Friday, March 6, 2009

Interview: Geoff Hill of Baja Bound Insurance

It's the last thing you want to think about when you're packing up your gear for a surgical surf strike across the border- but it's a necessity and blowing it off could put you in a really bad place. If things go sour on the Baja Highway and you're not covered, you're going to the casa de clinky and it definitely ain't a four star stay. We're talking about Mexican Auto Insurance- a necessity when you're driving down south.

Photo: Write a policy, hit the lip. Geoff smacking one. Photo credit: Sean Cullen

We've always used Baja Bound Insurance. Their online service is easy to use, the internet service is fast and their rates have always been super competitive. Plus, we'd heard that these guys were surfers. I trust surfers. I tracked down Geoff Hill at Baja Bound for the story and came back with a few surf shots that were proof positive that these guys can throw both policies and buckets. Here's the scoop: Hey Geoff, thanks for taking a couple of minutes to sit down with us and talk about Baja Bound. First of all what's your background?

G.H: I was born in San Diego, and have lived most of my life here. I started surfing (shortboards) when I was 14 and it was totally life changing. To say that I was obsessed with surfing would have been an understatement! Did you do contests or were you just surfing for fun?

G.H: I started doing local surf contests here and there, eventually ending up at UCSD where I was on the surf team for my last two years of college. Our team did all of the collegiate NSSA contests, which were a ton of fun. My senior year I was one of four surf team members with access to the key to Blacks - it was really amazing to have that privilege.

My main sponsors in those days were Ezera surfboards and Pacific Drive Surf Shop. Currently I am riding a 6’7” Resin8 epoxy by Sam Egan that I got from Marc Miller at Isle Surfboards. It is probably one of the best boards I have ever had. Key to Blacks- are you kidding me? I'd probably never leave. Where else would you surf?

Photo: G.H. floating one. Photo credit: Sean Cullen

G.H: My favorite places to surf in San Diego are probably I.B. and a couple of spots that are boat access only….Blacks is great too…but the crowds are always a factor. Down in Baja…well…take your pick! There are so many classic setups there depending on the swell and how far south you are going. Baja Malibu, La Fonda, San Miguel, Punta San Jose and Scorpion Bay are just a few that come to mind. So what's your all time favorite spot down there?

G.H: My favorite spot in Baja is probably Scorpion Bay. It is just so perfect and amazing. I have done a LOT of surfing in Baja: Two long trips to Scorpion Bay; four trips to Punta Cabra; three trips to Punta San Jose; and far too many weekend trips between the border and Ensenada to possibly remember. The Scorpion Bay trips were probably the most memorable because I was young at the time and had never experienced such perfect waves. Any mishaps or weirdness in all that Baja traveling?

G.H: The only real mishap I have had on a Baja surf trip was spring break of 1992, which was my senior year in high school. It was the first time our parents let us go unsupervised, and we had an amazing trip. We hit a bunch of different spots near Camalu all week and just got super fun surf the entire time.

The very last night someone came into our camp and stole a bunch of stuff. At first we were really bummed about it, but then we realized that they only things they took were bare necessities - food and clothing. They had not touched our surfboards, wetsuits, video camera, radio or any of our wallets. We headed back to the border that day totally smelly and dirty, still wearing the clothes from the previous day, with big smiles on our faces!

Photo: I'm getting the feeling that Geoff put all that Baja time was put to good use. Photo credit: Moses Slovatski How did the whole Baja Bound thing come about?

G.H: This is a fun story….Baja Bound started in 1994 as a drive-through service near the border in San Ysidro by John “Doc” Morton. He actually was a real doctor, and the insurance drive-through window was right next to his office, staffed by the nurses. His son Hank and I were high school buddies and surfed together a lot and eventually Doc got into surfing too….at the age of 50!

Doc started taking us to Baja for surf trips on the weekends, which were really amazing times for us. A few years later Doc was contemplating retirement, and Hank was doing web development. Hank and his dad talked about the idea of transitioning the business to an online service, and was born. Hank launched the first website in fall of 1999. For the first few years I was always feeding him marketing ideas. He always said that if Baja Bound grew enough he would hire me. I came on board a few years later in January of 2003. What's your role at Baja Bound?

G.H: My role at Baja Bound is marketing and business development. This includes handling advertising campaigns, building strategic partnerships, sponsoring events, doing search engine optimization for our website, and networking on both sides of the border. I do handle customer service duties on occasion as well when the phones get busy! Mike (my brother) and I always use Baja Bound- I actually heard about it through a bunch of local guys who are hardcore Baja surf travellers and they recommended it to me. It seems like it is the standard for surf travellers who drive into Mexico. What do you think makes it special?

G.H: Baja Bound is special for a number of reasons. We really go out of our way to provide the best customer service for our clients, and it shows with the number of friend referrals we get. We have also worked really hard to create a website that is full of great travel information and by far the easiest way to get Mexican insurance. Everyone in our office has lived in Mexico and traveled quite a bit down there, so this is much more than a job for us. We love Mexico!

Photo: "I was one of four surf team members with access to the key to Blacks." So we'd assume you've been in this position at least a million times before... right? Photo credit: Moses Slovatski Mex is rad. Definitely. Which Mexican insurance companies do you guys work with?

G.H: We work with two great underwriters, Genworth Seguros and ACE Seguros, and have a very good rapport with both of them. This allows us to assist any of our clients who might need help in following up on a claim, and we are happy to help them! Now that we've got you here, is there anything that traveling surfers need to know about vehicle insurance in Baja that they probably don't know? Any little known facts or common misconceptions that surfers should know about?

G.H: Two main things come to mind: First, personal items carried in your vehicle such as surfboards, wetsuits, cameras, laptops etc. are not covered by any Mexican auto insurance policy. (This is also true with auto insurance policies in the U.S) These items are covered by either a homeowners or renters insurance policy, so make sure you have those items covered before your next trip!

Second, if you have an accident or loss, you MUST report it before leaving Mexico and get an adjuster to the scene and obtain the proper police reports. Often times, people have a loss and wait until they come back to the U.S. to report it. At that point, it is hard to prove that the loss actually happened in Mexico, and the claim may be denied. Good to know! What about this, what if a surfer gets in an accident in Mexico and gets put into jail- does having a Baja Bound policy provide him any protection or legal assistance (will it get him out of jail)?

G.H: Yes. All of our insurance policies come with legal aid and bail bond included. So what does a surfer absolutely need to know if they get into an accident in Baja?

G.H: I think the same rules apply no matter where you are traveling in the world. Make sure everyone involved is OK and safely out of the way of any other vehicles passing on the road, then call for help (066 is the Mexican equivalent of 911). At that point, do your best to stay calm and be thankful you bought Mexican insurance! Okay Geoff, thanks a bunch for all the information. One last question: How do you feel about stand up paddle surfers?

G.H: I feel pretty good about paddle surfers….I am probably going to end up being one in the near future!

Photo: The crew at Baja Bound. Right on Geoff we'll see you in the water!

G.H: All right, thanks John.

Contact info:
Baja Bound Insurance Services


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1 comment:

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