SURFING SOUTHERN CHILE
I spent the last month of 2017 on the south American continent in Southern Chile to be exact. The goal was to surf the well known and unknown waves of the region. After some adventures in Patagonia, I flew back to Santiago, the capital of Chile. Before I went on the Patagonia trip, I stored my board bag on the airport of Santiago. So first things first! Pick up the boards, get a car and make the three hour journey to the coastal town of Pichilemu.
Pichilemu is the surfing hub of Chile, well known all over the world because one of the longest left breaking waves of Chile, “Punta de Lobos”, is located just 5 minutes from town centre. According to local legend and world famous big wave surfer Ramon Navaro, Punta de Lobos is the best left breaking point in Chile.
I had the idea to start my trip here because it’s close to the main airport of Santiago and also because there is very little information about other surf spots in Chile other than the Pichilemu area. So I figured spending some time in Pichilemu would help me to get to know the region and shrouding surf a bit more.
Chile is quite a centralised country, and from the total of 15 million inhabitants, 10 million live in Santiago, which makes it the most crowded region to surf. However, the water is cold and most of the surf spot don’t have an easy access, so for now that’s still a turning point for a lot of surf tourist to pick another, mostly tropical destination.
I, as I come from Holland, am used to a lot of neoprene and I really like the adventure and not only the surfing. As the famous snowboarder Jeremy Jones says, “The journey is the reward”.
The days in Pichilemu were spent as followed; get out of bed around 7:30 a.m. and check the surf at “Punta de lobos” straight away. If it’s good, go for a surf. Afterwards, we usually passed by the local supermarket to get some breakfast and then go back to our hostel, which was a little up the hill, called “Casa Verde”. Since December is still low season, we had the whole place to ourselves. Most of the time there was a strange fog in the morning, but luckily it always disappeared by the time we wanted to have breakfast in the sun. On the not so lucky days, the fog kept hanging around throughout the day, but strangely enough, just a 5 minute drive could make it disappear and turn up the heat with 10 degrees.
Don’t forget to get a coffee at “Cardumen Café” after breakfast; not only do they have the best coffee in town, you can also immediately check the surf at “La Puntilla”. This wave is known for breaking right in town, mostly a really long left depending if the sand is cooperating. It’s also a popular spot for the kite,- and windsurfers, at least if the south winds are blowing.
After a few days in Pichilemu, it was time to hit the road again and explore what else Chile had to offer us.
We started by going south. A few hour drive over winding roads with the white peaks of the Andes Mountain range as a backdrop
We arrived in Buchupureo which is a small fishermen’s town tucked away between the hills and the ocean. There is a long left, “la Boca”, breaking at the southend of the beach, next to the river which grows the sand in place most of the time, breaking in 2 or 3 sections. Barrel time is definitely an option here. It’s an amazing scenery with the cliffs at the end of the beach and al the Paine trees on the other side.
We stayed in a tree house just 10 minutes up in the hills called “Parque Las Nalkas”. It’s a really cool place to stay, very unique. Just try to imagine the amazing sunset upon the hill. It’s a bit more expensive than most other places we stayed at, but it was totally worthed!
After 1 day in Buchupureo, the winds turned onshore for a few days so we decided to go to Pucon, a tourist hub in the middle of Chile, favorite to those who like outdoor activities like climbing the active volcano, wildwater rafting, ziplining and so on. Pucon is an idyllic small town, however, it can get a little busy after lunchtime and later in the evening, around 9.30 p.m. (yes, dinner time is usually a few hours later than you’re used too). So, if you want to go for a quiet stroll through town, best time to go would be in the afternoon. In the evening, a nice mix of people get together for a drink and dinner. Don’t forget to eat some Churros!
If you just want to do some serious relaxing, look up the “thermes” just outside town. The drive towards these river based Spa’s are already worth the ride. If the cold river has lowered your temperature, the natural hot springs will heat you up in no time.
After spending a few days in Pucon, it was time to go back to the coast again. The distances are long in Chile, so prepare yourselves for long drives. A 7 hour drive took us back to Pichilemu from which we went north the next day. The plan was to go as far to the north as possible, without losing time to go back down and explore and surf along the way. Schedule was tight as I wanted to be back at “Punta de Lobos” before the next swell.
We made it all the way to La Serena in a few days, we even explored the city of Valpareiso in between. A few km south of La Serena, there is a funny looking island called “Totoralillo”, which has a left break on one side and a right break on the other side, so you can literally paddle across the island to the other break. It does needs a lot of swell to start breaking. Even Though I saw the potential, it didn’t get good.
If you’re looking for a kitespot around this area, just a 45 minute drive will take you to a hidden lake in the mountains called “ Puclaro”. Wind is known to blow pretty much every day of the year, heaven it is!
While heading down south again and a wait for the new swell to come, we drove down to Matanzas, a place also well known by windsurfers. Since it’s less protected from the south winds, it’s mostly blown out, but, rumour has it, there is a wave closeby which is well protected. I kinda felt like Dora the Explorer trying to find the spot; lot’s of dirt roads and even more private lands we were not allowed to trespass before reaching our destination, Puertecillo. You mostly will find long lefts that start in front of the rocks and rolls all the way into the bay. It’s a really nice place and it even has a small restaurant right in front of the point where they sell fresh wood oven pizzas. The wave breaks at al tides, but it gets definitely better when the tide is lower. It’s a little smaller than the swell magnet “Punta de Lobos”, so if that gets too sizey for you, it might be worthed to head to Puertecillo.
After a few days in Matanzas, we headed back to Pichilemu for the last few days of our trip. and scored some epic Lobos.
Tips and Trick to surf in Chile:
- Bring enough neoprene; the water is colder than you think! I was surfing in a 4mm wetsuit and 3mm booties all the time….
- A big board is no luxury on spot like Lobos
- Hire a 4x4 if you’re planning to go for the full adventure
- Make sure your Spanish is up to date… Claro que si!