Its that time of year again - where we pack our bags and head south to escape North America's icy grip.
Given the time of year, we thought it would be fitting to focus some of our attention on travel over the next couple of weeks starting with an interview with team rider, Claire Hodson, who just left for Baja Mexico.
You’re headed out to Baja soon… you must be stoked! What’s the story behind the trip?
The trip initially came about five years ago through John Steinbeck’s literature. Some California-based friends of mine were reading The Log from the Sea of Cortez and The Pearl and were inspired by Steinbeck’s descriptions of the landscape of the Baja Peninsula. To him, it was a frontier, a remote and wild place that was so close but seemed still untouched by the development that plagues Southern California (and much of the world). Armed with this idyllic view of a Mexico surf trip, they packed up their car and set off south on the hunt for perfect, empty point breaks. It has been an annual trip ever since. I hopped on the trip last year and absolutely fell in love with Baja… so I am back for more.
Sounds like an unreal experience! Are you heading to a specific spot in Baja, or bouncing around?
My favorite part of traveling in Baja is that we really have no destination (despite my mother’s plea for an itinerary). To break up the drive a bit, we will be headed to a little spot about 5 hours south of Los Angeles for a few days. After we have had our fill of waves there it’s back on the road south to a set of fabled point breaks for the remainder of the trip! Sorry for the vagueness but I won’t be invited back if I give away too many details!
I know you have been down there before…what’s your favorite thing about this part of the planet?
There is a reason why the flora and fauna of Baja inspired much of Dr. Seuss’ work. Wild shapes and colors punctuate an otherwise flat and void landscape. Its both a breathtaking and harsh place. It’s this juxtaposition that makes me love the desert so much.
Is there anything you want to do/accomplish this time around that you didn’t get to on your last trip?
For all of us, this trip is about examining what it means to be an American surf tourist in a place that is viewed as the ‘second-world’ yet is only a days ride from home, and a place that has so much political animosity across borders. During my first trip to Baja, I too was caught up in the Steinbeck ideology of exploring a vast untouched landscape. However, this perspective ignores the people who call Baja home. It is not a “Wilderness”. It is not exotic. But rather, Baja is a complex interface between the developing and the developed. Geo-political borders often dictate the opportunities that are available to people and in today’s political climate these borders are even more defined. Even though Baja is so near, we don’t think about this until we make that transition from one space to another. On this trip, we hope to reflect on our privilege as Western tourists and think about how we can travel through these spaces more ethically and more sustainably.
Have you done your research on the waves down there? Any wave specifically that your psyched to surf?
On my first trip, I did absolutely zero research. I went with no expectations. Now that I know the area a little better, I’ve been scoping out some waves on Google Maps near our first camp site. The swell will be a bit bigger our first few days and I prefer to longboard so there is a more protected series of point-breaks a couple miles north that look like they would be really fun.
What’s the food like down there? Do you have any favorite meals before/after a long surf?
Tacos are my favorite food…that probably answers that question :) . In all seriousness, the food is delicious. We will stop for tacos while driving but once we get to our camp spots we usually cook all of our meals. What we cook very much depends on what we are able to find at the local grocery stores, our ability to wash dishes, and occasionally, the shellfish that wash up on the beach. Curry, beans, and, of course, tacos are our general go-tos.
What is your presurf routine on trips? Do you run through some warm up exercises- or just send it?
My only consistent pre-surf routine involves a hefty cup of coffee while watching the sunrise.
What are your go-to travel essentials? What are you bringing with?
My go-to travel essentials for any surf trip always include an extra leash for both my longboard and my fish, a first-aid kid, and A LOT of sunscreen. Baja is pretty cold this time of year, especially for camping, so I also have my Xcel 3/2, 3mm booties, and multiple warm layers. As part of my goal to be a more sustainable traveler, I focused on all-natural and plastic-free products. I have Raw Elements sunscreen, a shampoo bar, a bar of soap, bees wax paper to wrap my soaps, all-natural deodorant, shea butter, a bamboo toothbrush, and all-natural toothpaste. It was frustratingly hard but I managed a zero-chemical and mostly plastic-free (someone needs to sell toothpaste not in a plastic container, please) toiletry kit!
Do you use travel as an inspiration for some of your artwork?
Absolutely! I paint seascapes using epoxy resin. There are three main components to my work: color, recycled wood, and the ways in which resin interacts with both. Traveling introduces me to new landscapes and new ways in which the ocean interacts with this landscape. The color of the water, the shoreline, and the waves are unique to each place. It influences the color pallet of each layer, the type and shape of wood I choose, and my placement of a white wash layer. Resin has a mind of its own, so travel has also taught me how to be flexible and embrace the drips, bubbles, and shifts in color that often happen.
Above: Claire with some of her artwork via thestateofdrift.com. If your interested in purchasing any of Claire's artwork, send her an email at [email protected]!
Any tips for folks heading down there for the first time?
Be prepared for wind. Rhode Island wind can be harsh but this wind is apocalyptic. It blew my 10ft longboard down a hill, destroyed our tent, and required full-body coverage while outside to avoid the stinging sand. I have never experienced anything like it before and we actually had to go home early because of our damaged boards and camping equipment.