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Extreme Boat Launches
Do-It-Yourself Pier Dangle
Gaviota Beach, California
Pucker Factor: High
Best Boat: Any craft under 21 feet and less than 2,000 pounds
Baja Beach Slide
Punta Arena, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Pucker Factor: High
Best Boat: Fiberglass panga
Beaches along the east coast of Baja California remain calm most of the time. With the surf relatively small, launching in the morning is simply a matter of asking your amigos to help shove your slender fiberglass panga down the sand bank and into the water until it floats. Nothing too extreme about that, especially since the water stays pretty temperate all year round.
But it’s the return trip in the afternoon that turns wild and injects your trip with a final dose of adrenaline. Nowhere does this play out with greater excitement or frequency than on the beach at Punta Arena, about 35 miles by road south of La Paz.
Hit The Beach: The first time I fished with a pangero out of Punta Arena, we had a great day, catching lots of pargo (snapper) and cabrilla (grouper) around Isla Cerralvo, a desert island just northeast of the point.
As we headed home, our guide stopped about 100 yards outside the beach and began arranging and securing gear. Then, with his best English and a few stern gestures, he cautioned us to move back as far as possible and hold on.
As my fishing buddy and I exchanged inquisitive glances, our guide wrenched the throttle on the tiller of the 75 hp outboard, suddenly pinning us in
Hold Tight: The panga accelerated steadily. As we closed on the beach, I yelled over the wind blast, “He’s not slowing down!” Just as the bow met the sand, the guide killed the engine, gripping the back of the outboard cowl to keep from flying forward. We gringos maintained a white-knuckle grip on the gunwales and braced for impact as we slid 30 feet up the sand bank and the last “pop, pop” of the open exhaust announced our arrival.
Decelerating from 25 to 0 mph in 10 yards is more extreme than you might think, and so a few gringo fishermen end up in the bottom of the boat or suffering bruises or both while experiencing the famous Baja slide.
Labor Saving: This maneuver is pure fun. After all, how often do you get a chance to charge the beach at full speed and slide onto the sand? Yet to the pangeros, it’s part of a day’s work, saving them the hard labor of muscling a boat up the beach. But who says work can’t be fun?