Stab Magazine | "Out There With Nothing But Trash And Whalebones" Or How Two Brothers Paddled The Baja Peninsula

“Out There With Nothing But Trash And Whalebones” Or How Two Brothers Paddled The Baja Peninsula

And lived to tell the tale. 

news // Jan 15, 2019
Words by Jake Howard
Reading Time: 5 minutes

On January 2, Ryan and Casey Higginbotham stroked their Bark paddleboards through the famous arch in Cabo San Lucas, thus completing a 1,100-mile adventure that started back in Tijuana. After paddling from Alaska to the U.S./Mexico border two years ago, the brothers have now covered the West Coast in its entirety, covering a total of 3,300 miles by their bare hands – a ludicrous pursuit and an insane one at that. 

After enjoying some tacos and a few margaritas, Stab caught up with the Higginbotham boys to see how it all went down in Baja. Here are the highlights from our conversation:

On why paddle the Baja coast:
Ryan: It took us two years to forget how miserable the first one was before we decided to do it again. But I think you get really comfortable living outside of that environment. We learned so much and packed so much life into such a short period of time. I really wanted to get back to that again, learn more and experience more.

Casey: I think the last experience we learned so much, you suffer enough that you build some good character out there. It was time to get back to being uncomfortable again and pushing your limits. There’s something about knowing that only you can get yourself out of a situation. But the other part of it, like our last paddle, you’re going down the coast of Mexico meeting all of these amazing people. 


“It took us two years to forget how miserable the first one was before we decided to do it again.”

On how their previous experience helped them in Mexico:

Casey: One of the biggest things is to be able to compartmentalize goals. I learned that last time. Sometimes I wouldn’t even look ahead at the whole day, I would just say, ‘Okay, we gotta get to this point.’ And then it would be the next point. I think with something that takes so much time and is so extended, you have to shut down the view of the end and think about a small piece of it. I think that was important. A lot of it is mental mindset. 

Ryan: I learned last time how to be open-minded and be a sponge, learning things from everyone you encounter. Also, we learned we’re better paddlers now. We got a lot better since the last one. We were definitely going faster this time. We were covering the same distance in less time.

Casey: And always bring duct tape. We used it for everything. That’s a critical one. 

On the remoteness of the Baja Peninsula:

Ryan: There wasn’t a big section of total desolation, it would come in little stages. But there were definitely times where we were just out there with nothing around but trash and whale bones.

Casey: I thought Baja Sur was really remote once you get past San Juanico. You’re just in the desert until you get to Todos Santos.

Ryan: I was actually surprised that we saw a fair amount of people. There are fish camps all the way down. Less so in the southern part, but we encountered more people than I thought we were going to. They were able to give us water and food. That was a huge help. 


“This time I think the hardest part was the grind, the slow, physical breakdown. We didn’t have enough calories and the food deprivation was definitely worse than last time.”

On dealing with the unknown:

Ryan: I think that because of everything we experienced and went through the first time, the fear factor wasn’t really there this time. I don’t think anything really scared us at all on this one. Last time there was a fear factor element, but that wasn’t there, which in a way made it more of a grind because there was nothing to distract you. But there were definitely moments. I thought I broke my board twice. One time we got washed into an estero. My brother eventually found my board, but the bag had been ripped off and blown up. So those things happened, but I was never concerned for my own well-being like I was from Alaska to Mexico.

Casey: There were no catastrophic disasters like a broken board like we experienced in Oregon. That was a mind fuck. But we broke a couple rudders, a fin, those minor things. This time I think the hardest part was the grind, the slow, physical breakdown. We didn’t have enough calories and the food deprivation was definitely worse than last time. I feel like we maintained our weight, then we hit Baja Sur and just started dropping it. But you have to keep going south, you have to keep paddling, so there’s no recovery. Being hungry every day takes a toll on everything, your mind and your body. 

Ryan: We assumed we would be calorie deficient, but we weren’t ever able to hit a down and just go crazy and eat like we did last time and bring in all those calories into our bodies. And after a week of only having 1,800 calories a day while paddling for six hours a day, we were pretty beaten down and hungry. And then you do that week after week, you start seeing weird stuff. That was a bizarre experience, but I’m glad I went through it. 

Casey: I think it was a really good lesson. We’ll have to put a lot more focus on caloric intake and fixing that deficiency. 

Ryan: We met some people when we landed at Conejo. It was Christmas Eve and they invited us to a potluck dinner. We had nothing to bring, but we ate a full meal that night, that’s for sure. 

Casey: We held back.

On completing the journey:

Casey: The finish was weird. You’re going through Baja and then you get to Cabo, and Cabo is nothing like the rest of Baja. And you show up and it’s a massive beach party going on. It was a little bit confusing. There was a lot going on. We went through the arc at Cabo when we came in and there were like 600 tourist boats bouncing around out there with people trying to take pictures of the arc. It’s a full tourist zone, so that was a trip.

Ryan: I think coming back into everything is still pretty weird. Every day on the water we have a goal, but you get back and you have structure to your days so that you’re moving towards another goal. I feel a little more stagnant in a way. 

Casey: I’m just trying to figure out what the hell to do with myself. But it’s good to be back. 


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