He got on a surf board when he was 11, at the urging of some Australian friends. Riding his first wave, he realized that it was his thing and that he would never stop. Today at the age of 28, Cristián Merello has two Ceremonial championships at Punta de Lobos and one Chilean title, in addition to being one of the national surfers with the most international recognition.
With all this experience, Merello can speak with authority about Chilean surfing and the quality of the waves that bathe the country’s long coastline, affirming that “they are as good as any, including Hawaii.”
But he not only transmits his experience in words; he also wants to use audiovisual tools to show the world Chile’s benefits for practicing surf in his new production Visual Influence.
What is special about the waves in Chile?
Chilean waves are world-class, virgin cold and tremendously beautiful. They are also very different: in the north they break on rocks and are short and tubular, while in the south they are long and tubular. Likewise, the majority of the waves ride to the left, but note that almost the entire coast is virgin.
What is the best place for surfing in Chile?
The truth is that the entire Chilean coast has incredible waves; it just depends on the time of the year. The largest ones are in the autumn.
What is the level of the waves in Chile compared to other renowned surfing areas like Hawaii?
Hawaii is the Mecca of surfing, where you can find the best waves and best surfers in the world in only a few kilometers. But Chile also has its own attributes: incredible waves and thousands of kilometers of virgin coastline.
There are not many surfers here, since Hawaii is warm and Chile is cold, which means that you can surf almost alone while over there you have to do it with thousands of people. We have world-class waves and a Chilean wave on its best day can easily be better than many Hawaiian waves.
Over the last few years Chile has hosted numerous international championships. What opinion do foreign riders have about national surfers?
Foreign surfers believe that Chilean surfers are very daring, that they surf very big waves. There are always positive commentaries about Chilean surfers for riding big waves. Their courage stands out quite a bit.
So, what does Chile represent for world surfing?
For the world Chile is a country that is quite far away from everything, somewhat unknown and even mysterious, but everybody knows that there are good waves. For that same reason you get respect when you say you are from Chile because people know that the waves here are big, difficult and dangerous.
And now you are going to show Chile’s waves to the world…
I am working on a documentary project called Visual Influence, which intends to show the world Chile’s waves, focusing directly on the visual influence that we have for surfing those waves, our motivation, why we do it, and why we seek that style of life and of surfing.
Any special campaign to promote your work?
We are working on that. The idea is to promote it in specialized magazines, television and radio stations, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, specialized websites and also through launches in Santiago and Pichilemu.
The idea is to show it all over Chile and also at international surf festivals.
You have had some previous experience with audiovisual projects.
Yes, it all began as a hobby. I made my first audiovisual productions in VHS format and then my first DVD production Senseless (2006). I then produced It Is Not All The Same (2007), where we showed that the pollution of our beaches does matter, and in my last production in 2008 – Hidden Chile – I wanted to show Chile’s waves and in particular the characters who surf them. I have improved with each video and have tried to make them increasingly professional.