Paddling with Porpoise Part 2

Paddling with Porpoise Part 2

A bold adventurer takes on endless sea, paddling in pursuit of ecological awareness and self growth. Sean Jansen tells a deeply compelling story of his battles against the obstacles of both his inner and outer landscapes as he solo-paddles 1,000 miles along the Baja Peninsula’s Sea of Cortez.

By Sean Jansen

My name is Sean Jansen and I am a freelance writer and water sports enthusiast. 

In October 2023 I set out to stand up paddle the length of the Baja Peninsula down the Sea of Cortez - also known as the Gulf of California. The intention of the trip was to raise awareness for the most endangered marine animal in the world - the Vaquita Porpoise. The Vaquita lives in the Upper Gulf of California and is on the brink of extinction with an estimate of only 10 individuals left. While planning for the trip, I asked Avasol for support and was able to stay protected without a single sunburn during my 123 day sun-drenched voyage. 

This article is part two of my 1,000 mile long paddle journey in honor of the Vaquita. To read part one, visit the link here. I’m hoping my selfless pursuit inspires anyone out there with a passion to pursue it and give back wherever you deem fit. 

“I struggled for a while on the decision. I went home, half way done with the trip because of the weather. I had some mishaps from part one and my near 400-mile paddle down the Baja Peninsula. But I was driven. 

I got back onto the water and picked up exactly where I had left off. The rhythm fell into play, and the music rang the same tune as the playlist I had been paddling to from part one. I had five days of unreal weather without so much as a breath of wind. The dolphins still came out to play and the points reminded me of each new focus and endeavor that was needed to remain vigilant for what was up ahead.

When I dreamed of this trip, I pictured white sand beaches, epic camping photos, roosterfish and other game fish on the fly rod, and surreal tranquility without a soul in sight. I also thought it was going to take me two months and be the greatest thing to ever happen to me. And in many ways, it was and still is. 

It turned out to be all of these, but with a classic Mexican twist that I didn’t foresee coming. Like anything great in life, the risk is always present, but the reward keeps driving you forward. I was daydreaming of getting to Cabo San Lucas, the very end, but the monumental hurdles I had to jump over were abound on nearly a daily basis and my focus need not be distracted.

Part one of my voyage taught me about wind, and the risks associated with the powerful northern whips that can threaten every ounce of life. I capsized and thought I lost everything, and from that experience, I was riddled with stress with each and every gust of wind that came down the coast thereafter. Part two taught me that my focus is paramount for the success of the trip, and that if I was even slightly off mentally, the success of the trip would plummet. And finally, with part three, I used the combination of knowledge, as well as the encouragement of loved ones and fellow advocates to help power me down the coast and into a new playlist.

I set up my tent each night on beaches ranging from the raw and remote to the wholly civilized, all the while waking before dawn to taste the sweet aromas of coffee, listen to the howls of coyotes, and watch the shooting stars streak across the sky. My muscles ached from the long days paddling without a breath of wind to aid me in my pursuit, and at times the boredom was so unbearable it challenged me to remind myself of why I set out in the first place.

As I paddled down the coast, the rewards of my endeavors revealed themselves. People frolicked to the beaches I descended upon, having heard rumors of the paddleboard man coming down the coast. They came bearing gifts, offering me beers, lodging, food, and encouragement. The local wildlife often praised my arrival as well. Everything from mobula rays leaping out of the water, to the dolphins porpoising alongside me down the coast, the stick bugs and geckos coming into camp to say hello, and the ever present osprey calling out at my arrival. This said, my arrival wasn’t always welcome. 

As I made it further south, the influence of the Pacific Ocean started to present itself. Swells started coming in from multiple directions, spinning me and my board into a whirlpool of frustration and focus. I had to pay attention to my balance as the wind swell from the north and the ground swell from the south Pacific were threatening each paddle with a capsize. 


All was going fine and miles were still ticking away, but the sea sickened state of the water caused my focus to narrow to the tip of my board. While staring at the nose of my board, a gigantic school of fish swam below me in about 20 feet of water. Sentiments of joy washed over me as I observed the fish, igniting my passion for conservation. As I smiled at their site, my periphery caught something else. My joy of the situation quickly switched to fear for my life.

At first I thought it was just another rock. But this rock was moving - at predatory speed. The large tail movement was what caught my eye first, then my focus shifted to its teeth. With all of this happening in a matter of just seconds, the 4-6 foot bull shark came at the side of my board at full speed, and right when I was bracing for impact, it turned away and darted back to the blue. 


The surface of the water churned as I kept riding the bucking bronco seas. There was no beach to land on, and no one around to call for help. I had to regain my focus and keep paddling. I scanned around frantically still looking for the shark and couldn’t find any sign of it - until I turned a little further to look over my shoulder and saw it riding in the wake of my board a good six inches from the tail. I turned forward and remained focused, as I didn’t know what else to do. I just kept paddling, trying not to capsize. 

I was a mere 60 miles from the end of the trip, and that was my first and only real shark encounter. I saw four in total, two were that day. Within a thousand miles of coastline, I only saw four sharks. 

Going from due south to slowly paddling west, I knew the end was near. The cliffs, white sand beaches, remoteness, and abundance of wildlife shifted to high-rise hotels, million dollar homes, and cruise ships. People zipping by on jet skis and tours being held in pangas with their boat wakes creating a third swell for me to paddle through. The arch at Lands End in Cabo San Lucas presented itself while my GPS watch pinged at 1,000 miles. I was emotional in the morning knowing I was going to make it to the end, but upon my arrival, the feeling was of a gutless emptiness that I have struggled to comprehend and describe even today.


I threw my hands to the sky and enjoyed the moment while your boats and kayakers watched, not knowing what I had just done. Even sitting in the hotel that night, all done and packed with my gear stowed, I couldn’t help but feel sadness as I knew I wasn’t going to paddle the next day.

This trip was an emotional roller coaster with just as many high points as low points. But like all roller coasters, the ride does come to an end. The feeling of adrenaline, the feeling of the unknown is what I am choosing to keep with me when I close my eyes and remember the trip. The countless people who lent a hand to help me, the incredible wildlife, both peaceful and threatening - this is what I will remember.

Ultimately, I’m grateful. Grateful that my board held up despite the constant battering I gave it. Grateful my gear held up despite soaking it and dropping it down on the shore. Grateful my body held up, as not a single injury, aside from my pride, was jeopardized. Grateful to Avasol as in 123 days, I didn’t get a single sunburn or further damage the environment while doing so. And beyond grateful that Mother Nature granted me safety, as there were countless times she could have swatted me down and starved me on a beach to die. But she allowed me to view her majesty, her beauty, and I hope to inspire anyone anywhere that with some respect and understanding of how ecosystems work, places like the Baja Peninsula can remain an untouched paradise for anyone else who wishes to admire her shores.

Stats from the trip:

I burned 255,901 calories, I paddled 1,004.50 miles, the trip took 123 days, I camped under the stars for 79 nights, I paddled 70 days, took 53 zero days, stayed for 29 nights in houses, caught 21 fish, pumped 18 liters of fresh water from my sea water pump, got offered 17 beers, fished 16 days, took 15 showers, averaged 14.35 miles a day, dealt with 14 separate El Norte wind events, paid for 11 campsites, stayed 7 nights in hotels, got rained on 4 times, had 4 shark encounters, had 3 campfires, paddled through 2 time zones, 2 states, experienced 1 hurricane, and didn’t get a single sunburn!



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