Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pichilemu: Little Forest. Great Waves.

When I was considering my options for this trip, one of the things I had to consider was which beach town would be the best for me to stay. The two main options close to the well-known wavesailing area are Matanzas and Pichilemu. They are about 1.5 - 2 hours apart driving distance. The way I understand it, Matanzas gets more consistent windsurfing conditions and Pichilemu, in general, is a bit lacking for wind. On the other hand, Pichilemu has way more options for surfing and boasts two really nice left point breaks that work nearly every day. Matanzas seems to have some waves that work less consistently (maybe due to the wind many times), and often times they are the type of waves that barrel most days making them above my "level".

The other thing I took into consideration, other than my aquatic needs, were my chances of improving my Spanish. Matanzas is a very, very sleepy town. There are a handful of high-end cabanas and resort type lodges, but outside of that there just aren't many people milling about. Most of the tourists in this area seem to be from Europe, so Spanish is a distant second or 3rd language for many of them.  In comparison, Pichilemu is very vibrant and full of energy (and full of people who don't speak a lick of English). I would still describe it as a sleepy surfing town, but it certainly has a pulse.

This picture is an example of the type of windsurfing conditions you will find at la Puntilla in Pichilemu. The wind is very offshore, the waves are typically logo-high or more. The nice thing is that most of the sections of this wave don't really "throw". The rides can be over a minute long, but it can be very challenging to get back up to the peak. I've seen experienced windsurfers, even professionals, forced into the 150m swim to shore and the 300m walk walk of shame.

When Juan was in town we scored a couple of days of laid-back chest high surf at Punta de Lobos, considered one of the best left breaking waves in this hemisphere. Initially I was very intimidated to surf there since I had seen all the videos of the triple overhead+ days there, but fortunately there are many days that are reasonable for a surfer of my (pathetic) skill level. A good representation of the wave can be seen in the first picture of the blog. I don't think it is a really fast wave on small days like this, but it's a little steeper in the pocket than a lot of the waves I've surfed. Some of the good guys manage to get barreled in some sections.

I decided to bring only my point-and-shoot camera, which I'm somewhat regretting. Many of the spots beg for a bit longer lens. The good news is that if I make the effort I can get some nice shots from the water. The bad news is all of the pictures I take from the beach are absolute crap. Such is life!

Fun fact: Pichilemu is a Mapuche word (the predominant native community of Chile). It means "small forest". 


cammar said...

"Some of the good guys manage to get barreled in some sections"... like the one on the back of the surfer in the first photo!!!
Great post, I immediately googled Pichilemu.
What do you think about this:
Would you please ask about water and air temperature and overall conditions in June/July?

Catapulting Aaron said...

Hey Giampaolo!

The wave often times isn't very section-y so you need some luck to backdoor the peak or drop into a barrel here. Most of the waves at Punta Lobos look something like that at the peak though!

The surfline article you read is about the point break in town, I've been traveling to 6km to Punta Lobos, which is a different story entirely. Less paddling for a better wave.

I hear the water temperature stays around the same year around 10-12 C, which is about the same as northern California, where I live. I think the air temperature must get lower, but people say it's still somewhat similar... with more fog and maybe some stormy days. I would estimate 15-20 in the June/July time frame, but you could probably look that up somewhere for exact numbers.

Oh the best part is that Chileans literally will not wake up before 10 in the morning. I've paddled out at 8:30 and surfed a perfect point break alone, or with one friend.