San Diegans, at least a good number of them, have had a long-standing love for the 800-mile-long Baja Peninsula. Until the north-south Highway 1 was completely paved in the mid 1970s, it was an arduous trip to go south of Ensenada. Even so, many made the trip down the entire length and back.
Others found just what they were looking for on the Pacific just south of Tijuana. There, along the bluffs and pocket beaches lie Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo, and La Misión.
Puerto Nuevo became a destination for romantics and foodies, but the surf crowd started filling in the 50-mile stretch from south of the Tijuana Playas to Salsipuedes.
Las Gaviotas (“the seagulls”) at km 41 along Highway 1, just nine miles south of Rosarito, sets up normally as a long right reef point break with an occasional left, depending on swell direction. Due to the coastline jutting southeast below Rosarito, the wind is primarily offshore out of the north, which can make for clean faces to surf, especially during a south swell. Though it is graded as “beginner to pro” on many surf websites, on the average head-high day only more experienced surfers will be in the lineup. The bottom there is mostly sharp rock strewn with sea urchins, so those without a lot of experience tend to stay ashore when the surf is high.
In spite of the unfriendly bottom, the break became so popular that a gated community of the same name now sits along the shore in front of it. According to a February 1, 2013, travel story, there are “condos ranging from one to six bedrooms. The condos are all equipped with fully stocked kitchens, two-car garages, decks for lounging, and WiFi for you internet junkies — everything a person looking to blow off some steam would need. Right now the six-bedroom villas (maximum 12 people) are going for a meager 175 bucks a night.”
On the average summer weekend, Gaviotas can get a bit crowded, especially when there is a push from the south, but most of the year it is fairly vacant. The water is usually cooler than in San Diego due to the cold-water current that flows out of the near-shore trenches from south of Tijuana down about 250 miles. December can be a great month for “Gavs,” as the surfers call it, due to the prevailing north swell that wraps around and creates long, rolling waves.
Due to the speed and form of the break on the average day, Las Gaviotas sets up well for the knee-boarding crowd, too. This weekend, there is a gathering of “half-boarders” at the break called the Baja-Surf-About hosted by Kneeboard Surfing USA. So, if you have a 4/3 suit (it might be chilly), a passport, and booties in hand, this might be for you. All kneeboard enthusiasts are welcome to join in. If interested in renting a house, a good starting point is at las-gaviotas.com. If planning on camping in the area, public beaches are generally okay, but better to search out campsites at any Baja travel club, such as Baja.com.