Baja Califaction

The day after arriving in Mexico, we busied ourselves reorganizing and cleaning two months’ accumulated dirt, dust and a frightening number of dead cockroaches from inside the house. Never before have I lived somewhere where the window screens need to be cleaned so often. They become encrusted with dust and salt from the ocean-scented air. And that’s when they are stored inside the closed house! The tracks of sliding doors fill with silt and salt and all manner of tiny creature remains.

We sweat like a cold coke on a hot day and would have similarly left circular puddles on the floor if we’d stood still long enough. (Note, you can never drink enough water in the desert in summertime.) I glanced at the temperature gauge – it indicated it was already 94 degrees Fahrenheit at 10:00am.

Pressing things done, I suggested we take a run down to Nine Palms surf break. Winds were calm and the surf appeared to be 4-6 feet in front of our house. I had already checked and the surf was supposed drop and the wind pick up in the coming days, so if I was going to get any surfing in, it was now or not for several days.

We loaded the ATV with boards, ice water, snacks for the man and plied ourselves with 60 SPF sunscreen.

I felt the skin on my face heating up as we made our way South, too slow to induce the kind of cooling breeze that I craved. The sun was strong and it’s reflection off the road’s light-colored sand penetrated my sunglasses and barraged my eyes. The air was stifling and my breathing became labored as I tried to suck the seemingly limited oxygen from it. It occurred to me that the air was too hot to provide any cooling effect and as we progressed it felt as though we were under a broiler. We were in El Inferno! Dawn’s Hell.

It is only 4.5 miles to the surf break. As I got off the bike, my head swam and I felt my pulse thumping in my ears. “Oh oh,” I thought and quickly took a seat under the shade of a palm-thatched umbrella.

“Hand me the water please,” I said without looking up, hand extended, while I concentrated on getting my head to stop swimming. I took a gulp of ice-cold water. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of what I was hoping was nothing, so I sat quietly and examined the surf.  It was mushy and not as big as I expected. Waist to shoulder high. No need to rush.

I began to feel a bit better as the coolness of the water in my stomach began to bring down my core temperature. I figured once I got in the water it would cool me down even more. So, feeling composed, I slowly began to get ready to go out.

The small waves meant a mellow paddle out, but I felt the effects of weeks of not surfing – muscles that didn’t respond with the vigor or strength I was accustomed to.

It’s a long paddle out to the take off point at Nine Palms. By the time I got out there, I was surprised that I was out of breath. “Wow, I knew I was out of shape, but I didn’t think it was this bad.” My face felt hot the way it does any time I exert a lot of effort (I was called Lobster Face in grade school), so I didn’t think anything of it. I splashed myself with water, but, man it was warm, hardly refreshing at all.

A few waves into the session, my face started to throb again and I realized that the problem wasn’t that I was out of shape. I was still overheated and experiencing the effects of heatstroke!

As I felt my breathing become labored again, I knew it was time to get out. I got lucky and caught the next wave all the way to the beach. I slowly pulled my now exhausted body out of the water with what seemed a ludicrous amount of effort.

I spent another half hour under the umbrella sipping ice water and then we headed for home where I ended up spending the rest of the day recuperating lying in bed under a ceiling fan set to max. I still felt a little weak the following day.

This is why people typically move a lot slower in the tropics. This is Baja in the summertime.

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