full of stoked.
How many people got to go on a surf trip during COVID? I would say very, very few.
Yes. And and there were few people on the plane. There were a few people in the bars and there were even fewer people in the water.
Sweet. So I want to backtrack. I want to go through every single step of your trip because it's super interesting the way you guys did it. So you're three Americans and you decided to fly out of Tijuana. So tell me a little bit about that set setup. How that all went down.
Well, we booked this trip back in like Thanksgiving of nineteen, so November of nineteen. And we originally had six guys planned to go.
And lo and behold, March rolls around, COVID's hitting hard. Flights are canceled. So people started dropping like flies.
Once we figured out who was actually going, which actually didn't get solidified until the day before the trip and our three got whittled down to two. So it was myself and Joe.
OK, I didn't know that. I almost went. I was that close, bro. I was that close.
You should have.
I know, I should have. I should have done a lot of things in life. Anyway.
So I live in Orange County, Southern California. Joe lives down in San Diego.
And so we made a decision to fly domestically within Mexico. So what that involves is parking in Otay, which is right on the border of the US Mexico. And using a company called CBX, which essentially is a terminal on the U.S. side, and you put your passport information in, your travel information. We took an extra step of filling out kind of a history of where we've been in the past two weeks and whether we've had any exposure to people with COVID, had any temperature.
So there was an additional form that we filled out so that we had to keep on our person while we were traveling in Mexico because anybody wanted to know where we'd been and what we'd been exposed to.
OK, so how does it go down at the border so that you guys park on on this side of the border?
There are some kind of parking lot.
Yes, they have big parking lots. Parking's fifteen dollars a day, which is really cheap if you have four or five or six guys in one car. You can split it up at the end of the tri,p.
And literally it's essentially like a like an airport terminal. And you take your bags, your passport, you scan your passport, you fill out the paperwork, you then have a ticket that allows you to use their bridge and their bridge goes from the US side and literally crosses the US Mexico border and deposits you right inside the Tijuana airport terminal.
Wow. So do they take your bags and your surfboards at the parking lot or do they take them at the terminal?
No, we had to carry them, roll them, drag them, cart them across the bridge. The walk was probably maybe eight hundred yards, maybe a half a quarter. Yeah, eight hundred yards. So we probably took about five, seven minutes to make the walk.
Right. But you were glad you had wheels on that board bag you had with you.
Dude, I am stoked on the Wave Tribe board bag.
I don't know why anyone would buy a board bag these days that doesn't have wheels. Actually, the next production run that is in. Well, it's going to be on the water in like a week. I did all wheels for all the bags. I was like, I'm just going to force it on people from now on because you don't need to be throwing out your shoulder or drag and stuff on the ground. Just wheel it over.
Especially at our age.
Exactly. Exactly. Twenty-five, twenty-seven, something like that. Sweet, bro. All right. So you guys. And then so what was it like in Tijuana? Were people wearing masks? I mean at the airport? Did you have to wear a mask on the airplane? Did you have people sit next to you? I mean, what was that whole scene like?
So from the moment we pulled up at CBX, wear face masks, temperature checks, at every point. And then once we got into the airport, that continued. Masks are required to be worn at all times.
And a lot of the shops and restaurants were also doing the temperature check in the airport.
The airline, before we boarded. temperature check. The flight from Tijuana to Cabo was like an Airbus A300, I think. Seats about maybe two hundred or two hundred and fifty people. I think there was like thirty of us on the plane. It was nice.
And were people sitting next to each other?
No, only friends or family.
OK, so friends and family you can. So and then when you landed in Cabo, what was the scene like at the airport.
Yeah, it was pretty mellow. There weren't a lot of flights going into Cabo. So we literally we just walked, we got our rental car. Again, masks, hand sanitizer, temperature checks at the airport through the baggage screening, at the car rental place. Everybody was very, very cautious.
Way more than here in these United States.
Oh, United States of America. So then you guys actually stayed in San Lucas, you didn't stay in San Jose, right? You stayed in San Lucas.
No, no. Since Devin bailed out and it was just Joe and I, I made a decision because I wanted to do like the Derek trip. But Derek wasn't there.
Well, then you're gonna have to return, bro.
Right, exactly. So I made the decision to do the Joe trip. And so Joe's apparently been down there 20 or 30 times. He goes there regularly. He knows all the people at the restaurants, and the bars, and the hotels.
So I just said, you know what Joe, if you want to stay at the Mar de Cortez, we'll stay at the Mar de Cortez.
You are in good hands for sure.
Yeah, we stayed in downtown Cabo and we had an amazing time down there, even though there was nobody there and the bars closed at 11.
Also, the bars were open and restaurants and bars were open?
Alright. Let's talk about the most important aspect of this conversation. So I think we just got done with two solid weeks of amazing south swell and you guys couldn't have timed it better. I think the swell was hitting either the day before or the day that you guys landed. So kind of walk me through how that all went down. Where did you surf first? What was it like? What was the crowds like, if there were any? Were there any Americans in the water, was it just locals, you know, blah, blah, blah.
OK, so I'll give you a quick kind of overview of the week and surf, and then I'll just share some specifics. People, places, and things.
The surf was no smaller than four to six all week.
Oh, you're killing me, bro.
Yeah. I mean that was the smallest day and that was like Sunday and Thursday. So we arrived on Sunday.
We went from the airport directly to Zipper's and paddled.
With all your stuff in the car?
With all the stuff in the car, yeah.
Oh, jeez, dude, that's a rookie mistake right there, bro.
No, well, see, that's what I was saying too. However, Joe knows all the guys at Zipper's and we got a preferential parking spot. We had a guard for our car. And it turns out we used that same setup every time we surf Zipper's, which was like every day.
Nice. And you guys throw them a little cash at the end of your sesh.
Yeah. We get out of the water, we have a couple of beers. If we're hungry, we eat a little bit. We tip them well. We over tipped everywhere. Just because there was just nobody there.
And so we've both been real fortunate. So we had a little less drinking and a little more tipping. So I was pretty cool with that.
Did you wear booties at Zippers or you were booty-less?
No. Trunk in the whole time. Yeah.
And you know, I'm Goofy Foot and I spent the whole week going backside and really leveled up my game and I really was really stoked at the breaks.
The people, the water. I mean it was just really a very memorable trip.
So into some of the specifics, Zippers we rolled up in the afternoon. Zippers, there was probably a handful of guys. The Rock, a handful of guys. Old Man's, probably a little bit more, because the hotel that's right there, they had a bunch of learners in the water.
But, you know, we surf probably for three hours. When we first rolled up in and surf, we paddled out at Middle's. Surf The Rock first for maybe an hour, which was just a blast.
I love that wave. I love that wave.
Yeah, I mean, it was so fun. That little hydraulic action you get off The Rock.
Yeah. A killer.
It just was so much fun. There were probably like eight or nine people out, half locals, half foreigners, Americans, weirdos. And we just kind of chopped. The whole time all the locals were very cool.
I'm sure I had something to do with that, you know because I'm pretty respectful in the water. And so there's no peacocking. There was no paddle battles. And just everybody was cool.
We took turns. Everybody got a wave that really, really enjoyed it. So, you know, so we surf The Rocks.
So I kind of learned to watch some of the locals on how they were, where they were positioning. And you know, there were some overhead waves coming through there. And so, you know, I kinda grabbed a couple.
I ended up bringing in a 7'4" single fin that Devin, who opted out at the last second had made for me from a block of EPS leftover at a construction site.
And so I gave him the specs on that a couple of months ago, and he hotwired the thing out, glassed it and rode that board all week.
I had some other plans and they just didn't come out and it turns out that they made the right decision for me in those conditions.
Nice. So how would you compare the wave at Zipper's to the wave at The Rock if you were to compare those two waves?
I would say the wave of The Rock was a little bit softer and the wave kind of had two sections. It would break and then you'd kind of be kind of like to a second rock patch and then would kind of reform on the inside and you get a second go at it.
And Zippers was definitely steeper and a faster wave and that one was breaking all the way to the shore.
And they were fine. And then Old Man's, we paddled over the Old Man's and that was, you know, again, that was a little bit softer, too, but that if you kind of as the tide was dropping, there was a left that kind of started to form out kind of right at the edge of the point up there. So we went around, goofed on that for a little bit, and got nice laughs.
Nice, yeah. I've been down there in a couple of really big swells.
In fact, a couple of hurricanes, too, and there's actually a right at Old Man's off on all the way to the right next to the cliffs in there, kind of in between the reefs.
There's a really sick right that kind of pops up at the right time that I've never seen anybody else surf. But yeah, just keep that in your scorebook for the next trip, because sometimes that can be really fun, too.
I just wrote it down.
Nice. Well, I'm gonna be behind next to you so you won't need to remember it.
There you go.
Yeah. All right. So then eventually you guys made it to the East Cape, which is, I have to say, that's the jewel. I mean, those waves are great and it's fun. But for me, the jewel is the Eastern Cape of the whole trip. It's just the experience. You're out there on the dirt road. There's, you know, it's a wave from town. It's just magical. I mean, going through those cactus forests, I don't know.
There's something about that that's super meditative to me and really a special kind of place.
Yeah. Well, this was my first time to Cabo and I really vibe with the place. I really enjoyed the drive to the Eastern Cape. So Monday, we stayed local.
We surf, you know, Zipper's, Old Man's, The Rock again all day.
And Tuesday. Tuesdays when the swell was hitting. We got up in the morning about seven, started making our way, met up with a friend of Joe's who was also down there who had a jeep. And so we parked our minivan and hopped in the jeep. And it was pouring rain.
It was like monsoon rain.
The whole the whole drive out there.
So by the time we got everything all sorted out, we're on the beach at about eight, eight-thirty in the morning after getting the jeep stuck. It was almost nine before we paddled out.
And it was a phenomenal day. It was eight to 12 right hand just peeling right off the top of the point there and wrapping all the way around the bay. The sun came out about nine thirty. There was a couple of pros out there, some guys taking photos. You know, was a little hesitant to even paddle out in my 7'4" single fin. But, you know, I was there and it wasn't dumping top to bottom.
So, you know, the waves were standing up, but it wasn't I figure very least if I got caught inside, I'd have half a chance. So we watched a couple of guys paddled out and there was like a little channel right where the road ends at the beach.
And the paddle out there kind of right around the rocks, so I just followed a couple of guys out there and made it to the lineup. We're really fortunate there was a long period swell. And, you know, there was about five minutes between big sets. So there was enough time to get out and rest and get ready for the next wave.
So, yeah, it was actually 20 seconds swell. That same day I went to Jalama and surfed Jalama and man, when those sets came through, bro, it was powerful. We surfed Tarantula's.
And I was thinking about you out there. But yeah, I can imagine that it was just bombin' down there. I saw a couple of the photos. I'm going to throw some of the photos in the podcast link so people can see. And that definitely was an exceptional day. So stoked. You got it.
Yeah. I was really, really excited. So we met there was a guy out in the water, L.A. County lifeguard from Redondo Beach.
There was a young girl who had just come off like the junior tour, lives in San Clemente. Just frickin rippin'. I mean, that chick was catching five waves to everybody else's one and just shreddin'. A couple of locals out there, you know, met a guy, guy's about 60, lives by himself right up there on the cliffs. And so all he does is surf all day long.
It's perfect. There's no cell service, doesn't want to be bothered by anybody. So he wants and if he's bored, he goes into town.
Yeah. Cool. So maybe ten people in the water out that day?
Yeah. Ten, twelve people. It was quite amazing.
And my good buddy Joe who's a healthy narcissist, as we're getting out of the water, he goes right to the photographer, he says, dude, did you get into my waves? Here's my email address.
I was like, all right, right on, Joe.
And he did.
And well, so Thursday rolled. Jumping to Thursday evening, Joe gets an email with a bunch of pictures. And it turns out there's one picture of Joe walking up the beach, all smiley and happy and all the surfing pictures are of me.
Yeah, baby. That's karma right there, bro.
That is, that is.
So surfing for I don't know how many decades, but those are my first real surf photos.
That's so awesome.
So you guys never made it to Nine Palms?
No, we decided not to. Basically, after Tuesday, our schedule was Shipwrecks in the morning and then back into town, grab lunch, a little nap, and then to Zipper's for the evening.
Yeah. That's a good call. I mean the great thing is, you know, you surfed wonderful waves. There is so much more to explore. You've got the whole, well you've got Nine Palms, you got La Fortuna. You have like three or four more waves past where you guys were, right?
That actually hold bigger swells. So that's a whole nother chapter coming for you and another trip. And then, the Pacific Coast is the opposite of what the Eastern Cape is, but in a different way. You know, it really picks up the northern swell. Some southerlies do get in there, but it's a whole different vibe, you know, it's more like farm country. And, you know, there's a little town there.
And so, you know, you've got like two or three more trips in you to find all the jewels, right, that are still awaiting. So, I mean, that's really the beautiful thing at Cabo. You know, I've been talking Cabo up and going down there for, I don't know, for a long time now. In fact, the guy that you went to Cabo with on this trip. I went to Cabo with him in 1986, kids.
And we - my dad and with another mutual friend of all of ours, Bill DeCola, shout out to Bill. So my dad, Joe, and Bill drove all the way to Cabo and pulled my dad's boat and we surfed the whole way. So I'm kind of stoked you got to see Cabo. The first time I saw Cabo was with Joe and the first time you saw Cabo is with Joe. So that's kind of cool.
Joe's holding down the fort on first trips.
Yeah, there you go.
So, yeah, dude, that's really awesome, man. Is there anything else you want to touch on about the trip, about, I don't know, the food or the people or just kind of your feeling about the place maybe?
So I'm not a partier. I don't do crowds. I don't go to bars, you know. As you know, I had kids right out of high school. So I was in dad mode until a few years ago when they finally all grew up and left. So now, I'm just starting to get out. So, you know, the bar scenes, all that, that's not not really for me.
So I was a little you know, I wasn't really looking forward to that kind of being in town part of the trip.
And because of COVID, there was hundreds of people downtown, not thousands.
So, you know, we went to this restaurant, probably Italian place. Salvatores. Wait there four nights in a row. You know the food. You know, first of all, we burn a lot of calories, so we load up on pasta and good, nice glass of wine, some bread, all the stuff we try and avoid in our daily lives.
You know, we got to know the waiters and the maitre d and the bartender. And so just meeting some of these people and having an environment that was a little bit less chaotic, made it a lot more enjoyable.
We ran into a friend of Joe's from when he lived in Peru who was working at a place around the corner in Invita Bistro. So, you know, those guys made a really mean martini.
So and then the two bars, the big bars that were open, Abolengo and Squid Roe. Abolengo was a little bit more higher end.
Again, not a lot of people. Face masks to at least get into the place, checking your temperature, hand sanitizers, cleaning your shoes. So once you got in, you know.
So you felt safe? You felt like people were taking care of business and, you know.
Absolutely. Every employee at every place we went to, never once did I see them take their masks off. I mean, they wore, you know, all the time the face shield, the masks.
So really, really worked really good. I kind of felt for a lot of the, you know, I'm a small business owner, so I really had a lot of empathy for all of the shops that were closed up because in Mexico, you don't get 600 bucks a week from the government. 90 percent of the place was shattered.
All the small little shops. You walk through the streets at 11 o'clock when the bar's closed and we're the only ones walking on the street.
Yeah. Did you feel there was any crime going on or were there any shady characters hanging around?
I mean, jeez, if you wanted Coke, the only other people on the street were all the Coke dealers. So every five minutes, hey dude, do you need some Coke, need some weed, you need some girls? So those guys were overtime on their hustle.
Right, because they had fewer clients, right?
Much fewer clients. Yeah.
Supply and demand.
Hmm. Interesting. OK, cool man.
And being, you know, close to the Fourth of July, you know, I just wanted to blow some shit up so I was just trying to get some good fireworks. They couldn't even help me with that.
You know, they could get me Coke and horrors but no fireworks? What kind of business you guys running?
Well, you should've said like have some fireworks in your pants next to the Coke. That would have been a good call, right? Make a sale however you can.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Dude, this has been awesome. I have to say, I feel super honored that you spent this time with us and bro down and I wish I would have gone, but I didn't go. So we're gonna have to plan another trip and get down there together and we'll give you the Derek style trip next time. It's not going to be much different, just a little bit of probably a couple of different restaurants and some other surf spots. But it sounds like you got the core trip and super stoked on that.
Yeah, well, thanks for letting me share my experience. It's always good talking with you, bro. You know, we don't always get to connect as often as we'd like to. We're all both so busy.
I'm grateful for the time that we just had and look forward to my Derek Cabo trip.
Yeah, bro. Yeah, man. Alright, dude. Thanks a lot, man.
All right. Thanks, Derek. Peace.