Waiting for PT Barnum (A bloodshot eyeful of the Baja PWA Wavesailing Event March/April 1999)  by Missouree Merwitt

 ....or maybe it was just five days of  cosmic shopping at the PWA&P

 

Angst Soup  Sometime in early March there began quite a hustle and bustle about holding a major international windsurfing contest in Punta San Carlos, Baja.  Negotiations were fast and furious between PWA organizers and Solo Sports, the current landlord of SC.  Eventually there were information leaks, which promptly took the high-speed onramp to the Internet News Groups and Chat rooms, etc.,etc..  This was not the first time this type of thing had been considered.  Not two years ago the exact same proposition had met stiff opposition by a host of San Carlos regulars and then new land manager, Solo Sports owner, Kevin Trejo.

 Oh there were harsh critics this time as well, with all the same arguments and doomsday predictions but somehow as if by providence a deal was struck with the contest scheduled for March 30-April 6.  There were conditions that seemed sensible and reasonable to all concerned including those non-contestant visitors.

A final body count of 35 contestants was agreed to, as well as not closing the point to contestants only.  The property itself also underwent some improvements with the adding of several outhouses further down the point towards the fishcamp.  Easter time is traditionally a busy time at the point and the Internet helped to spread the word to those interested in visiting or avoiding the contest period.  Tensions were running high but were suspiciously void of the previous threats of vandalism and violence.  Funny, a consensus showed either complete contempt or total apathy.  Those adamantly opposed referred to Kevin Trejo’s shift in positioning as Betrejo-ing the Point.  San Carlos holds a place of spirituality to most and the thought of holding an event there seemed downright sacrilegious.  The PWA organizers knew the issues and planned a careful strategy to acknowledge and respect the regular’s sanctuary. 

Amidst the flurries of venomous e-mails about the PWA Apocalypse, a decision is made by some close-knit devotees (and GS conscripts) to visit the carnage first hand. 

There are consultations and such with the mystics at www.subgenius.com and a sign is delivered in the form of an image of a Dobbs head complete with sombrero.  It is discovered on the lid of our ZuZu’s Pizza box and is composed of sauce and cheese.  It was truly a cosmic experience, and that was all the justification we needed, so the sortie to Armageddon was on.  That night I have a nightmarish dream about being a willing, smiling, what me worry, participant in a 1950’s Army nuclear bomb test, not in Nevada but in the San Carlo’s desert.  The blast is coming from the point and none of the participants have a clue about just how far we all are in harm’s way.  When the bomb goes off there is a bright, white light and instantly we are all Soupy Sales-ed with cream pies.  Whoa!  No more loaded pizza for me after 10PM!  

Enter Farqauer the Magnificent     I had never traveled to Baja with Mr. Rod Johnson, Special Events Editor for a chic boutique, micro, sports, magazine.  (I refuse to divulge the name for it is embarrassing.  They were in fact the only pub willing to foot at least half of the expenses and pay me a nominal fee.  And that’s important to my taxman.)  Clay Feeter, my editor in chef, refused to take my calls on the subject ....something about the Pt. Magu hijinks still fresh in his head.  I wasn't about to let it get me down so I jumped at the chance to freelance this assignment with Mr. Johnson or RJ  an avid Hunter Thompson fan and literary provocateur of measurable continence (whatever that means)

 I have enough psychotic traveling companion stories to fill a Stephen King novel so it definitely pays to interrogate your riders beforehand, especially those who hold  Dr. Thompson in such high esteem.   RJ and I decided to meet halfway between Malibu and Huntington Beach to properly begin splitting the travel expenses.  Long gone are the days of bulging magazine expense accounts.  Shoot!  Born too late again!  Oh well, Readers Digest has rejected all of my diatribes and consternations, so I guess it is this assignment or the  Huntington Beach Weekly Reader public opinion poll.  Mr. Johnson, a Mediterranean food aficionado settled for a little French Moroccan joint out by LAX, appropriately named “Le Kasbah.”  I never knew French Moroccan was considered Mediterranean.  After a little Tabasco and saltines who cares.

 Le Kasbah was one of those retro movie bar/restaurants complete with a Bogie look-alike who sat at the bar most of the evening nursing his virgin tonic & lime and chain smoking filter less clove cigarettes?  Twice during the evening he would slide off his bar stool slither over to the famous actor look-a-like piano player across the room and utter those infamous most misquoted words “play it again Sam.”  Tonight was going to be very different for the bit players, ourselves, and a new character none of us yet knew.  As if by some interplanetary convergence, a complex action of collisions was about to change our lives forever.  As Rick slid off his bar stool to make his rounds to the piano, a tall, dark and curious looking fellow with a rather large French style proboscis was walking backwards carefully studying the ceiling décor.  Mr. Johnson and I were engaged in a hot debate over the virtues of fresh tortellini versus dry when Bogie and the man connected sending them careening over our table.  Drinks, dinner, and an ornate breadbasket went flying.  The table collapsed as Mr. Johnson and I went backwards onto the floor.  The management and staff suddenly surrounded us.  Dinners were immediately comped; Bogie was sent home for the evening with accusations of yet again spiking his tonics and introductions were made to and from the mystery man, Monet Della Farqauer.  We invited Monet to join us at our new table and soon more cosmic Dobb's head  stuff began to surface.  Monet was a pro windsurfer of inherited means from the now defunct providence of French Ghana.  His direct descendants were incarcerated at Devil’s Island on trumped up charges, of course.  Monet wore very thick circular round wire-rimmed spectacles.  Even corrected, his vision was not quite 20/20.  The glasses were dwarfed by the shear size of his breathing tool and he had to sometimes lift his head up squinting to catch a more definitive view of his interest.  This combined with the wrinkled white linen suit he was wearing gave him a rather Fellini-esque appearance.

He had just arrived in Los Angeles with hopes of competing in the PWA event in San Carlos.  With a very thick French accent he told us that his gear was being stored at LAX while he sourced out a car and directions.  He was having trouble finding a rental company to rent him a vehicle for travel into Mexico.  I could see that Mr. Johnson was taking a less than biblical  liking to Monet and about an hour into our introductions he invited him to stay at my house and volunteered me to bring him with us to San Carlos.  Was Mr. Johnson really my Dr. Gonzo?

My acceptance of this new plan was purely an after thought.  It was three days before our departure and a rare blue moon was predicted to appear during our journey.  There were conditions present that made this a very rare occurrence.  The last time a similar blue stellar event had occurred was over 150 years ago.  Befitting set of circumstances for a cosmic  misadventure, don’t you think? 

Driving Miss Dizzy-a personal diary of Mayhem in Mudville

We are expecting the worse so we arm ourselves with laptops, cameras and film, batteries, tequila, rum, more batteries, 6 cases of Tecate, 23 emergency marine flares, still more batteries, oh yeah........ and one canned supermodel blowup doll.  Any other recreations would be dug up in the desert.  My traveling partners, right out of a Joseph Conrad novel, knew the significance of this event and it was clear to all that history was in the making or was it taking?  San Carlos was about to lose its virginity at the hands of a well seasoned pro, thusly we require a ringside seat with Hotdog, and Beer tenders at the beckon.  Very prolific and I guess and a little kinky!  Whip!  Crack!  Pass me the Grey Poupon please. 

March 31  There are intrigues from the start of the trip.  The Melissa and Papa viruses have manifested themselves in the computers in my office on the day we are to leave.  Because I am the MIS manager, this situation delays me leaving for home to pack, putting me 6 hours behind schedule.  I normally preplan my food menu for the week. With the addition of Farqauer and his exotic dietary needs, our preplanning is totally irrelevant.  There is no time to revise the menu so a COSTCO supermarket sweep nets more food than we can possibly eat in a month of continuous feasts and banquets.  Loading the truck was reduced to  more like throw it in, throw it on, and pray to the St. Christopher later.  This made life very interesting on the dirt road.  I am unwittingly turning my back on all of those precious Baja tenets of lessons hard learned over the years.  This is wild and reckless living - I anticipate a nasty whipping by Baja fate and hope I get off for good behavior for past travel benevolences  to others. At 11P.M. I give in to an uneasy sleep complete with horrific dreams of travel woes and mechanical breakdowns. . 

We have been on the road since 2 A.M and I am driving on 3 hours sleep.  It is decided to enjoy some fine dining at Denny’s in San Ysidro.  The food is predicable and there is an added touch of ambiance to the room.  We are serenaded by a door alarm that the manager cannot turn off.  It does wonders for our digestion and conversation.  Farqauer questions the now very agitated by the alarm Manager with his thick French accent about why American’s call his breakfast, French Toast.  The manager short on patience, long arms us to the door with a “le me esplain…” and we’re nudged off to Nunca, Nunca Land.  As we leave the border Mexican secondary it dawns on me to ask Farqauer if he has his passport…he does not.  I feel that roulette wheel of Baja fortune or fate slowing down on my red number 13.  It has rained from Rosarita to Colonet.  Driving conditions are tedious to say the least.  Farqauer keeps us amused with stories of his opulent life in the tropics.  Little did I know that his thick French inflection is putting me into a hypnotic trance. 

At Camalu, I doze off doing 70 mph down MEX 1 highway.  As I drift over to the opposing lane, I also take 5 years off my companions’ lives as we narrowly miss a head on with a Baja bus.  This experience was all I needed to keep me awake for the rest of the drive.  I believe Farqauer soiled his shorts over the whole episode.  It is cramped in the cab of my truck making the rest of the southbound drive miserable.  I am beginning to feel the roulette wheel resting securely on my red number 13.

I keep flashing on the scene from Trains, Planes and Automobiles when John Candy looks over at Steve Martin and says "Gee that was close".  It is the only thing I can concentrate on to preserve my sanity. Otherwise I would have matched Farquars unscheduled deposit.  I fight back a nervous chuckle under my breath, disguised as a cough.  My gut is perpetually wrenched, something that only a few Tecates will remedy. I dare not ask my now silent companions who were mentally putting their last wills and testaments together, to crack open the cooler.  I should have though, it was way too somber in the cab as we meandered our way to El Rosario. Mr. Johnson threw in some obscure collection of Celtic durges that cultivated a series of well orchestrated  repetitive  sighs.

When we finally reach the road, we double-check the boards on the roof while consuming a six pack in less than 3 minutes.  This seems to put our spirits back on track but does nothing for ensuring the gear is secure. 

Half way through the Dirt Road we need to retie the gear on.  Somewhere on the road, we lose our Astro turf carpeting.  A week later, on the way back to out to the highway, it is gone, now, no doubt, a lovely compliment to some locals adobe abode. 

April 1st  We pick a lovely sloping cliffside plot of ground with-in stones throw of the Solo Sports Campo and PWA Central.  (We never threw any -honest, although we were heavily bribed to do so).  Frayed and frazzled by the turmoil's of the trip we decide to surf first, setup camp later.  This morsel of wisdom made famous by Dr. Trumbo, is challenged later that evening when a violent rainstorm hammers our tent to the ground.  I bound out of the comfort of my truck into the blackest of nights to assist Mr. Johnson and Farkle, our latest nickname for Farqauer. 

It is utter chaos trying to fix the tent in the dark while being pounded by 30-knot winds and rain.  I am wearing brand new Ugg boots that are christened Mugg boots the next morning from the caked on mud of my romp the night before.  We have a small duck pond in the low end of the tent another result of evening camp setup.  It is christened Lake Farqauer Bayou in honor of its shoreline resident. 

Meanwhile back at the point the contest is going off without a hitch.  Mssr. Farkle is devastated when he learns that despite all of his credentials and healthy trust fund, he cannot enter the contest.  This news sets him off on a drinking binge that will deplete us of all our inebriates within 2 days.  Mr. Johnson tries in vain to extract any contest information from the organizers but their lips are ever so politely sealed.  The contestants must also be sworn to secrecy because when we ask them what is going on, they admit that they are just as confused as we are.  Outward appearances indicate all is well, although we have nothing to compare it to. 

 

 

 

 

The Tempest Begs an Encore  On our second night, it is decided to celebrate all the recent birthdays Mr. Johnson and Farkle have lost due to my grave driving boner back at Camalu.  There are toasts and salutations mixed in with a host of chastisements for my almost fatal of faux pas.  Little did we know that outside a few miles offshore trouble was again brewing.  We, in a much-lifted spiritual state, finally settle down for the evening only to be nailed to the floor by another raging torrential rainstorm.  In a perpetual state of delirium from alcohol and other inebriates, Farkle gets into the marine flares in the height of the tempest.  He is wildly launching them in all directions accept the most appropriate, straight up.  Imagining himself as a courageous 19th century sea captain, he shouts orders in French to an imaginary crew of his disentegrating sinking ship.  We wrestle the gun away from him and begin to lecture him about the virtues of gun safety and substance abuse.  He is too far-gone to understand and within a few moments he has found another gun and in defiance of our wishes, fires a flare within the confines of the tent.  This is interesting to say the least.  Quick-witted Mr. Johnson grabs the squiggling, writhing flare with salad tongs and pitches it outside the tent.  Capt. Farkle as he is now called, is banished to the now transformed Lake Farqauer swamp at the low end of the tent.  He spends the night huddled in a semi-dry corner mumbling something about the ghosts of croaking frogs long past gone in their service to his cast iron cooking skillet,  keeping him up all night.  Mr. Johnson and I are cultivating quite a case of Franco phobia.

April 2 The contest is still on track and going well, we postulate.  Information is still sketchy and conditions are just enough to hold dynamic heats down at the point. 

At noon I go for a beer and discover that we are completely dry.  That rat bastard Capt. Farkle is down at the point completely looped.  He is shouting French obscenities at the contestants and exposing his privates in a lascivious gyrating  manner best kept to the techno acid romps of the late night LA Club scene.  The contest personnel are very tolerant and consider these antics as entertainment.  I am not amused.  I want a beer and I want it now!  There is also a fluke in the beverage department over at the Solo Sports campo and they are as dry as we are.  I guess it must be time for a San Carlos prayer meeting for by nine that evening all is quite in our camp and we are lulled to sleep by the nearby contestants crooning Kum-by-ya, around their well-manicured campfire. That quickly fades and is replaced by a P.A. broadcast of a satellite TV station porno movie, compliments of our mad scientist/musician neighbor in a blue mini-strato bus.  That night our dreams were filled with gorgeous pro women windsurfing supermodels sailing in frilly French teddies.  Oooo-la-la! 

April 3  Mr. Johnson and I quiz the contestants on a number of subjects.  They are quite friendly and very concerned about preserving the Baja experience at San Carlos and reference the contest motto “Baja with Respect.”  We sense their conviction.  We also quiz the non-contestants about the impact the event is having on the point.  All comments are positive.  The traveling pros mingle with the campers sharing stories, rigging tips and the like.  There is way too much Kum-by-ya.  Even Capt. Farkle shares some of his most coveted and prized speedsailing tips with a group of mesmerized pros.  I spend my time searching for a beer.  Not that I needed one, it was just that I was tiring of Fruit Punch Gatorade and Nyquil.  Funny, we still don’t have a full grasp on where the contest is going.  It must be OK as none of the contestants are grumbling. 

Capt. Farkle strikes a deal with the local fishermen and rides into El Rosario for supplies- AKA beer, rum, tequila, and beer, he is not seen for 2 days.  Life is sweet but very mundane in his absence. 

April 4  Another day in paradise.  Conditions have not changed, medium wind, medium surf.  It is still acceptable for running a successful contest.  I am not enamored with San Carlos in March.  It is bone chilling cold all day and night.  The water is a modest 52 degrees.  Most of the contestants do not wear booties or gloves.  A hand full wear short sleeve wetsuits.

No one complains about the freezing conditions.  Mr. Johnson gives up trying to decipher contest results.  He is promised e-mails of contest activities.  To this day, he has never received them.  

Still the vibe is good with Solo Sports and the PWA contest organizers.  There have been no negative incidents between contestants and non-contestants.  There has been only one incident of a non-contestant sailing through the contest site.  The contest officials just smile and politely wave him through and continue on with the business of running the contest.  Maybe all the fuss has been the fear of fear itself.  Most of the pre-contest negative feedback concentrates on the video that is being produced by a very impressive production group at the site.  There is still the prediction that this video will pave the way for the descending hordes to invade the point.  Only time will tell. 

I meet Glenn Dubock, a photographer that I’ve known about for 12 years.  We have worked independently on the same magazine and have never met.  We end up spending about 10 hours catching up on old times.  I now take back all those mean, petty and jealous things I used to say about him.  Well, almost all of them. 

April 5   It is the last day of the contest.  They will run the rest of the heats all the way through the finals. Capt. Farkle returns from El Rosario thoroughly french-fried. Who knows what he’s been into or up to?  Instead of the promised truckload of booze, he slides into camp virtually unnoticed with three six packs and a half empty bottle of Tequila.  Something is afoot.  Capt. Farkle has a devious plan that he keeps to himself.  He intends to steal a contestant jersey and rig, then sail in a heat.  He will not be denied his destiny. 

Mr. Johnson and I take our positions at the point for a day of filming the powerhouse surfsailing.  We are not disappointed.  It is impressive to see the world’s elite sailors ripping up the point.  Meanwhile back at camp Capt. Farkle is making good on his plan to crash the contest. 

Kevin and Matt Pritchard, Nik Baker, and Jason Polokow are shredding the point.

The performances are spectacular.  No set wave goes unridden.  It is painful to have to be prudent about putting the hammer down on the motor drive.  Twenty-five feet away Glenn’s motor drive is smoking.  He is out shooting us 4 to 1 on rolls of film.  Mr. Johnson promises me that one-day, I too, shall shoot with impunity. 

No one notices Capt. Farkle’s entrance into the contest arena.  He blends into the pack until a set gives him the perfect opportunity to shine.  He nurses the outside mushy logo high wave into the perfect position to drive across the face into the left bowl section on the inside.  Everything is working out to be his finest 15 seconds of fame.  As he drives hard off the bottom into the left bowl, it jacks up and throws.  Swoossh!  He flies off the face and out in front of the wave in a 20-foot, one handed, head cocked back, aerial.  As he floats down he makes a perfect 3-point landing and sails off toward the fish camp.  Everyone on the point including the judges are on their feet cheering.  Their acknowledgements are short-lived and interests are diverted to Jason Polokow who now enters the bay on a rare logo-plus high set wave.  There is a combined total of about 78 shots taken by the small group of photographers on this one wave alone. 

As the finals approach it appears that Jason Polokow has secured a clean first place with Nik Baker second.  Mr. Johnson and I along with a camper cheering section put Kevin and Matt Pritchard at a clean third and fourth.  The judges disagree and put Bjorn Dunkerbeck at third with Kevin and Matt as fourth and fifth.  We can’t explain it.  They must have seen something we missed. 

Evening Festiments  At the PWA ceremony, The publisher of Generic Sailboarder makes a special award announcement to First Place winner Jason Polokow.  The First Annual Generic Sailboarder- Sailor of the Year award, which this year is a canned supermodel Blowup doll, marks the future for GS award presentations.  Jason was so impressed he later disappears with his new friend for a night on the town, San Carlos style. 

Capt. Farkle, now satisfied with completing his mission, dazzles the crowd with an impressive fireworks display of emergency marine flares and colorful French obsenities.  It appears that the organizers have forgiven even his most heinous crime of crashing the contest.  Mr. Johnson and I thank them for that but they act as if they don’t know what we’re talking about.  Better to leave it alone, I guess. 

April 6   As the morning sun rises over the mountain; a strange ship is observed out in the bay.  Capt. Farkle fearing he has summoned the Mexican Coast Guard with the distress flare show, scrambles to collect the spent shell casings.  He mutters about his intense fear of spending time in a Mexican jail.  Must be a Devil’s Island thing.  Sometimes he can be such a nervous, sweating man of calamity.  Later as it was learned the ship's presence was unrelated to his impressive display and he calms down.  With the contest over it is time to pack and head for home or the next destination. 

The PWA contest machine quietly retreats into the desert bound for he next contest location.  Mr. Johnson and I stand at the point and observe that there had not been any visible damage or negative impact to the land.  All appears to be as it was before they came.  It is once again quiet and peaceful. 

The remaining campers are impressed but eager to get back to enjoying their San Carlos experience.  Looks like Solo Sports and The PWA organizers have pulled it off.  

Epilogue

We came expecting the worse and left with a good feeling that the event had not been what the doomsayers had predicted.  The PWA motto of “Baja with Respect” was more than just words to the contestants; it was a mission statement.  The success of the event in large part it was due to the planning of Solo Sports and the organizers.

But it is also those whose decision was to change their plans and wait to enjoy the classic San Carlos experience.  As we are driving home, we see many vehicles heading out to the point.  Timing and promotion of an event of this nature would greatly aid in preserving visitor’s expectations and making for a positive vibe. 

As for Monet Della Farqauer, Mr. Johnson and I have most likely not heard or seen the last from him.  Mr. Johnson made him a roving correspondent, sort of knighted him in the field of battle, so to speak.  I will let time decide the wisdom of this bold move. 

As we creep up the line to the Border Patrol station, we encourage him to just smile and keep his mouth shut.  Without his passport, things could get sticky for all of us.

We luck out with having a disinterested guard and we are home free.  We drop off Farkle at LAX.  With promises to write often (at Mr. Johnson’s request), he is bound for Fiji, trust fund checkbook in one hand and the last emergency launcher and flare in the other. 

The PWA contest has been another milestone in the history of Punta San Carlos.  There is still a very strong fear that this is the end.  It is difficult to tell at this point.  Has this established a precedent?  What will be the immediate and long-term results?  Hopefully those who have control of its destiny will guide it with respect and in a direction that will benefit everyone including the land. 

The End