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Meet Manny Vargas of Baja Weekender in Imperial Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manny Vargas.

Manny, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
As a professional bodyboarder, I’ve had the fortunate pleasure of being able to travel the world chasing the perfect waves around the world for over a decade. Coming from a lower-middle class family in Imperial Beach, I made sure to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Nothing that good could last forever. In 2000, I was hired as the editor-in-chief of the globally distributed BodyBoarding Magazine. This was another amazing chance to learn about the business side of things. I was too much a free bird to be contained in an office building. So, after two years of running the magazine, I reverted back to travel and wave hunting.

Famed bodyboarder, off-road legend and action sports commentator, Cameron Steele, was running bodyboarding trips down to Cabo San Lucas for a few years but had to give it up as his other jobs were demanding more of his time. After receiving his blessing, I took over the trips to Cabo in 2003 and that was the beginning of me becoming a wave riding tour guide. Cabo Freak Fest lasted from 2003 to 2013.

Using all my travel experience from the ’90s, I was able to take out all the worry and hassles for my guests. things were rolling along pretty smooth. So much so that I sprinkled in a few of my favorite trips that I took while doing the pro thing in the ’90s. I packaged up one of my favorite trips and called it the Indo Experience. For seven years, I was running trips mimicking exactly what I did on my first trip to Indonesia back in 1996. Two weeks of amazing surf and cultural overload is what made up the Indo Experience. Costa Rica was on my list of trips that I offered as well.

The downside of traveling is you’re gone. You’re away from your friends and family for days and months. I wanted to be home more often but also wanted to give fellow wave riders the experience of surfing empty waves and soaking in new cultures. In 2013, Baja Weekender was born.

Now, I still get to show surfers, bodyboarders and SUP surfers the waves that I grew up riding. Northern Baja has been my stomping grounds for as long as I can remember. I’m always excited to show people what Baja has to offer and educate them on how to travel safely through our backyard. I do have to mention, if it were not for the amazing surfers of the San Diego Surf Ladies who believed in my idea, Baja Weekender would not be where it is today. I thank each and every one of them for that.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The organization and delivery of amazing surf trips come easy to me. That’s what I did for myself in the ’90s as a professional bodyboarder. But again, being away from home did cause some tension and eventual divorce in my marriage. It wasn’t the only reason for the divorce but it was a pretty solid chunk of it. For that reason, I brought it all back home and began offering weekend trips close to my home in San Diego.

I do have a 9 to 5 job doing sales for an end-to-end event management system ( When I do consecutive Baja Weekender trips, I’m actually working seven, 14 or 21 days straight. That can be tough at times. Until I can do Baja Weekender trips full time, that’s where I have to be at the moment.

At least I have the weekday mornings and afternoons to spend with friends, family and my own zen time.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Baja Weekender – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
The best thing that I love about running Baja Weekender trips is that I can change things for the better. Because this is my baby, I’m able to make necessary adjustments on the fly. The top priority for me is safety of all my guests. If there is any situation that arises that needs attention, I’m on it immediately.

Plus, the years of experience traveling and photography in my back pocket, I understand what my fellow wave riders are looking for. Worry-free surf trips with high-quality magazine-worthy imagery is what I’m delivering with Baja Weekender.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
The ultimate goal is to set up a surf camp at one of my favorite locations to take my groups. I could still run Baja Weekender trips but during the week, offer up four-day retreats. Then, I would have time to go through photos and videos to pinpoint exact methods on how to improve one’s surfing in a short amount of time.

I would also have time to educate wave riders on all the aspects that make up surfing… etiquette, ocean knowledge, respect and more.

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