The moment we crossed the breakwater at Marina Coral on our friend Jack’s sport fisher, anticipation was palpable. For years my grandsons Jake and Zachary, respectively 13 and 15 years old, had rhapsodized, “When are we going to Todos?”
This was D-day. We were underway to Todos Santos Islands, not to be confused with the also famous town of the same name in the Baja Sur. Situated 8 nautical miles from Ensenada, the island boasts surf spots that are on the big wave circuit and home to one yearly event. On board were their parents, also surfers, a non-surfing school friend but proficient photographer, and me, the grandmother.
Jack, the skipper, himself a seasoned surfer and frequent visitor to the island, had reported the night before that now was the window. There had been several false starts with the report that the waves were 24 feet high. Would they be able to hack those waves or meet conditions above their skill? We were going to the most challenging break, Killers, made forbiddingly unique by a combination of variables. Would they have to downgrade to Chickens or Urchins with smaller breaks for less daring surfers?
To heighten the suspense, Jack regaled us with tales of the Big Wave World Tour events of years past, at that very spot, with waves a minimum of 30’ with above 50’ preferred. Going between the islands we turned right and anchored in 50 feet of water abeam of Killers just under the lighthouse, and the surfboard cemetery.
Suiting up while assessing the situation, the boys showed no signs of fear. They jumped in and paddled over to the impact zone – the place where you wait for the waves. It’s one thing to watch surfers from shore, but a side view is much more impressive. My spine tingled as I watched the arrival of a set of swells. I tried to imagine the kids’ state of mind. Surf speak was spouting from the adults on the boat. Then one of the kids rode a wave up to the lip and turned quickly to surf back down the face, then carved a right turn to ride for what seemed an endless stretch which I feared would end up on the reef.
Another boat had arrived by then and someone yelled: How old is he? Thirteen yelled the parents in unison. You could detect some pride. The day was thus spent. The boys, as well as the others who had joined them, were “ripping”. I got inculcated with the surfing vernacular and culture. Generally a given surfer owns a wave following surfing etiquette so that seeing my two grandsons sharing a wave a few times was a thrill.
At day’s end, having joined the ranks of big wave surf riders, the boys admitted to being bushed – really? Almost six hours in the water. Wondering whether they had reached their current limits, I reflected that extreme surfing seemed to be, if not a way of life, surely a way of the spirit I was happy to have shared.
Heading back to the harbor, we encountered a pod of whales and were treated to a jump-and-blow show, a perfect ending to an unforgettable day.