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Simply Southern Chile: A Surf Trip

Hank Gaskell  /  Dec 26, 2014  /  5 Min Read  /  Surfing


After my second trip to Southern Chile this past July, I have absolutely fallen in love with its simple way of life. More and more nowadays, it seems there is so much going on that it’s impossible to get ahead. Chile doesn’t know or care about that. Life there is content to just continue rolling at a steady pace, no one is ahead and no one is behind. Everyone is family. Our crew did a good job stepping back from our busy day-to-day lives to emulate the Chilean way. For two weeks, our “family” consisted of Otto Flores, Eala Stewart, Ramon Navarro, photographer Dylan Gordon, videographer Rodrigo Farias and my girlfriend Malia. Huge thank you to all; what a group of top-notch humans!

Above: This is Eala and I negotiating a sketchy water entrance off the point in Buchupureo. Photo: Dylan Gordon

This is what an average day from our adventure looked like.

We would wake up early, overlooking a beautiful dark-green wooded hillside that slant steeply down to the sea. Seals, birds and dedicated fisherman all share schools of merluza and baitfish as the morning fog blanket rises from the swell lines. Breakfast is bread, eggs, avocado and tea. Otto enthusiastically passes around his mate gourd. Then it’s time to round up all the rubber hanging around the fireplace and pile into the car.

The countryside is how I picture the American Northwest’s Highway 101 looking a hundred years ago. Giant trees, deep valleys, farms and small fishing communities make up the scenery. Curve after curve reveals yet another left-hand point break with doubtless potential. We pass on the first three or four, until we find the right one for the day. Malia, the recently graduated biologist, quickly finds curious intricacies in the diverse roadside flora at each stop. Teaching the rest of us about stamens, petals and sepals never fails to enthuse her.

Photo 1Malia and the crew. Photo: Hank Gaskell

When it’s time to hit the water, Ramon leads the way. He is the most youthful 33-year-old I have ever seen! Each time he suits up, his giddy smile and surf stoke is infectious, no matter what the surf looks like. Luckily for us, it looked pretty damn good! Southern Chile is a land of perfect lefts and we trade set waves all morning. For about 100 yards, Eala, Otto and Ramon fly down the line linking long floaters, deep carves, Larry laybacks and the occasional pit. Being the only regular footer on the trip, my backhand snap was as fine-tuned as it’s ever been.

Gordon_d_0074Ramon has mastered every wave along the southern Chile coastline. Here he is standing comfortably in a slabby sandbar pit. Photo: Dylan Gordon 

The sights you see surfing here are breathtaking. Strong southern winds whip out to sea around the point but we sit just inside where it’s calm and glassy. The light on the ocean is sparkly gold and the hills are endless waves of green forest. The barren sandy shore stretches nearly a mile before it reaches the next point, which most likely hosts another reeling left hander. If we scan hard enough we can find Dylan hidden behind a pile of logs or some brush. The young photographer is starry eyed with the excitement of getting the perfectly framed photo. His depth of creativity and steady hand are testaments to his remarkable talent.

Gordon_d_0073Shortly after this photo was taken I was washed off the rocks and broke a fin out. Luckily, I was unscathed and paddled right back out after a fin swap. Photo: Dylan Gordon

Gordon_d_0060The only right we surfed was this little beach break and it was pretty bad. If you’re looking to go right, Chile is not the place for you. Photo: Dylan Gordon

When hunger and thirst set in, we reconvene at the car for lunch. Eala is smiling ear to ear. I’ve known the young Hawaiian Buttons-look-alike for a long time now, but the more I get to hang out with the kid, the more impressed I am. Beneath his curly ‘fro lies a calm coolness. He’s so comfortable that nothing seems to faze him. We towel off and strip our suits to lay them by the fire. As we huddle around warming our fingers and toes, we share more bread, avo and cheese. The crew jokes and laughs, discussing the session’s sickest rides, best falls and where our muscles are beginning to ache. By the time our suits are half dry and we’ve all re-applied a thick coat of sunscreen, it’s back out there! Same as before, until our shoulders are so sore we can’t bear the paddle back out. It’s hard turning your back on the incoming walls of water, but the sun is going to set soon anyway…

Photo 3Photo: Hank Gaskell

Back at the house, as the last crimson rays fall behind the evening fog bank, delightful scents fill our noses. We are elated to see that “Papa” (Ramon’s dad) has a giant pot of fish-head soup on the stove for us. Someone pulls out a six pack and passes them around as we plop down at the table. An ice-cold beer never tasted so good! We talk story until our eyes begin to fade. Then it’s off to bed to rest up, thankful to know that tomorrow will be the same.

Photo 4_2

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