Isla Todos Santos- Surf’s Up!

Uninhabited but for shorebirds, sea lions, and harbor seals, tiny Isla Todos Santos is an oasis of peace and serenity in the Bay of Ensenada off Baja’s Pacific coast. Just offshore is another story: Here in the cold, clear waters, the surf spits out monster 15m-high (49-ft.) waves during winter swells. The prime reef break is “Killers,” where waves can reach heights of 18m (59 ft.) and over. It’s found at the northwest tip of the island.
Actually two islands, Sur and Norte, Isla Todos Santos, located 97km (60 miles) below the California/Mexico border, has become such a major spot for giant waves that it has drawn big-time competitions, such as those leading up to the BillabongXXL Global Big Wave awards, considered the Oscars of big-wave surfing. The surfing world has come a long way since the goofy, giddy days of the famous Windansea Surf Club, formed in the early 1960s by a community of surfers from La Jolla, California. It was this group of surfing fanatics who first discovered, in their Endless Summer quests for the perfect wave, the monsters at Isla Todos Santos.
Why such huge waves in a spot where every other nearby beach has waves half the size? Like the perfect storm, the perfect wave is dependent on a number of factors. Surfers say that at Isla Todos Santos, the reef points directly into the mouth of the swells, and a deep underwater canyon works to double the size of any wave that comes its way.
Once the site of abalone farms, the island now has a lovely cove and is also a favorite spot for kayakers, who paddle the bay in the company of dolphins and the occasional whale. Humboats Kayak Adventures, in Eureka, offers combo camping/kayaking expeditions to Isla Todos Santos. Nature rules here, with superb tide-pooling, stargazing, and watching the occasional migrating gray whale cruise by. The fishing is pretty impressive here, too, with exceptional catches of large bonito, rock cod, white-fish, and yellowtail. For fishing expeditions, contact Ensenada Sportfishing Works, which offers day and overnight trips and leaves from Ensenada, 19km (12 miles) away.
The island’s pristine state can be directly tied to its inaccessibility: Isla Todos Santos can be reached only by boat. (Don’t confuse Isla Todos Santos, the island, with Todos Santos, the town—the
latter is a coastal town located on the Pacific Coast side of the Baja California peninsula.) And if you come to surf, know that you don’t just walk off the beach and catch a wave at Isla Todos Santos—in most cases, you need to be towed to the big reef breaks. If you don’t have a boat, you can rent out a panga (skiff) with a driver in Ensenada. You can also get information on boats leaving for the island by visiting the San Miguel Surf Shop, Ave-nida Lopez Mateos between Gastelum and Miramar, Ensenada. Here you can get local surf reports and rent longboards, shortboards, and wet suits (you’ll need the last in the frigid waters).