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Something from Nothing: The Baja Joe Interview

When you purchased property here, was your goal for it to turn into what it is now?

No, we were just looking for a spot to camp and set up our windsurfing gear. We just bought this spot and figured that we would have a place to go for the winter. Pretty soon, we had a lot of friends asking if they could stay with us.

We said sure and built a few rooms. Then we figured we might as well charge a little bit for people to stay in the rooms, because then we could stay down here longer. The whole motivation was just so we could stay longer in Baja without having to go back to Northern California. Over time we made this our home, and we’re down here full time now.

What are your biggest challenges running a resort in a small and remote town?

The biggest challenge is being a foreigner working in Mexico. It’s not easy. You have to have a lot of patience to get things done here. Angie does a lot of the work with the bookkeepers and the bank. There’s an attitude of, “Don’t worry, we’ll get to it later,” or, “Don’t pay that tax until they catch you.”

For us, being Americans, if we break the law, they’ll throw us out of the country. We kind of learned as we went along and made mistakes that cost us money. Anytime someone shows up here with an official badge, it’s like, “How much is this going to cost us this time?” Being one of the first businesses here, nobody knew anything so we were doing everything kind of blind.

I’d be working on our property, and everyone would come up and ask, “How do you buy property?” We couldn’t get very much work done, because everyone was very hungry for knowledge in those days.

When did kiteboarders start to show up in La Ventana?

Ken Winner, Chris Gilbert, and Julie Porchaska came down here to film the video How to Rip Harder, and that’s when we started kiting. Everybody was fascinated by it. The windsurfers from the campground would sit on the beach here and watch them kite.

The year before, we kind of dabbled with a two-line kite, but we didn’t know what we were doing. We were getting ourselves hurt more than learning anything. Chris and Julie brought the first four-line Naish kites with them. They basically gave us our first lesson.

How long did it take before kiteboarding became the dominant sport in La Ventana?

Well, we were the first ones to welcome kiteboarding. The other windsurfing operations didn’t accept it. They didn’t think it was going to stick around. It was probably about five years before there were more kiters than windsurfers.

At first, people who didn’t want to give up windsurfing got into kiting to extend their season because you didn’t need as much wind to have fun. It seemed like it was doubling every year.

Do you think that La Ventana will ever become too crowded on the water? How many kiters do you think can comfortably be on the water at the same time?

It’s hard to say. There’s ten miles of beach to the north of us, and ten miles out to the island, so that’s 100 square miles of potential kiting. I think the popular areas will be crowded, but even at prime times, it’s not that bad.

I can always go upwind and find a place with nobody around. I think it can handle a lot of people, but with the way kiting is growing, only time will tell. I’ve counted up to 150 kites on the water here, and there’s still plenty of room.

How has the town of La Ventana been changed by the fact that it became a windsurfing and kiteboarding destination? Have these changes been a positive or negative for the people who live here?

It’s changed a lot. I think it’s been mostly positive. I see changes now in the third generation, the younger kids whose parents and grandparents have gotten money from their property sales. I see the American influence on the younger kids with the way they dress, the cell phones they have, and the cars they drive.

A lot of the houses now are cement, there are a lot of businesses here, and there is plenty of work. I think the local Mexicans have a very good attitude towards the Americans here.

Since you see so many kiteboarders and windsurfers passing through, do you notice a difference in personalities between the two?

The only difference is that you are getting a lot of younger people into kiteboarding. There’s a cross mix of the skateboard and surfer types in kiting, versus the person who is strictly a windsurfer. It was a small group when it was all windsurfers here and everybody was very nice to each other and really helped each other out.

Kiting is pretty much the same way, but you do get these different groups and different opinions and attitudes within the kiteboarders.

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