Winter Stand Up Paddle Destinations – Northern Baja California

Isle crew enjoying paddle boarding the giant winter swell at Killers surf break in Baja Mexico

Enjoying a Sunset Paddle & Surf

After such a slow winter for big waves in Cali the anticipation of a new large swell is always exciting and we opted to head down south to northern baja a day before the swell and do some paddling to warm up. We pulled into a small fishing village to enjoy some fresh sea urchin, clams and beers while watching the swell start to fill. We even had a run in with a pig on the beach wallowing in the surf and eating leftovers falling from the tables.  After catching a sunset surf and paddle on the point, chasing the pig around and stuffing our bellies full it was time to bunk down for the night and head off to the island in the am to score some big waves with the paddle boards. We had a couple paddle board prototype 7’6 all carbon quad fins to test out and were eager to see how they performed in bigger waves. We also brought along a couple inflatable boards to paddle into the island to do some exploring. Northern Baja is filled with so many waves and islands it’s a surfers and paddlers paradise especially in winter when swells are more common.

isle team member Marc paddles into a few barrels as his hog awaits him on the beach

a birds eye view of the Isup explorer in action at Popotla fishing Village in Baja Mexico



Headed Out to the Big Waves of the Island

The next morning we arose to sunny skies and thumping swell at the beach break in front of our house. It was lining up to be one of those classic Baja California days with super warm weather and offshore winds and the crew was frothy to get out to the island and catch some big ones. We assembled the gear at the dock and organized a large fishing boat to take us out to the waves offshore. We even dropped a few lines in on the way out to try and snag a fish on the way out but had no luck and almost caught a passing seagull trying to snag the bait from the line. As we approached the big wave spot offshore the swells moved under the boat and we had a good feeling some solid swell was brewing at the deep water break on the island. When we finally turned the corner to see it in full view and it wasn’t as big as we hoped but still some monster sets coming in and sunny with a hint of side shore breeze. Side shore is never a good thing for this wave but with a light crowd we jumped in the deep blue water with our paddle boards and started picking off the insiders and dodging some bomb sets with a couple paddle surfers.

isle team member Chris trolling for big tuna on the way to Killers surf spot


isle crew sits down to freshly prepared clams casino Baja style and a few refreshments

The Rock Dance

The wave at the island can be spooky sometimes as just when you think you are out far enough a big set swings wide and washes out the lineup. It’s famous for catching you off guard and we narrowly escaped a few bombers unscathed huffing and puffing scrambling for the channel. The inside and outside of the wave is littered with big giant boulders covered in barnacles so its always safe to avoid at all costs as a swim across the boulders is never fun.

isle team rider marc paddling into a monsterous wave at Todos Santos Baja

The in between waves seemed to offer up the best ones skirting along the rocks with nice hollow sections. Jesse managed to snag a gem and after pulling up inside and drifting into the flats he took the brunt force of the lip to the back and neck and was washed into the boulder field. It looked horrendous and luckily he was shaken but not hurt. With bigger sets behind the first wave he managed to collect himself and duck a few larger ones and escape into the channel just before washing into the rocks. A close call and we figured it was time to pump up the inflatables and head into the island for some exploring as the wind picked up and the tide filled in.

paddle boarding at the foot of the gargantuan  wave break Killers in Baja Mexico

Landing the Inflatables SUPs on the Island

The island is surrounded entirely by waves and rocks so getting on is never that easy but inflatable boards sure help the effort. There is small protected corner on the backside a long ways from the boat so rather than paddle all the way around we opted to beach it in a small cove just down from the wave and only a few hundred yards off the bow. Timing the landing had to be just right to avoid getting the gear soaked and washing over the cobbles so after a short paddle we made our way to the shoreline and managed to sneak up the rocks in between sets. The inflatable boards have a nice give and are super easy to land and drag on rocks versus a hard board since they don’t damage. Once on dry land we clamored up the cliff and onto the cactus laden trail that leads up to the lighthouse.

On an island of cacti growing rampant as the Todos Santos wave breaks on the horizon

a lonesome explorer inflatable paddle board sits on the rocky shores of Isla Todos Santos Baja

The World’s Tallest Stairmaster – Climbing the Island Lighthouse

The trail bends around the edge of the island for about a mile and is littered with bones from dead fish left behind by the seagulls. With the recent rains the island was covered in a thick green grass and peppered with cactus. When we finally approached the lighthouse we asked the keeper if we could step inside and he obliged. We counted all 157 mini steps that wound around in a tight circle all the way to the top and once we reach the light we climbed out on a small balcony to enjoy the breathtaking 360 degree views of the island, mainland Baja and surrounding waves. Such a unique perspective and really no better way to check out the main big wave break. We soaked in in the views for a few hours and with sunset coming fast we made the long haul back to the cove and paddled back to the boat.

 inside the lighthouse on Isla Todos Santos Baja Mexico

a top the lighthouse viewing the vast island chain of islas Todo Santos

Whale Spotting on the Way In

a gray whale and her calf on their migratory route north Baja Mexico

After a full day of surfing paddling and exploring the crew was finally ready to call it a day and head back to the harbor. We had noticed whales spouting off just outside the island most of the day but too paddle over.  As we slowly motored back towards the harbor enjoying a frosty sunset beer about halfway we noticed a 2 pack sitting just off the bow of our boat letting us catch a glimpse of the barnacle encrusted blowholes from a stones throw as they breached the surface. Everyone on the boat was hooting and hollering as the whales stayed just off our side for a good ten minutes and it was definitely the cherry on top of an amazing day in North Baja. Until next time!



Winter Stand Up Paddle Destinations – Northern Baja California

Posted in Travel
Marc Miller - Co-Founder of Isle Surf & SUP. I started Isle back in 2004 to share my love of paddling and surfing in the ocean with others one board at a time. I love to surf, paddle , travel and write about it. When im not in the office I can be found on foreign shores searching for waves and fun.