Arica beaches turn surf mecca for World Star Tour in Chile

The world-class wave tempts surfers for a taste of ‘El Gringo’ and a shot at US$55,000 in prize money. 

The world’s best surfers are barreling into northern Chile for the Maui and Sons Arica World Star Tour 2012, scheduled this year for June 12 to 17. Athletes will be competing for US$55,000 in prize money on the city’s famous wave: El Gringo.

Located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean near the Peruvian border, and some 1,200 miles (2,000 km) north of Santiago, the sunny city of Arica will be hosting the championship for the third year in a row.

“El Gringo” takes the stage as a world-class wave, comparable to the most famous swells of Tahiti and Hawaii. Reaching heights of up to 16 feet (5 meters), the wave demands skill and finesse from surfers, who must negotiate the powerful rush of water as they skim over the sharp volcanic rock underwater.

The line-up includes 80 surfers from countries around the world, including the United States, England, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela, with a special delegation from the U.S. surf mecca Hawaii of Ian Gentil, Jesse Merle-Jones, Landon McNamara and Liam McNamara.

Big name South American surfers like Brazilians Wiggolly Dantas and Ian Gouveia, Argentine surfer Santiago Muñoz and Peruvian Gabriel Villarán are some of the favorites for the big wave classic this month.

Dantas arrives in Chile ranked 37 by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), while Muñiz enters the water as the reigning champion of the 2011 Billabong ISA World Surfing Games.

All eyes will be on 19-year-old Guillermo Satt, the local from Arica who took the competition by surprise last year with a Cinderella-story win.

“There are big names on the list, and they’re coming from all over the world, which means this is a big challenge for me,” Satt said. The young surf star will be leading the Chilean team, which includes pro surfers Diego Medina and Pichilemu’s Cristián Merello.

The Maui and Sons Arica World Star Tour 2012 will be broadcast live on the official website.