The Star of the Sea of Cortez: Estrella Navarro Holm

The Star of the Sea of Cortez: Estrella Navarro Holm

by Bryan Jáuregui, Todos Santos Eco Adventures

This article first appeared in Janice Kinne’s Journal del Pacifico

She’s been free diving since before she could walk, but every time she gets in the water for a competition she reflects on the old nightmare: She’s swimming peacefully at the shore when the ocean suddenly starts retracting away from the beach at great speed like it does before a tsunami. She’s caught in the enormous power of the angry water, completely out of control. She’s filled with dread of the cold and the dark, terrified of being so absolutely alone.

“But competitive free diving is at least 70% mental” says Mexican free diving champion Estrella Navarro Holm. “And it was free diving that finally put that old nightmare to rest. In competition they allow us a few minutes on the rope at the surface before the dive, and I use that time to do my deep breathing, face any fears I may have, and relax into the dive. Once the count reaches zero, the rules allow only 30 seconds to get your face in the water, so you have to be ready.” Ready to dive 70 meters (230 feet) into the black of the ocean with no oxygen, no light, no friends,  just the air in your lungs and your wet suit to protect you? Fear is the only rational response.  “Yet”, says Estrella, “once my face is in the water the training kicks in and my diving reflex is activated. My whole system has a physiological response to my mental state and I am completely prepared to go. The first few meters are hard because my body is heavy and buoyant with air, and I have to really work to get down. But then at about 30 meters the free fall starts. It’s as if the wet suit and my skin fall away, and the water in my body merges with the water of the ocean.  Each molecule of water feels very intense. It’s like flying, but in slow motion. The free fall is the most beautiful, spiritual experience – it’s what makes people free diving junkies.” Knew there had to be a payoff.

And that payoff has paid off big time for Estrella. The La Paz native has broken the Mexican national free diving record 21 times, she was the first Mexican on the medal podium in a free diving world championship, and she’s the first woman in Latin America to medal in the discipline of constant weight no fins. And unlike most world champion athletes, she didn’t enter her first major competition until she was 24. This gave her the time to earn a degree in marine biology from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, widely acknowledged as one of the best marine biology programs in the country. And she’s using that degree to pursue her other great passion in life, ocean conservation. Among other accomplishments, she is co-author of a paper titled Global Economic Value of Shark Ecotourism: Implications for Conservation, that appeared in Oryx, The International Journal of Conservation, published by Cambridge University Press. Yes, the one in England.

It is often the case in life that we don’t fully appreciate what we have at home until we travel elsewhere. And as Estrella traveled the waters of the globe for competitions, she found that her fellow athletes scarcely believed her when she described the riches of the Sea of Cortez, marveling – some skeptically –  when she told them about diving with sea turtles, sea lions, whale sharks, whales, dolphins and more. Their wonderment (incredulity) gave her an idea for combining her passions: invite the best free diving athletes in the world to La Paz to share the wonders of the Sea of Cortez and, at the same time, promote ocean conservation. Says Estrella, “I sent out 250 personal invitations via Facebook to my free diving friends, and I was so thrilled that 24 of the best athletes in the world accepted the invitation to compete in our program, Big Blue. But I was even more excited that they took up the call to be ocean ambassadors, to return to their home countries and promote strong ocean conservation measures. This is really the success of Big Blue.”

Indeed, as part of the Big Blue program in November 2015, Estrella, working in coordination with the tourism board of Baja California Sur, organized a conference on ocean conservation where she presented the shark research in which she and her co-authors demonstrated that shark ecotourism around the world currently generates US$314 million a year and supports 10,000 jobs – a vastly higher and more sustainable number than those associated with shark landings each year. That is to say, as is generally the case when speaking of wild flora and fauna, the living, breathing resources of the world are worth more to mankind alive than dead.

Estrella wants to keep bringing that message to the world, and plans to make Big Blue an annual event in La Paz, her home town and a great staging area for exploring the Sea of Cortez.  Estrella is part of a growing cadre of world class athletes that grew up in La Paz and the Sea of Cortez (Mexican board diving champion and Olympian Paola Espinosa’s dad was actually Estrella’s competitive swimming trainer when she was a little girl, and the two champions remain friends) and their love for their home town is helping to fuel growing interest in La Paz as a destination for top competitions in many sports including stand up paddle boarding, water polo, swimming and, of course, diving.

But unlike her fellow champions in other sports, Estrella doesn’t worry so much about the march of time. One of the greatest female free divers of all time, Natalia Molchanova, became the first woman to dive 100 meters (328 feet) at the age of 44, and continued to dominate the sport for another decade. (Her son Alexey swept the Big Blue competition in La Paz and is the reigning world champion.) So that means that for the foreseeable future, Estrella can continue to both compete in oceans around the world, and create the knowledge and ambassadors to help protect them. Saving it all for the generations to come. That’s what truly makes the champion Estrella Navarro Holm the Star of the Sea of Cortez.

To learn more about Estrella and Big Blue please visit:


Todos Santos Box and the Power of One

Todos Santos Box and the Power of One

by  Todos Santos Eco Adventures

This article first appeared in Janice Kinne’s Journal del Pacifico

Bryce Courtenay’s best-selling novel The Power of One is a riveting coming-of-age tale about a boy in South Africa who transforms his life through boxing. Speaking about the book years later, Mr. Courtenay said that people generally misconstrued the meaning of the book’s title, thinking it referred to an individual discovering substantial inner strength, when in fact “…the title comes from and is about the power of one teacher. It is about how one teacher can lift a child out of an…environment and allow him or her… to change their life.”

“I am so grateful to all the volunteers and sponsors who have donated their time and money to make the Todos Santos Box program possible. It wouldn’t be possible without their help.”–Ramiro Reducindo Radilla

And we can see that power on full display on any given night in the auditorio of Todos Santos when Mexican boxing champ Ramiro Reducindo Radilla comes to town to train the local kids. Ramiro won the gold medal at the Pan American games in Santo Domingo in 2003, represented Mexico at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and turned pro in 2005. When he started coaching the kids in Todos Santos not one of them had ever been in a boxing ring before. Yet now, not even 18 months later, two of his students have progressed all the way to the national championships. The power of one indeed. Says 17-year old contender Carlos Orozco, “I’d never been an athlete – let alone a boxer – before November 2011 when a friend brought me to a practice session with Ramiro. It never occurred to me then that I would make it this far, and certainly not this fast. It’s been amazing.” Fellow contender 17-year-old Cuahtemoc Aviles agrees. “I’d never boxed before I met Ramiro last year. I had very little discipline, ate a lot of junk food, I just wasn’t in good shape. Now we’ve been winning matches with kids who have several more years of experience than us. Ramiro has really changed everything for us.”

Says Ramiro, “These kids didn’t have much in the way of skill or discipline when I first started working with them, but I believed in them from the very beginning because they always had heart. When we first started we had hardly any equipment but the kids showed up anyway. Many times my car would break down on the drive from La Paz and the kids would wait for me for two to three hours, then still do a full training session starting at nine or ten o’clock at night. I’ve never doubted that these kids are champions and I fully expect to see at least one become successful on the global boxing stage.” Ramiro is so committed to helping the Todos Santos boxing students realize their potential that he coaches them at least twice a week for nothing more than a little gas money.

And with wages like that the support of the local community is critical. When Ramiro’s car engine gave up the ghost just a few weeks before the national championships, neighbors pitched right in to help get it replaced. “Engine Angels” included Michael & Pat Cope at Galeria de Todos Santos, John Stoltzfus & Todd Schaefer at the Todos Santos Inn, Ezio & Paula Colombo at Café Santa Fe, Mario Becerril at Mario Surf School, Sergio Rivera at La Casita Tapas & Wine Bar, Richard Rutowski at AmeriMex, Norm Weill – Volunteer at Large, and our own Baja Surf Camp for Women graduate, Diane Arstein!

“It’s exciting to watch the kids’ progress and see the pride of accomplishment on their faces. They’re learning so much more than boxing. It means a lot to us to be able to offer our time and support.” Cheriy Myers & Steve Stockton

And the community hasn’t been there just as a stop-gap in times of emergency. As Ramiro is eager to point out, it’s been contributing time, money and equipment all along. Moises Barraza Morales, the General Manager of Bodega Lizarraga, got the ball rolling by donating the initial equipment and practice area. When executives from Caracol and Quaker State read the first JDP article about Todos Santos Box they immediately made much-needed cash donations. When Betsy Wall, the mother of Todos Santos resident Janine Wall learned that the kids had only one red and one blue outfit to share among the whole team at competitions, she stuffed her suitcase full of blue and red t-shirts and shorts and brought them to town with her. When Todos Santos residents Cheri Myers and Steve Stockton learned that there were just a couple of sets of gloves and head gear to share among the more than 40 kids who show up to most practices, they donated the resources to get enough protective gear for all the kids. When Adolfo Blanco of the Hotel California saw all the amazing work that coaching volunteers like Mauricio Duran, Arturo Millan and Hector Alberto Agundez Martinez “El Pampa” were doing, he was inspired to donate sharp-looking warm-up suits for the coaches and students to wear to competitions.  Todos Santos visitor Doug Newcomb was inspired by the inclusive nature of the program. “I wanted to support Todos Santos Box since they allowed my son Phineas to train with them while we were in town. Even though they knew he wouldn’t be there for more than a month or so, they treated him like part of the club and made him feel included. And the best part was he came home so stoked! If Ramiro can make it all the way from La Paz several times a week, the least I can do is help out by bringing equipment from the US.”

Contenders Cuauhtémoc Avilés y Carlos Orozco

“First with your head and then with your heart” is the life-changing advice dispensed by the boxing champ to an eager young student in The Power of One. The Todos Santos boxing students started out with only heart, but under Ramiro’s coaching they’ve acquired the skills and discipline to lead with their heads. As for the Todos Santos community, they’ve made the well-reasoned decision to support this program with plenty of heart.

If you would like to join Todos Santos Eco Adventures as a sponsor or volunteer with Todos Santos Box please contact Mauricio Duran for specifics: Cell: 612-13-44478 or email: .

El Box en Todos Santos y el Poder de Uno

by Todos Santos Eco Adventures

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en la Journal del Pacifico. Traducido por Elena Acencio Ibáñez

La exitosa novela El Poder de Uno, de Bryce Courtenay, es una fascinante historia juvenil acerca de un joven en Sudáfrica quien transforma su vida a través del boxeo. Hablando sobre el libro unos años más tarde, el Sr. Courtenay dijo que la gente por lo general malinterpretó el significado del título del libro, pensando que se refería a un individuo descubriendo sustancial fuerza interior, cuando de hecho “…el título viene del poder de un maestro y es acerca del mismo. Es sobre cómo un maestro puede sacar a un muchacho o muchacha de un…ambiente y permitirle cambiar su vida.”

“I am so grateful to all the volunteers and sponsors who have donated their time and money to make the Todos Santos Box program possible. It wouldn’t be possible without their help.”–Ramiro Reducindo Radilla

Y podemos ver ese poder en pleno cualquier noche en el auditorio de Todos Santos, cuando el campeón mexicano de boxeo Ramiro Reducindo Radilla viene al pueblo a entrenar a los chicos de la localidad. Ramiro ganó la medalla de oro en los juegos panamericanos de Santo Domingo en el 2003, representó a México en las olimpiadas de Atenas en 2004 y se volvió profesional en el 2005. Cuando comenzó a entrenar a los chicos de Todos Santos, ni uno de ellos había antes estado en un ring de boxeo. Sin embargo ahora, ni siquiera dieciocho meses después, dos de sus estudiantes han progresado hasta los campeonatos nacionales. El poder de uno, de verdad. El participante Carlos Orozco, de 17 años dice: “Nunca había sido atleta, mucho menos boxeador antes de noviembre del 2011, cuando un amigo me trajo a una sesión de práctica con Ramiro. Nunca se me ocurrió entonces que llegaría tan lejos como he llegado hasta ahora, y ciertamente no tan rápido. Ha sido increíble.” Cuauhtémoc Avilés, de 17 años y también contendiente está de acuerdo. “Nunca había boxeado antes de conocer a Ramiro el año pasado. Tenía muy poca disciplina, comía mucho producto chatarra, simplemente no estaba en forma. Ahora hemos estado ganando peleas con muchachos que tienen muchos más años de experiencia que nosotros. Ramiro de verdad ha cambiado todo para nosotros.”

“It’s exciting to watch the kids’ progress and see the pride of accomplishment on their faces. They’re learning so much more than boxing. It means a lot to us to be able to offer our time and support.” Cheriy Myers & Steve Stockton

Ramiro dice: “Estos muchachos no tenían gran cosa a manera de habilidad o disciplina cuando empecé a trabajar con ellos, pero creí en ellos desde el principio porque siempre tuvieron corazón. Cuando primero comenzamos, no teníamos casi nada de equipo pero los chamacos se presentaban de todos modos. Muchas veces se me descomponía el carro en el trayecto de La Paz y los muchachos me esperaban durante dos o tres horas y todavía hacían una sesión completa de entrenamiento empezando a las nueve o diez de la noche. Nunca he dudado que estos muchachos son campeones y tengo la expectativa total de ver a por lo menos uno de ellos convertirse en un éxito del escenario global del boxeo.” Ramiro está tan comprometido con ayudar a los estudiantes de boxeo en Todos Santos a alcanzar todo su potencial, que les ayuda por lo menos dos veces a la semana a cambio de nada más que un poco de dinero para la gasolina.

Y con una paga tal, el apoyo de la comunidad es crítico. Cuando el motor de su carro dejó de funcionar justo unas cuantas semanas antes del campeonato nacional, los vecinos cooperaron de inmediato para ayudarle a reemplazarlo. Los “Ángeles del Motor” incluyeron a Michael y Pat Cope de la Galería de Todos Santos, a John Stoltzfus y Todd Schaefer del Todos Santos Inn, Ezio y Paula Colombo del Café Santa Fé, Mario Becerril de la Escuela de Surf, Sergio Rivera de La Casita Bar de Tapas y Vino, Richard Rutowski de AmeriMex, Norm Weill–voluntario a gran escala–¡y a nuestra propia graduada del Campamento de Surf Baja, Diane Arstein!

Y la comunidad no ha estado ahí sólo como un parche en momentos de emergencia. Tal como Ramiro está deseoso de señalar, la comunidad ha

Contenders Cuauhtémoc Avilés y Carlos Orozco

estado contribuyendo horas, dinero y equipo todo este tiempo. Moisés Barraza Morales, gerente general de Bodegas Lizárraga, puso las cosas en movimiento al donar el equipo inicial y el área de prácticas. Cuando los ejecutivos de Leche Caracol y de Quaker State leyeron el primer artículo en el “Journal del Pacifico” sobre el boxeo en Todos Santos, inmediatamente hicieron donaciones en efectivo que se necesitaba de verdad. Cuando Betsy Wall, la madre de Janine Wall, residente de Todos Santos, se enteró de que los muchachos tenían solamente un uniforme azul y uno rojo para compartir entre el equipo entero durante competencias, llenó a tope su maleta con camisetas rojas y azules y con shorts para traerlos al pueblo. Cuando los residentes de Todos Santos Cheri Myers y Steve Stockton se enteraron de que sólo había un par de juegos de guantes y equipo para compartir entre los más de cuarenta muchachos que se aparecen a casi todas las prácticas, donaron los fondos para adquirir suficiente equipo de protección para todos los muchachos. Cuando Adolfo Blanco del Hotel California vio todo el maravilloso trabajo que los entrenadores voluntarios como Mauricio Durán, Arturo Millan y Hector Alberto Agundez Martinez “El Pampa” estaban realizando, se sintió inspirado para donar trajes de calentamiento de muy buen ver para que los entrenadores y los estudiantes usen durante las competencias. El visitante de Todos Santos, Doug Newcomb se inspiró por la naturaleza inclusiva del programa. “Quise apoyar al Box de Todos Santos desde que le permitieron a mi hijo Pheneas entrenar con ellos mientras estábamos en el pueblo. Aunque sabían bien que no estaría él ahí por más de un mes o algo así, lo trataron como parte del club y lo hicieron sentirse incluido. ¡Y la mejor parte fue que volvió a casa tan emocionado! Si Ramiro puede llegar desde La Paz varias veces a la semana, lo menos que puedo yo hacer es apoyar trayendo equipo de los Estados Unidos.”

“Primero con la cabeza y luego con el corazón” es el consejo con el poder de cambiar vidas que el campeón de boxeo le dispensa a un joven estudiante en El Poder de Uno.

Los estudiantes de boxeo de Todos Santos comenzaron sólo con corazón, pero bajo el entrenamiento de Ramiro han adquirido las habilidades y la disciplina para dirigir con sus cabezas. Y con lo que respecta a la comunidad de Todos Santos, han tomado la decisión bien razonada de apoyar a este programa con mucho corazón.

¡Muchachos del pueblo mostrando sus cosas!

Si te gustaría unirte a Todos Santos Eco Aventuras como patrocinador o voluntario en El Box de Todos Santos, por favor contacta a Mauricio Duran para los detalles: Cel: 612-13-44478 o correo electrónico: