Lest anyone think I am scraping the bottom of the barrel (which I absolutely am but it’s understandable considering the fact it’s where I always have, always will, and currently reside); I feel it must be stated that this story is second hand but some stories with valuable lessons are too good not to tell, especially lessons in humility.

I bet by now that all my faithful wish they had a nickel for every time I have mentioned Baja. Might as well start saving them beginning now, as this will not be the last time I talk about that place because it is just too magical. We all have our first love, and that dusty old sh#thole is mine. I will keep going there until the day I die, and, on that day, I plan on being there. With an extra weight belt and a tear in my eye as I say goodbye to my friends, family, and whichever cancer has me in its grips.

Here comes another Baja story but at least this one is short and with a twist, simple enough for even you guys to understand. So, sit back and enjoy the type of humble pie that only Baja can serve.

In an unusual set of circumstances and after a super productive trip for amberjack in the Sea of Cortez, I left one of my favorite dive partners, Greg Vontz, so I could fly home as scheduled. As it turns out, the trip had only been productive for me. In a rare move Greg decided that there was no way he could go home with the sour taste of defeat in his mouth and changed his flight. I left with a full cooler and a genuine hope that he would fill his in that one extra day

This is where the lesson in humility starts. Not to give the ending away, but it was not a lesson for Greg; he doesn’t need one. He is always happy with what Mother Ocean gives him, bountiful or not, he is more than satisfied just being an active part of it all.

 After years of going down to Baja, I had developed several friendships with the locals and, at one point, built several guns for the rare few brave enough to get in the water. Out of that half a dozen or so, two turned out to be quite the bad*ss divers. Unfortunately, with that came a saguaro cactus sized ego.

Here is where the justice of the universe started to intervene. Somehow Greg ended up by himself on a panga with one of the best captains in the area, Beto.  As they came upon El Bajito, the hot spot du jour, they saw the same two aforementioned chest thumping superstars, Conejo and Evi, already on it. We had been there all three days prior and knew it was going off the rails good. Since all are friends; Greg and Beto were invited to stay.

Okay, maybe we are all friends. I like to think so but considering what I had noticed out of the corner of my eye in the previous days, of course they were welcomed. We had been on Evi’s boat for three days straight and I had noticed more than a few times that Evi had been looking down his nose at Greg’s lack of success. It was clear that the fact he had to take some dude out that in his eyes was less than half the diver he is; was beneath him. It was clear that the rumors of our braggadocios amigo and his newfound diving prowess were not only true but were abound in the small town he lived in.

Now, here they were. What were the odds? Unplanned destiny.

It might have started with some friendly smirking and chuckling at Greg’s expense but the events that unfolded soon became a matter of national pride. After a few dives in the ripping current, matching drifts, all the while next to Evi, Greg stoned a fish over fifty. While getting a ride back up current, Greg noticed Evi in the other boat nodding his head with a ‘yeah, yeah, we’ll see what happens by the end of the day’ type of smirk. The next drift, Greg shot another, this time in the sixty-pound range. The next ride uphill, he heard Beto start to chatter at Conejo a bit on the radio. 

The faces on the other boat started to get a little more serious. Evi started to look concerned, while Conejo kept making “we’re not done yet” replies on the radio when Beto would gently tighten the screws in his calls. It was clear that Greg was not only having a great time, but was diving like superman, with results to show for it.

Spurred on by the back and forth teasing, Greg managed to smack a monster. As he fought the seventy-plus pound fish, Evi desperately dove his a*s off to get on the scoreboard. The (good-natured) s#*t talking ramped up to a new level. Conejo swore Evi’s eventual results would win the day. Beto responded by shrugging his shoulders while coyly pointing down at his boat’s icy hold. As the two kept on throughout the day, Greg would catch a little of the chirping with his limited Spanish. But victory would not come to be for the two “campeones”.

With three toads in the hold, it was time to leave the others in quiet desperation, hopefully, leading to their eventual realization of utter defeat. After Greg was done changing out of his wetsuit, he and Beto made a slow, close, deliberate drive-by to Conejo’s panga and cracked a couple of ice cold Pacifico beers. As they did, Evi broke the surface with what looked to be about a thirteen-pound amberjack. It was if the U.S. soccer team was up five to zero on Mexico in the gold medal game and Mexico scored one goal seconds before the clock expired and the game was over.

Which bring us to the valuable lesson I talked about: when you are good, stay humble because someday, if you are not, you are going to get humbled. Every dog has his day and boy; Greg sure picked one hell of a day to have his. 

Next Issue:

La Mordida