Chile From Within

Lets go Surfing, El Gringo

Posted in Chile culture, Surfing, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on June 23, 2007

Surfing in Chile is reaching new heights, for gringos, and Chileans. Check out the World Championship T…(WCT Rip Curl Search Arica, Chile) which is taking place off of a wave off the coast ex-isla Alacran, of the northern Chilean city of Arica. It is called El Gringo and this year it is the site of a world championship which has no specific relevance to me except its international renown. Yet surfing in Chile could be a big deal if one were to take the time and invest the money to explore.

“You first have to understand the set-up of El Gringo, the contest wave for this year’s Rip Curl Search event in the northernmost corner of the coastal-ist country in the world. El Gringo is a full slab set-up, a right and left ledger slamming down on a jagged rock reef. Entry and exit is via a narrow, dog-leg keyhole, with surging tides and sets that, on occasion, actually unload into the slot. There’s spiny sea-urchins on the jagged rocks. Razor sharp mussels. And a territorial pack of seals. So when you’re caught on the inside, you’re left crab-walking the jagged guts and praying the sets stop pouring in. Which, in Chile, they don’t. And if you haven’t got a board to assist your outward scramble, you’re pretty much bummed.” according to Surfing Magazine.

That means this:

Imagine the waves not highlighted by sponsored competition which occur semi-anonymously along the thousand mile long coast of Chile. A recent visit by an experienced southern Californian to surf in Chile led him to Punta de Lobos, where he hooked up with Brazilians driving until their gas money ran out. They trekked up north, near Copiapo I believe, where according to testimony of his sister, it was the best surfing of his life…Why you may ask, because there was no one there. The wistful search of the human race in times of cheap air travel and wealth and too many well-trodden paths to pleasure, for some. Does a tree make a sound, or wave have an impact, if no-one is there to hear or see it? Does it matter?

Maybe it goes like this…because the gringos are closer to worldwide sponsors who can finance people to dedicate themselves to a sport like surfing, there are more gringos…and less Chileans, but in the process more Chileans… because Chile and their surfers become highlights on television, international approval and therefore local claps. Bravo.

That said, people like Diego Medina or Ramon Navarro, who is a tow-in surfer of humongous waves, and magazines like Marejada, a homegrown reflection of a surfing family living on a remote, difficult to access beach with a love for surfing, top-notch photography and glossy quality that helps to make it big, and Chilean.

That said, because it is Chile in the 2000’s, a growing clash between personal interests, cultural growth and the way things used to be done, that is prioritize industry, development and growth in a roughshod fashion, we have monikers like “KKlemu” (Cacalemu) for the coastal town Pichilemu, one of the birthplaces of Chilean surfing. To accomodate increasing populations and modernize their sewage systems…the solution was to run a long pipe into the bay…right where Pichilemu’s wave are, to eliminate the town’s waste. The organization and battle in Pichilemu is emblematic of a nascent organizational capacity around specific citizen interests in confrontation with antiquated and out-of-touch corporations trying to do business as usual. Ess-Bio, the sewage company, as an example, offered a sponsorship to the surfer Diego Medina, which apparently roundly rejected.

Although there is an irony here, that Proplaya, the save the waves citizen organization, was co-founded by a foreigner.

Cristian Merello is also good.

As are the kids of Puertecillo, many of whom camp out on the beach for months at a time.


And this beautiful video of the well-known Punta de Lobos, by a Brazilian.

Chile big wave

Real big wave surfing

3 Responses

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  1. Ani said, on July 5, 2007 at 3:37 am

    Happy 4th of July!!!! Did you go out and celebrate?

  2. tomasdinges said, on July 5, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    I talked with an elementary school friend and her family at a bbq, then biked past the diverse throngs of “Americans” amassing anywhere with a view of the mall, where the fireworks were to go off…Rosslyn Bridge, graveyards on Wisconsin Ave, near Jellef, the recently renovated National Cathedral, Fort Reno, then went home to a family bbq, and then topped the night off with edifying, and intoxicating, rounds of Beirut, aka “Beer Pong” with my brother, sister and her friends.

    We then ruminated on the luxuriant leafy foliage and tall trees which are so characteristic, unique and special to Washington DC.

  3. sealegs said, on October 15, 2008 at 4:31 am

    cool to read another non locals opinion of the surf scene (if you want to call it that) here in chile. anymore blogs to come?


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