Those of us privileged to call Baja Arizona home already know that this is a great place to live, eat, and paddle. And now the rest of the world will know, too. Red Paddle Co. published my piece about paddling here to its far-flung international audience. Check it out, share it with a friend, and let’s paddle:
The idea was to SUP first and sip later, but a delayed departure from Tucson and the early sunsets of November called for a change in plans. Which couldn't have worked out better! At Flying Leap Vineyards in Elgin the staff welcomed and then impressed us with her fun delivery of deep wine knowledge. The sipping part of the day was off to a tasty start--the wine was great!
This 4-person, 4-boards Baja Arizona SUP road trip took us east on I-10 from Tucson and then south on Arizona 83 through the Santa Rita foothills and down into the high grasslands of Santa Cruz County. Dark spots of cattle offset the dry dun-colored grass, the angles of occasional windmills rose from the rolling landscape, and donkeys could be seen hanging out with horses. At the cross-roads in Sonoita, we continued south and then turned left/east onto Elgin Road, which makes finding a vineyard easy because they line the north side of the road.
After we had sipped our way through a number of offerings, the staff at Flying Leap took us to the distillery where they make vodka from grapes. It apparently takes a lot of grapes and is a more expensive process, but the results were worth it. More sipping ensued. (What about the paddling, you ask? Don't worry, we'll get to it.) The grape-based vodka won new converts and our crew added a bottle of vodka to the wine already purchased at the tasting room.
After a photo op with the friendly horses and donkeys across the road from Flying Leap, we headed southwest on Arizona 82 toward Patagonia and our paddling destination, Patagonia Lake. We put in at the sandy beach on the east end of the 2.5 miles long lake, which is set in hills and lined with mesquite trees, reeds, and rock outcroppings. This being a Tuesday in November, we had the place to ourselves, and this being Arizona, we paddled in board shorts and tee shirts. And while we were at it, we worked on paddle stroke technique and--no surprise here for anybody who knows me--took more than a few photos. Nobody had to be told to smile. We eventually drove home in the dark, ready to return.
Let me know if you want to go: Chris@BajaArizonaSUP.com
Board meeting minutes:
Flying Leap Vineyards Tasting Room: 342 Elgin Road, Elgin, AZ. Contacts: Phone 520-455-5499 Email Contact@FlyingLeapVineyards.com Website: http://www.flyingleapvineyards.com
Patagonia Lake State Park https://azstateparks.com/patagonia-lake/
Go to Hawaii. I'm not kidding. Stop whatever you're doing and go to Hawaii. Ann and I went to Hawaii, more specifically Oahu, for the first time and we're going back. SUP rentals are available along Waikiki beach, which has calm stretches, sections with slow roller waves, and reefs where waves with faces crest and break.
Adding to our domestic bliss, we lucked into a corner room with two balconies at the Doubletree on Ala Moana, snorkeled twice at Hanauma Bay, cruised into the clouds on the Pali Highway, chanced upon the Kalapawai Market in Kailua and its wonderful waffle breakfasts, had a great time at Chief's Luau in Waimanalo, hiked to the top of Diamond Head, and circumnavigated the eastern half of the island from Haleiwa (home of Clark Little's gallery) to Kahuku (for garlic shrimp at Giovanni's Original White Shrimp Truck) and back to Honolulu via the Likelike Highway. And that's just the tip of the shave iceberg. Everywhere on the island there was a lot of aloha.
My salt water standup paddling experience had been limited to cruising beyond the breaks in San Diego, along the coast of Martha's Vineyard, and gliding downwind through the cut from Eustasia Sound to North Sound off Virgin Gorda. For me, not being able to surf was like racing a sailboat without a spinnaker. Or like having an asterisk after my name. (*Flat water only.) That had to change.
Enter Ohana Surf Project (www.ohanasurfproject.com), a mobile lessons operation that teaches in the breaks off Queens Beach. The staff is friendly, knowledgable and professional. I learned more from my lesson with Chelsea Lewis and owner Sean Anderson than I ever would have by DIY'ing it. The lesson started with me catching waves on my knees and by the end paddling into them standing up. Full disclosure: I was not carving down the face of overhead waves. I was getting acquainted with small waves that nonetheless provided the surge and sensation of gliding fast over water. And now I'm hooked. Make that stoked. I see the future, and it's coming in waves.
Check out these links:
Hanauma Bay http://hanaumabaystatepark.com
Kalapawi Market http://www.kalapawaimarket.com
Chief's Luau http://www.chiefsluau.com
Clark Little https://clarklittlephotography.com
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck http://www.giovannisshrimptruck.com
Ann and I are going to head south, deeper into Baja Arizona, for a paddle session at Pena Blanca Lake. Pena Blanca is back in the high desert hills near the border with Mexico. It's out of the way, off the grid, and the kind of oasis that's perfect for Baja Arizona SUP. Want to go? You don't have to wait until Mother's Day 2017. In the meantime, we'll post pics when we get back to Tucson.