Baja Surfing Safety
The Baja Peninsula is home to a wide variety of top-caliber surfing spots from popular and crowded beaches such as Baja Malibu and Islas de Todos Santos to out-of-the-way and largely empty beaches such as Mushrooms and Volcanoes. Add the area’s seemingly perpetually nice weather and chill vibes into the mix and a Baja surfing trip is almost guaranteed to be a fun time.
Surfing in Baja – like surfing anywhere else – does hold its fair share of dangers though. Surfing is a sport where you place yourself largely at the mercy of the ocean and all of the other dangers that come along with it. Whether you’re a first-time surfer or a seasoned expert, it is essential to keep safety in mind when you’re out on the water. If you keep the below safety advice in mind, then you should have no problems during your next Baja surfing trip.
The most important thing that you can do to ensure your safety while surfing in Baja Mexico is to know the spot that you’re surfing at. Don’t just go out and surf on any nice waves that you drive by – read up on the spot first or at the very least ask a local about it. The spots in Baja are all vastly different and some are quite unpredictable and even dangerous.
Knowing the spot consists primarily of getting a feel for the skill level required to surf the waves. It also includes learning of any individual dangers of the spot such as sharp rocks hidden in the sand or strong rip currents. Finally, knowing a spot means understanding the local laws regarding surfing. Many popular beaches in Baja Mexico have regulations involving “no-surf zones.”
Keep Track of the Weather
Surfing is an unpredictable sport and weather conditions on the ocean can change suddenly and violently. The surfing in Baja can be so good that it threatens to loll you into a contented haze, but don’t let it! Pay attention to the weather and keep your eyes peeled for shifts in wind and wave size. If a storm is brewing, then get out of the water. It also helps to check the forecast before you head out for the day. Even a rough idea of the daily weather can be handy for planning purposes.
Don’t Surf Outside of Your Skill Level
The best thing about Baja is that it has surf spots that fit everyone’s skill level. There are areas that are great for beginners, children, and families learning to surf and then there are spots that shouldn’t be tried out by anyone but experts. Even if a spot looks absolutely wonderful, don’t head into the water if you’re out of your league. Surfing inside of your skill level goes right along with knowing the spot that you are surfing at.
Understand Rip Currents
Perhaps the most dreaded danger at any stretch of beach is the rip current. Baja Mexico is well-known for its strong ones. If you’re a beginning surfer (or an experienced one for that matter), make sure that you understand how rip currents work. There is a particular method to easily swimming out of them (namely, swimming sideways in them, parallel to the beach), but you should read up on it in-depth before heading into the water to surf.
Look Out for Natural Hazards
Unfortunately, the ocean is not a completely hazard free place. Many of the beaches in Baja are bordered by rocks, boulders, and cliffs. In addition, some beaches have sandy bottoms, but others, especially lesser-known ones, have bottoms riddled with rocks, many of which are extremely sharp. Give each surfing spot a good scan before you head out in the water and stay alert at all times. If you’re surfing in an area with a reef break, it is highly recommended that you wear your booties out – maybe even a full wetsuit to prevent scrapes.
Look Out for Other Hazards
The ocean around Baja is filled with a variety of manmade hazards. Debris and trash are common in Baja and you shouldn’t surf a spot if litter could interfere with your safety. Many popular beaches in the area also have piers and jetties which need to be avoided while surfing.
Understand the Local Animals
Baja Mexico is home to a wide variety of marine animal life, some of which is dangerous to surfers. The most common animal danger is actually sea urchins. They live on the bottoms of many popular surfing spots and their spines are not something that you want to step on! Wear your booties when you’re surfing near them. Other animal dangers include sharks, jellyfish, and stingrays. These animals are not as much of a problem as urchins are in Baja but are worth looking out for. You can easily find out if there have been any dangerous animal sightings recently by checking the local papers.
Know How to Swim
It seems like commonsense – and it really is – but you’d be surprised at how many beginning surfers aren’t very strong in the swimming department. You’re going to be way out in the ocean without a life vest so it makes sense that you’d want to be a decent swimmer. If you haven’t been in the water recently, make sure that you swim at least a few laps in a pool before heading out. If you’re teaching your kid to surf, make sure that they have had proper swimming lessons beforehand.
Practice Good Surfing Etiquette
While surfing in Baja, it is essential that you practice good surfing etiquette. Good etiquette includes watching out for other surfers, wearing your leash (so that your board doesn’t hit someone else), taking turns and sharing waves, calling out the direction you’re taking on a wave, paddling out outside of the breaking zone, and helping other surfers in need of assistance.
Never Surf Alone
Surfing alone is just plain dangerous. If you’re ever in trouble, you’ll want someone around to help you out or call for more help. In addition, Baja Mexico can be a dangerous place, especially at night. Surfing in a large group, or at least with a pal, helps ward of criminal trouble. Plus, it’s more fun when a friend gets to see you catch a big wave – maybe they’ll even snap a pic!
Surfing in Baja Mexico isn’t necessarily dangerous but it does have its risks. However, when the proper safety steps are taken, it is very unlikely that anything bad will happen to you. Take the above tips to heart and you should be fine on your next Baja surfing trip.