In the Pacific

Road-tripping to Chile’s unknown beaches

With thousands of miles of coastline, most of which is off the surfing radar, Chile’s pacific coast could be the next great surfing frontier.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 Category: Tourism
Infiernillo beach, home to some of the wildest waves in Chile (Photo: Magalie L'Abbé/Flickr). Infiernillo beach, home to some of the wildest waves in Chile (Photo: Magalie L'Abbé/Flickr).

For a country that stretches for 2,670 miles (4,300 km) along the Pacific coast, it’s a small miracle that Chile’s beaches have remained off the international surf radar for so long.


While the central coast is internationally renowned as an area that inspired the poetry of Nicanor Parra and Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, and surf meccas like Punta de Lobos in Pichilemu and El Gringo in Arica both attract big wave enthusiasts from around the world, the vast majority of Chile’s surfing potential remains unexplored.


Part of the reason for this is the Humboldt current, which sweeps icy waters and strong currents along much of the central and southern shores of the country.


“Chile stands out for always having big waves,” Trinidad Segura, a Pichilemu surfer told La Tercera. “The problem is that the sea is really cold, and because of this, not many surfers come.”


But while the chilly current might keep away the hordes, it is seen as a blessing by the more gung-ho of the sporting community.


“Chile is the best place in all of South America (to surf), the ocean packs more of a punch in our country, and that’s a good thing,” Nicolás Leiva, a surfer from Reñaca, told La Tercera.


With such vast diversity and so much on offer, keen surfers in Chile have the unique opportunity to head out on a surf trip, discover unknown waves, and experience the richness of the local culture.


“The attraction of coming surfing in South America - and sure there are good waves here, but there are good waves in Australia and South Africa too - but here on the Pacific rim, where the water is cold and you have to wear a wetsuit, it’s an adventure,” Pablo Lama, South American Manager of Wicked Camper Vans, told This is Chile


“You need to have wicked point of view because sometimes things don’t work the way that your used to,” Lama said, explaining the charms of a Chilean surf trip. “Sometimes funny things can happen, you’ll meet characters and strange people on the beach, but people are always cool and the surfers are also very friendly, they are not territorial they like in other countries, they are happy to share their beaches with foreigners.”


Below is a list of some of the lesser-known beaches of the surf circuit. The rest...you’ll have to get out and discover for yourself.


Cobquecura


“There are places that you can camp at Cobquecura, in front of the lake, where you can wake up at 6 and go to surf where there’s no wind and no people,” said Lama of an area that is fast becoming a favorite of the local surf community.


Waves on this 50 km stretch of coastline oscillate between 3 to 19 ft (1 to 6 meters). There are four surf friendly beaches: Buchupureo, Trhualemu, Pullay and Rinconada.


Buchupureo is home to the largest and fastest waves while Trehualemu is renowned for its smaller, more consistent waves, that form a distinctive tube shape.


The area is also famous for sports fishing and, during the summer months, whale watching. It is located in the Ñuble province of the Biobío region, around 310 miles (500 km) south of Santiago.


Curanipe


Tucked away in a rural province of Cauquenes, in an area of the Maule region known more for farming and fishing than tourism, is one of the most tightly-knit surfing communities in the country. Though there is many surf beaches on offer, the Curanipe beach, with waves dubbed “the bone-breakers” is definitely not for the faint of heart.


Infiernillo


With its vivid black sand, jagged rock formations and monster waves, Infiernillo is the hidden gem of Pichilemu, one of the most renowned areas as for surfing in the country.


Though Pichilemu is well set-up for surf tourism - meaning that surfboards and wetsuits are easy to obtain - Infiernillo, the long beach south of the main tourist stretch, is still relatively undiscovered.


Close to 120 kilometers south of Santiago the beach is home to one of the most challenging waves on the continent. The powerful, tube shaped waves range between 6 to 13 ft (2 to 4 meters) and should only be attempted by experienced surfers, though the rest of us are more than welcome to pull up a deck chair and enjoy the show.


Wicked Campers offers vans with roof racks for surfboards, and is launching four-wheel drive vans for summer 2013. 

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