SUP Touring Baja With Paul Clark
Usually I just say I’m a kayaker. It makes it easier to describe what I’m doing when planning a paddling trip. People seem confused when I tell them I’ll be paddleboarding hundreds of miles down rivers or coasts with my gear tethered to the deck. “You’re going to take a surf board where? I don’t think you can do that,” they say. “I can, I’m just looking for information about logistics. It’s not really a surfboard I’ll be on…” I reply. In the end, it’s just easier to say kayak.
To be clear, mine is the perspective of a kayaker. When I guided sea kayaking in Alaska and Mexico it was showing people how to access remote areas with paddle power alone, being self-contained and open to fresh experiences in wilderness. Once I stood up on a SUP I haven’t had a need to sit back down in a kayak. But my desire to paddle in wild places hasn’t changed. If anything I’m more enthusiastic to paddle deeper into remote environments.
And so, I went to Baja to tour the entire east coast by paddleboard. The Sea of Cortez is a sea kayaking mecca, and I have paddled the entire 1000-mile coast, twice, both solo in a sea kayak. SUP, on the other hand, is still a novelty in Baja. Sure, surfers do drive their boards down from the states, and tourists can rent boards to meander around protected bays. But SUP touring there is rare.
Traveling with an inflatable 12’6″ touring board is liberating. Unlike the surfers and kayakers, who have to have rigs to haul their gear overland, I was able to roll all my gear and board in an oversized dry bag backpack. I flew to Cabo, then hitchhiked and took buses up the coast to Santa Rosalia. Though I was carrying a heavy and conspicuous load, I didn’t have to worry about the hassle of having my own car there or the logistical difficulty of shuttling it back and forth over Baja.
Once on the water, the board is the vehicle and the dry bag lives on the deck, keeping everything secure and organized. I bring much less gear for SUP touring. There’s just no room for excess stuff. It’s an exercise in simplicity.
The 320-mile descent from Santa Rosalia to La Paz is a perfect test piece for any paddler. Food and water can be purchased along the way in Mulege and Loreto. Other than in those towns, you are camping unmolested on beaches, both sandy and cobbled. The occasional tiny fish camp village populated by subsistence fisherman motoring around in pangas is the only kind of civilization for miles for most of the journey. The 200 miles between Loreto and La Paz is the most beautiful and remote, where you must bring all your own water. For me that was 40 liters, carried in MSR Dromedary bags. Once you are on this coast, you are alone with sea birds and a desert horizon that disappears into the sea. It’s a quintessential paddling destination where paddling skills are challenged and made stronger.
For me, questions were answered with this trip. Now, I can say, “Absolutely yes” about standing up where kayakers go. With experience and a well-planned system, paddle boarding is the perfect way to tour an open coast. And, while it’s still easier to say “I kayak,” I am proud to be a paddleboarder. –Paul Clark
For more information on SUP touring baja, click here.
For more information on SUP Paul Clark, visit his website.
To view the Garmin tracking of Paul’s Baja expedition, click here.
The article was originally published on Standup Paddling
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