We arrived at the parking lot of San Miguel just north of Ensenada early Saturday morning.
“The surf is pumping,” said my eldest son Israel.
Hooting, we rushed toward the water, as we observed an overhead set slam the point, peeling down the beach. No one was out.
We had about 90 minutes before the start of the junior boys heats. So we quickly donned our wetsuits, paddled out and enjoyed some quality point waves with just a handful of surfers who eventually joined us.
My sons and I were in San Miguel, a legendary point break just north of Ensenada, for the 3rd Annual Walter Caloca Open. The Walter Coloca is organized by United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (founded and run by Alfredo Ramirez) with the support of WiLDCOAST. This year the event included surfers from Mexico, Venezuela, South Africa and the U.S.
“With over 80 participants, sunny skies and amazing surf, this was the most successful event yet,” said Ramirez.
A combo swell brought 3-6’ perfect waves to contestants who pleased the large beach crowd with barrels, aerial maneuvers and the best of modern surfing.
The contest was founded in honor of Walter Caloca, a young Ensenada surfer who tragically passed away several years ago. Walter was loved by his peers and is remembered through a weekend of high caliber youth and adult surfing, music, raffles, a beach and arroyo cleanup and many other activities.
On Saturday young surfers competed in junior boys and girls, bodyboard and stand up paddle divisions.
Winning the boys division was Imperial Beach local, Josh Johnson. Also in the final were Daniel Dedina (2nd), Gavin Lache (3rd) and Dakotah Hooker (4th).
Miguel Torres was crowned champion of the very competitive bodyboard division, Mark “Kiwi” Field won the stand up paddle and Arias Chavira dominated the under 16 girls. A beach cleanup sponsored by Pawa in conjunction with Pronatura-Noroeste removed 440 pounds of trash from the beach and arroyo at San Miguel.
At a Saturday evening surf fiesta, Ensenada nonprofit Surf-Ens, a driving force behind the recently established Bahia Todos Santos World Surfing Reserve that includes San Miguel, gave a presentation on the reserve.
The party took place at Boules, an art-filled restaurant with an Ensenada-Biarritz vibe overlooking San Miguel. Boules, owned by Javier Martinez, with its boules court and large patio overlooking the ocean, is about the nicest place I could think of to watch waves and enjoy a true international surf fiesta.
Surfers were greeted Sunday morning with flawless conditions. San Miguel did not disappoint with clean walls throughout the day. 44 men from four countries showcased an array of talent on perfect overhead waves for a chance to win the Open Mens division.
I was in the first heat of the morning for the Men’s Open. At 48, and as an average middle-aged surfer, I have no illusions about my prowess for competitive surfing. But the chance to surf great waves at San Miguel with just a few people in the water was an opportunity I did not want to pass up.
Luckily I was the first contestant to paddle out Sunday morning. As soon as I made it to the outside, a beautiful overhead set rolled through that provided ample opportunity for me to display my hopelessly outdated 70s-style (I was channeling Terry Fitzgerald at J. Bay).
However, the heat had not started, my set wave did not count, and I could not match it with any decent scores during the 20-minute heat that followed. Still, it was great to get out in the water and enjoy the company of my fellow competitors.
South Africa’s Brandon Roberts that took the win over a stacked group of finalists including Cody Sherman (2nd), Jaime Noia (3rd) and Rodger “Honey Duck” Eales (4th). The women and longboard also surfed on Sunday and it was none other than local charger Naara Nunez and Miguel Arroyo winning those divisions respectively.
So thanks Alfredo for another great event that shows why the ocean and surfing know no borders.
Thanks to Zach Plopper for additional reporting.
Serge Dedina is executive director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.
About this column: Serge Dedina's take on the waves and the people who ride them from a world class surf town in the most southwestern corner of the continental United States.