I have been traveling to Baja for 35 years—it is likely the one place on the planet that has served up some of the best waves of my life. For the last few years Baja has been plagued with negative media and unwelcoming stories. Coyote Adventures, started by Ivan Feerman, was born out of one surfer’s desire to change all that.
How did you get the idea to start Coyote Adventures?
First of all thank you for doing this feature on your site Derek, It’s a true honor. The idea came about from the love of surfing and adventure. My wife knows I love Tijuana and surfing, and while working in a Pacific Beach restaurant she actually suggested I should consider taking people on taco and culinary guides to Tijuana. I gradually developed the idea more into surfing and started integrating other aspects while bouncing off ideas with my friend Jorge.
I also wanted to demystify what the media has created—the drug and violence information we receive on a daily basis can be very debilitating. I feel so fortunate to be able to travel so easily into México and experience the colorful culture, food, music, art, waves and freedom my country of birth has to offer. Of course, when I travel I do it in an environmentally and socially consciousness way.
I want to share this experience and show people that there is a different face to Baja. They shouldn’t be intimidated by the thought of traveling and surfing there—it’s likely not what they think it is. When I go back to visit my family in Baja and surf, or simply spend the day with my wife or friends, we have a blast. In addition, my aunt and cousin are dentists so I always get the perks of that as well, it’s a great resource just across the border.
There is also a boom of the culinary scene there, the wine region is outstanding in Ensenada, the music is fantastic, and the murals of Tijuana are creative and beautiful. Our visual arts collective www.eye-94.com also had a show there this past November. There is a re-emergence and revival of Tijuana, and you do not want to miss it.
How is the trip different when you travel with a local?
I was born and raised in Tijuana, México. I studied up to 11th grade in High School there and finished off in San Diego. I have lived in the United States for 11 years now—having knowledge of both cultures is ideal. I know my way around Tijuana and Baja really well and my immediate family lives in Loreto, Baja Sur (Southern), very close to Scorpion Bay, San Juanico. I grew up traveling Baja roads with my family, every summer we would drive to visit my grandma. We would fish, swim, hike, hunt for rabbits and quails and enjoy the beautiful climate; I am a true water and desert kid.
I have traveled extensively throughout Baja and feel that every time I end up meeting a local, I have an awesome experience. Local knowledge of a location will always show you a side of a place that you may have never even imagined existed.
What are some of the spots you surf with your clients?
The common surf spots, depending on the season, run all the way from Playas de Tijuana to San Quintin. This includes Playas, Baja Malibu, Termoelectrica, Muelle (Pier) Rosarito, Playita, Popotla, Calafia, k36 (Bus Stops), Teresitas, k38, k42 (Raul’s), Campito, Chivos, Campo Lopez, La Fonda, Sal Si Puedes, San Miguel, M’s, Stacks, California, Punta San Jose, Punta Cabras, Erendira, Camalu, Cuatro Casas, and many secret spots in-between.
Do you feel that traveling through Baja by car is safe?
It is definitely safe as long as you do it by day, and I don’t say this because of hijacking. I say this because of the lack of illumination on some parts of the road. Once you get passed Ensenada there are many areas where it’s pitch black and there are a great number of semi trucks traveling all the way to Cabo San Lucas on this very narrow highway. Animals are another road hazard; you never know when they will cross the road and it’s especially dangerous at night.
Have you ever had any run-ins with the police or narcos?
Honestly, the narcos obviously do exist but you would never know where they are or who they are for the most part—they do their thing and the rest of the population does theirs. If you have no reason to interfere with their business, then there is nothing to worry about. I have never had an incident of this sort in my 32 years. The cops on the other hand tend to be thieves, although I believe they have gotten much better. They used to come up with any excuse to pull you over and try to get a few bucks. This is not the case anymore, and since they have gotten stricter with drinking and driving policies, most people which go out now tend to take taxis and avoid the $1000 DUI fine. You don’t get out of jail until you pay it with time or dinero.
I recently witnessed an example in which my friend had a few beers at home before he picked us up at a bar to give us a ride to my other friend’s house later in the evening. There were four of us in the car, we got pulled over and my friend ended up getting the breathalyzer test. He was past the legal limit, so they asked for money. One cop talked to the driver and the other lectured us on how we should not be placing people in danger while driving. He was very cool about it and once they realized we did not have any money in our wallets they told us to park the car and take a taxi home. So we took a taxi home and it made me realize it had been the most humanly possible incident I have ever had with a cop in general. The city has truly changed.
What are some tips you could offer to other surfers traveling through Baja?
Respect the culture and the people, try to blend in, learn some Spanish. Don’t drive on the road down the peninsula late at night, always be conscious of your surroundings, and most definitely don’t drink and drive.
Where is your favorite place to eat in Baja?
I have many, but right now it is Erizo (sea urchin in Spanish). This restaurant is in Tijuana on Avenida Sonora, where my mother and her family grew up. It is located where the new gastronomic center will be located and it is owned by Chef Javier Plascencia. He is at the forefront of a new revolutionary style of cuisine called Baja Med, which is truly outstanding and affordable. My wife and I recently had an incredible lunch there that included clam and scallop ceviche in a cucumber, jalapeño, and tomatillo sauce. The ceviche was accompanied by a Tijuanero Taco that contained grilled octopus, shrimp, and skirt steak with a sriracha aioli and cilantro. Next to that was a shrimp taco with cheese (called quesa taco) and a Baja style chowder made with maiz. Is your mouth watering yet?
Where do you stay?
I usually stay with family and friends but if I was taking someone on one of these excursions there are many awesome places to stay. Some examples would be the K38 Motel, La Fonda Hotel, Hotel La Mision, Hotel Calafia, Popotla Trailer Park, Hotel Las Rocas, Raul’s Surf Inn, Baja Seasons, Playa Saldamando, San Miguel, Hotel El Cid, Hotel California, Cuatro Casas Hotel and Coyote Cal’s.
There are so many beautiful Mexican ranches around the Santo Tomas region that offer campsites, water springs, showers, pools, grills and more—it’s where the local families go and they’re great.
I noticed that you go to 4 Casas, do you know Ricardo and Teresa the owners of the hostel?
I have camped there before but I have not actually stayed at the Hostel. I know they have been there for a very long time and I had planned in speaking with them about my new company. I have heard many nice things about them and I would definitely take excursion groups there once I have some contact.
Tell us about your company?
If you want to have a great time with someone who’s a native, knows the region, the culture, the breaks, and the language—well, don’t hesitate to give us a try. We help organize many different types of tours, from seeing the tourist site across the border to exploring Mexican cuisine as we chase waves down the coast. You tell us the experience you want and we’ll make it happen, from camping along the cliffs to sleeping at the ocean’s feet in a hotel. The company is fresh out of the box, so if you are looking for a unique experience send me an email or give a ring.
For more information on Coyote Adventures check out there webpage www.coyoteadventuresbaja.com
This interview was conducted and edited by Derek Dodds, eco warrior and founder of Wave Tribe. All photo credit by Ivan Feerman.