Stab Magazine | Two Brothers Are Currently Paddling The Baja Peninsula (1,100 Miles)
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Two Brothers Are Currently Paddling The Baja Peninsula (1,100 Miles)

It’s no biggie, they’ve already logged 2,200 paddling from Alaska to Tijuana. 

news // Oct 19, 2018
Words by Jake Howard
Reading Time: 4 minutes

“The brothers are paddling again. They’re leaving from the border tomorrow and paddling south.”  

That was the word amongst a few of the lifeguards in San Clemente and Laguna Beach last week.

The brothers are Ryan and Casey Higginbotham, a pair of lifeguards from the Pismo Beach area in California. 

Last we could tell, they were somewhere around La Buffadora, south of Ensenada. They intend to paddle their 18-foot Bark paddleboards 1,100 miles down the Baja Peninsula to Cabo San Lucas. 

“We’ll be self-contained and unassisted, paddling by hand,” read their Instagram post before setting out.

They breezed through the first couple of days, stopping in Rosarito and K-58. But as Baja travel goes, the further south one gets the more challenging the environs become. They planned ahead, driving down a few weeks ago and burying food and supplies at a few spots further south. They also intend to meet up with a few photographers and filmmakers along the way, but otherwise it’s just them alone on the ocean with their bare hands.

After a weekend rain storm, they reported, “The weather created some limited visibility, and that combined with a last-minute change to our campsite gave us some navigational problems before landing.”

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Simply put, “The Route”.

It didn’t get any better when they finally did make landfall.

“Once we did make shore a couple guys said that they’d call the Policia if we stayed there. It’s tough to gage how serious a situation like that could be when you’re in another country with a limited vocabulary,” read their Instagram post. “We told them we’d hike everything down the road. Once out of site we hiked our gear up into a dried-up spillway near a construction site. And then put our tents up after sundown. The construction workers that saw us didn’t seem to care at all. This morning we walked right back to that beach and launched while our buddies from the day before watched wondering where the hell we came from.

The thing is, so far, this adventure is minor compared to where they’ve paddled in the past. In 2016, after the lifeguard season was over on the California Central Coast, Ryan and Casey, both facing the fact that they’d have to soon go straight and get 9nine-to-five jobs, considered going for the classic around-the-world surf trip or “riding horses across Mongolia,” but they wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary—and besides, they didn’t know how to ride horses.

They decided it was a good idea to paddle from Ketchikan, Alaska, to the Mexico-United States border 2,200 miles south. When Ryan and Casey set out, they were just doing it just to do it. They didn’t have any sponsor support, just the money they’d saved lifeguarding. And they weren’t doing it to raise awareness for a particular cause other than general ocean conservation. Refreshingly, they were unaffiliated with anyone or any specific cause. They didn’t even seem to care much about media attention. They were just drawn to a dream.

After seven months on the water, they pulled it off. The thing is, their bodies probably should have disappeared somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Given their limited experience, lack of support and the harshness of the conditions, there’s no reason anyone should survive such an ordeal. The previous Guinness World Record for the longest-ever paddleboard trip was an eight-day, 345-mile trek up the Florida coast in 2007. When they set off on March 18, 2016, they loaded their Barks boards up with a shotgun, an ax, freeze-dried food and some other meager supplies in dry bags lashed to the bow and stern.

It was like a foolhardy errand from a modern-day Jack London novel. They went weeks at a time without seeing another soul in the Alaskan and British Colombian coastal wilderness. They got caught in monster tides in Washington and were forced to spend the night in sea caves. They got bumped by sharks and broke boards in the oblivion of the Oregon coast. Once we got past Point Conception in California it became a lot easier,” laughed Ryan back in 2017 when he stopped through San Clemente

The journey ended up taking them 60 days longer than anticipated and was thoroughly draining. But it couldn’t have been all bad. They’re back at it again.

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Baja will present its own unique set of challenges. The Central Baja zone can be downright unforgiving. Strong winds, cold water, big sharks and nowhere to get out of the elements. There are areas that are expansive and remote. If shit goes south, the risk of exposure is very real. That said, this is probably the best time of year for such an adventure…minus the sharks, which tend to be feeding in the fall. 

For Ryan and Casey, an 1,100-mile paddle down Baja may feel like a sprint considering what they’ve been through and the distances they’ve already covered. In a couple months, when they’re done, they will have paddled from Alaska to the tip of Baja. Then who knows, could mainland Mex and Central America be far behind

Whatever their future plans, that first margarita in Cabo is going to taste good.

You can follow the brother’s journey on their Instagram @byhandproject.

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