When my partner first mentioned surfing in Chile, long left-hand points actually weren’t the first thing I thought of. I pictured Patagonia’s mountains, glaciers, and the roaring forties — everything but the picturesque surf.
I grew up in Tasmania so I don’t mind surfing with a decent bit of rubber on and I’m accustomed to getting excited about big winter storms with howling offshore winds, but the surf needs to be good enough to motivate you on a rainy day in the middle of winter. Needless to say, I love an adventure and jumped on board anyway.
Once we finally arrived in Santiago, we bought a Toyota 4Runner and spent a couple of weeks decking it out as our temporary home. Despite only being a couple hours from the coast, Santiago felt like a world away from the ocean and where we actually wanted to be. It’s a big city and with all the time needed to prep the 4Runner we were starting to reconsider what we’d gotten ourselves into.
There are a few breaks close to the city around Vina Del Mar and Valparaiso but with the city crowds and the opportunity for better waves further south, the first real spot on our hit list was Puertecillo, a left-hand point nestled below a beautiful big headland. The drive in through a never-ending maze of dirt tracks eventually brings you to a steep track down the cliff and with any luck, a view of a perfect point break and swell lining up as far as the eye can see. Everyone seemed to know about this place and when it turned on they would all converge on the tiny seaside shanty-shack town.
As the swell gave out and the winds turned, it was time to move on again. We decided to go inland for a few days to take advantage of the incredible mountains and hikes only a short drive away. Heading back to the coast we finally hit Punta de Lobos, Pichilemu. Driving into town wasn’t what I’d pictured. There are dusty, cactus-lined streets with ramshackle tin sheds everywhere. It grew on me after a few days, though, and by the time we left I was in love with its unpretentious vibe. There is no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful spots I have ever surfed. And getting out there furthermore etched it into my memory. You start by climbing down a steep track at the top of the point then paddle across a small surging channel to a rocky island with two 30-meter massifs. From there it’s a slow and slippery walk between the two outcrops to the kelp covered keyhole where you’ll nervously wait for a gap in the sets. Then it’s just a heartbeat-raising paddle to the safety of the channel, hoping a rogue wave doesn’t catch you. Even on the small days, the waves had enough power in them to get my heart racing, but nothing could possibly beat the incredible raw beauty of this spot.
As we continued south, we came to a town called Curanipe with, you guessed it, a fun left-hand point. We never got to see this one working at its full potential, though, even after a few weeks surfing and camping around the various towns and beaches nearby. I still managed to get some of my biggest waves and longest rides I have ever had here. We were more than content spending our days exploring this beautiful part of Chile and would have happily spent the rest of our time there. Sooner or later though, when a four-day weekend hit along with the onslaught of weekenders it was all a bit too much for us. We decided to pack up and leave with the treasured memories we already had.
Next on our hit list was a series of remote south-facing beaches but sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. With the right swell and winds forecast, we thought we were in for another treat. We spent a good couple of days waiting out a storm in the middle of nowhere, not moving far from the protection and shelter of our car and the waves never came. As the rain cleared, we headed back to the highway a little deflated and continued on our way.
Finally, it was time for one last surf before hitting the deep south of Patagonia off Chiloe Island. As we made our way down, we camped along a stretch of coast just out of Valdivia and awoke once more to the pouring rain, but this time there was hardly a breath of wind. Down below the cliffs to our amazement was a right-hander breaking off a little reef. After nothing but hundred-meter-long point breaks for the last couple of months, this break could hardly compare. But for two regular footers and nobody else in sight, it was a joy to surf.
The weather was atrocious when we arrived and our only option was to hunker down in a makeshift beach camp for what felt like an eternity, waiting out another front in the hope it would bring the swell we were after. Unfortunately, the swell never arrived but once again we stumbled upon a beautiful bay with a peeling left-hand point. It didn’t take long for the swell to dissipate so we hesitantly packed the boards away for what would be the last time before Patagonia. Hopefully, we’ll find a few more hidden gems on the drive back north or perhaps we’ll just get rained out again. But I guess that’s all part of the fun.