Surfing the off-season in Baja – Lel Tone

When the shoulder season comes, most mountain guides like to seek out time by the ocean… Time to get those feet out of ski boots and the toes into the sand.. Time to expose parts of the body that have been covered by merino and Gortex to sunshine and daylight.

For me, my favorite place to go to decompress in the off –season is the southern tip of Baja. The Baja vibe is “tranquillo”, and despite the bad press in other parts of Mexico, the locals are extremely friendly — a shared beer is retuned with smiles or fresh fish caught from the mornings fishing venture. Baja offers great opportunity to camp on quiet beaches, get off the grid and sleep under the stars. For me, it’s a chance to hone my surfing, kiting and SUPing skills with out bothering anyone. Having grown up in the mountains all my life, being in and around the ocean is a humbling experience. It is a great opportunity for me to feel “out of my element” — maybe even a little scared as I get worked by waves on the Inside.

Baja bouldering

Baja bouldering

My trip to Baja this past fall was one of my best trips thus far… With the surf report calling for minimal to tiny waves on the East Cape, a friend and I slowly bumped our way down the washboard dirt road in the “Bailena Blanco” and posted up at our favorite spot, with the hope of not being beaten down by the usual Fall East Cape winds. Our only wish was to watch the beautiful full moon rise up from the Sea of Cortez, and maybe, just maybe surf some ankle biters. As luck would have it, (I’ve seen it happen in the mountains many times) the forecast was off and the waves just appeared…. Ankle biters turned to waist high waves, and then to shoulder high, and   2 days of the occasional overhead. Mother Nature rewards the unworthy out of nowhere. We surfed 6-8 hours a day till we could barely raise our arms. Mountain girls with ski legs, waking up before sunrise, sore and exhausted and ready to do it again. On the occasional blown-out afternoon, it was time for beach backgammon, ski-conditioning workouts on the sand, trainer kite flying, runs on the beach and yoga at sunset. And of course ample luke warm Tecates, because “hydration” is important in such climates…

"Ankle biters…"

“Ankle biters…”

Thank you Baja for always serving up the goods: siestas, great people, campfires on the beach, quiet time, no email or cell phone calls, good fresh seafood and most importantly time to recharge after a busy season or before a hectic one. I know the gratitude is shared by many of my fellow guides and mountain folk everywhere. Lots of “Beautiful British Columbia” plates on those beaches and dirt roads in the Baja desert.  For more great pictures, check out our friend Garret’s blog at

Back home in Tahoe and the snow is on the ground, the temps are cold, the tan is peeling, but my stoke is high for another great season ahead of me.

Sunrise and a cup of joe...

Sunrise and a cup of joe…

Giant Trevally on the Fly — Manda Bay


One of the FISH

Trevally on the fly

The latest news from Manda Bay:  Huge schools of sardines are now being seen just minutes from the lodge and fly fisherman who are looking for the thrill of catching giant trevally on a fly have been having some incredible mornings.

This species is known around the world for its power and the explosive hook up. However here at Manda we are sight fishing for them — sitting on the edge of a huge bait ball of sardines.   Small black tip reef sharks are ripping through, creating a chaotic atmosphere and an great opportunity to catch a variety of fish with every cast – (provided you don’t loose them to the sharks!)  Indo Pacific Mackerel, yellow tail trevally and giant trevally all patrol around the edge of the bait ball.

We are rigged with 8wt explorer rods and floating lines, casting small streamers.  We are casting along side these frenzies, proving to be very productive and often catching a different species with each hookup.

All this before most people have people have got up for breakfast!

Borana’s extraordinary efforts to save the African Rhino

Rhino stump    Rhino in the truck

Rhino relocation program, Borana Ranch, Kenya…

We are passionate about wildlife conservation – all around the world.  Perhaps nowhere in the world does wildlife hang in the balance more than in East Africa, as we see rapid population increases competing with endangered species for critical habitat.  Our friends and colleagues in Kenya are on the front lines and leading dramatic efforts to save endangered rhino and critical elephant corridors.

The story of the endangered rhino is particularly dramatic.  The recent demand for rhino horn and resurgence in poaching has reached catastrophic levels. In South Africa 650 rhino have been slaughtered this year alone. In proportion to its population, Kenya has lost even more.

The market price of rhino horn now rivals gold for value (approximately $65,000 a kilo) and it is estimated that the trade is worth over $17 billion a year. In the Far East, rhino horn is sold throughout Asia as traditional medicine. And we know that the illegal trade in rhino horn is fueling terrorist organizations, directly linked to the violence of al-Shabab.  The level of violence and slaughter has reached biblical proportions.

As a result, the pressure has mounted to extraordinary levels on both the national and private sectors involved with protecting this species. As the threat of poaching increases and becomes ever more sophisticated, so too has the determination and resources needed to protect rhino, as has the danger and the cost.

This past summer our friends and colleagues at the Borana Conservancy launched an intensive effort to re-introduce 21 black rhino to the property, opening up tens of thousands of acres of critical habitat.   The costs associated with protecting these extraordinary animals are enormous, the stress almost incapacitating.  Borana rangers have gone through rigorous training and the team has invested in extensive security systems to help keep these precious animals alive.  As part of the relocation process, the team goes so far as to remove the rhino’s horn (to hopefully remove the incentive for slaughter.)  Each night the team goes on high alert – and dreads the sound of gunshots.

We applaud the efforts of our friends at Borana and encourage you to get over there and see these incredible creatures.  40% of Kenya’s GDP is derived from tourism — it is their heritage and their identity.  Wildlife supports the economy of Kenya, and we are proud to be a small part of the effort to support it back.  We encourage you to learn more about Borana and their conservation efforts.  Borana owner Michael Dyer will be visiting the US in January, as we host him for a series of presentations and receptions – we will invite you to come meet Michael and learn about this incredible program.

Paddleboard the Bering Straight

Sonya Baumstein on the Bering Straight / © Photo by Dirk Collins

Sonya Baumstein on the Bering Straight / © Photo by Dirk Collins

Wales, Alaska is not a place many people would know of.  It is cold, windy and a long way from anything most would consider civilization.  Located at the tip of the Seward Peninsula, Wales is the western most community on mainland North America.  Wales is like most western Alaskan villages, except for the fact that it is a jumping off point for adventurers looking to cross the Bering Strait from the United States to Russia.

It was this small native village that our EpicQuest producer Dirk Collins, found himself to film Sonya Baumstein.  Sonya was attempting to be the first person to standup paddleboard (SUP) this notorious stretch of water.  The challenge of crossing the straight is not purely physical.  The endeavor is riddled with complicated logistics, external hazards and mental obstacles.  After patiently waiting weeks for the weather to clear, dealing with intercontinental politics and sourcing a local crew of native whale hunters to safely assist with the crossing, Sonya eventually got her chance.

Part of a campaign with Land Rover and Outside Magazine, the video series highlights adventurers and other pioneers that are driven toward greatness no matter what challenge they face.  To see if Sonya accomplished her goal and to check out videos of other driven individuals, check out:




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