Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The first week of my trip to Chile was busy. I was catching up with family and trying to get things ready for the next two months of easy-breezy windsurfing. These types of things  can be done easily if you're here for a week or two. You would throw down your credit card, rent gear, stay some place next to a windsurfing spot and drink a lot of pisco sours between sessions. Awesome. But, the cost of car rental is pretty high in Chile. I think the other renters I spoke to said they were spending something like 750,000 Chilean pesos per month. This comes out to about $1500 a month. For a week or two, if you just want to get to the water, that's the best way to go, but for me to throw down $3000 for two months (whilst *cough*, being unemployed), really didn't seem like a reasonable option. I eventually figured out a way to make things work with a bit of difficulty and luck. I'll get to that part in another entry.

When I finally made it to my selected first destination of Pichilemu and settled in, the wind predictably died for a few days.  This was fine, as I was able to figure out how the surfing thing works here. I was able to get some help putting footstraps on my board too.

My first session finally came and I didn't have to drive anywhere for it. Right in front of the hostal where I am staying, there is a beach called "Infiernillo". Infiernillo beach can have anything from a overhead barreling wave all the way to a long mushy close out. This particular day, we had some sets that were head high or slightly over. Yes, it was kinda heavy, the same way Waddell will surprise you with an overhead close out on a day dominated by windswell. The wind cranked up to a good 5.0 condition and we managed to get an hour and a half of good sailing. The wind is slightly onshore at this beach and the wave gives you maybe one or two turns most of the time. It actually reminds me quite a bit of Waddell Creek, but going the opposite direction. With a slightly bigger swell, it gets pretty sketchy with big hollow closeouts being the normal fare.

I rather enjoyed working backside this day. I've been trying the shove-it for nearly a year on starboard and have yet to land a clean one. Backside wave riding is great way of learning this move, from what I hear.

The shorebreak, even on a small day, was challenging at times.

I didn't get a lot of pictures, I guess I was trying to sail. "Trying" being the operative word. I didn't have much of a concept of how different it would be to sail waves on port tack rather than starboard. Turns out, it's really different. Even the simple task of hopping over whitewater going the other direction has turned out to be a challenge. Juan was actually in town for this session, but we couldn't get synched up for getting a picture of him out there. I'll get some photos up of his visit next time around.

Did you know: Easter Island is owned by Chile. I guess any remote and practically uninhabited island in the middle of the ocean has to be owned by someone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Santiago de Chile

I arrived in Santiago two weeks ago with an 800 pound bag of windsurfing gear and just slightly more than an iota of comprehendible Spanish. Maybe the bag was a little lighter and maybe my Castellano is slightly better than I've admitted, but after 18 hours of traveling I'm not sure I could lift a loaf of bread or put together a thought that a 5 year old could understand (in English). The good news is now that I have completed this feat of bravery aboard a quiet, air-conditioned airplane with a full menu of Hollywood and art-house movies, I am here for the long haul. Over two months, for what it's worth.

The first week of my trip involved getting reacquainted with long lost family. You know, the kind of family that you haven't seen in 20 years but would gladly sleep on their couch while you get your affairs settled?  Fortunately, they took my freeloading with all the grace of a Kelly Slater cutback. After about a week, I had both of my gringo feet planted firmly on the seismically active ground of Chile.

Santiago is a really nice city. I think the metropolitan area is about five million people and it's a city full of energy. When I visualize a South American city, I expect to find chickens literally running around everywhere. Santiago is much more like a city in the US. The metro system is incredibly good. As good as any metro I've ridden in the United States. It has some of the cool-headed attitude of New York without an air of snobbery. It seems like people are just out there trying to make a good living and improve their standard of life somehow. There is a sense of pride about people. There isn't a ton of people around trying to make a quick buck. I encountered very little panhandling.

This is the tallest building in South America. It's not completed but it is somewhat symbolic of a healthy economy.

Mount Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in all of the Americas. I snapped this photo with my phone around the time that I wasn't supposed to be using my electronic device. It was worth it. The Andes, as a whole, were mesmerizing. The profile of the mountain range is far different from the others I've flown over.

The above three photos are from Cerra Santa Lucia, which is a park built on a steep hill right in the middle of town. It has these cool stone stairs that go through gardens and terraces and the stairs eventually summit at a platform that has a 360 degree city view. Very cool.

Every great city needs great street food. You're never far from an empanada or a variety of other traditional fastfoods in Santiago. I'll go into more detail at some point of this obviously important cultural discussion.

Bellas Artes is a really nice museum to check out. Most of what I could find was modern art.

You know a city is forward thinking when you find an exhibit of speculums hanging over white fur.

Bellavista is the "bohemian" neighborhood of Santiago. It's pretty fun and funky. I saw more of this kind of cool graffiti than the "tweaker was here" stuff tagged all over the place.

The market in Bellavista was full of energy. Loved the vibe there.

What would a travel blog be without a picture of exotic-looking spices and fruit stuff? A bad one, that's what!  Actually the food thing is more difficult than I thought it would be here, mainly because Chileans use different words to describe pretty much every fruit and vegetable.

Adios weones!  Next time, I promise I'll get some water pictures up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maui - the big finale

Testing the one-handed sailing capabilities of the RRD Quad. Very important.

I'm sure you've all enjoyed reading this enthralling mini-series of Maui based blog posts. I hope no one fell of the edge of their seat. (Mom? you ok?) I've been in Chile for almost a week, but felt like I needed to finish my thoughts on Maui before moving on.

I must say that Maui, as a whole, feels like a dessert that's a little too sweet and rich. The air and the water are always warm. The tropical fruit is delicious and copious. When you crash, the water gives you a warm hug. It's just too much of a good thing. When I consider moving there, it occurs to me that I can't even imagine putting in a day of real work there.

Maui was spectacularly fun. The board test was, again, pretty tedious at times. I do think there is a good bit of utility in the testing of boards by a group of varied sailors. Having ridden my first multi-fin boards 3 years ago in my first test, I can honestly say they have come a long way in terms of their design. Now they can be designed more user friendly for folks that are learning to wave sail as well as be designed for the most advanced riders. These boards are often not the same ones so I think the average windsurfer would be hard pressed to find a board they will totally love without some kind of guidance from the windsurfing media outlets. Over the years the types of boards I like has changed a ton. At my first test, I loved the freestyle-wave boards that were easy to get going and forgiving through jibes.  Now I find myself wanting a board that turns a bit more aggressively on the wave, or one that is well suited for freestyle/crossover purposes. Just like the iPhone, things get noticeably better every year.

My last few days in Maui were very memorable and I hardly sailed.  The AWT competition was wrapping up and I saw windsurfing at the highest level I had ever seen. The wind was very light and flukey, and the competitors were braving gigantic waves that were over mast high. At Ho'okipa there is a channel that allows you to get out without hitting big waves, and even that was closed out.  We saw heats of amateurs and experts alike getting served large slices of humble pie on the rocks. During some of the heats, practically all of the competitors ended up getting pushed on the rocks. At times, all of the competitors were struggling to get out and no one was outside trying to catch a wave. It was very, very exciting.

Here are some photos that my girlfriend took from the competition:

I believe this is Josh Stone with an aerial. Some of the pros (and retired pros) who happen to live there but can't travel to many events were there. In some ways there were old timers vs. new timers and the old timers definitely held their own!

Also, some of the top-flight PWA guys joined in. Normally they are focused on the PWA tour (aka the European Wave Tour) so they miss the AWT events. Hopefully having guys like Marcilio "Brawnzinhio" Browne join and not get 1st place will turn some heads about the legitimacy of the AWT. Marcilio threw about 1000 of these goiters and landed seemingly 998 of them.

Is that two Marcilios in one picture? Why no, that's a goiter by the USA's own Bryan Metcalf-Perez. Bryan for sure hasn't gotten to sail this spot as much as most of the others, (or even wavesail for that matter) but you can tell that he could become one of the better wavesailors out there if he trained a bit more on the coast. That said, maybe he would be better served focusing on his Freestyle career?

Kai Katchadourian katches a juicy one. The final heat was a tough call. I think Kai placed 4th, but I gotta say I think that was a little bunk. Kai killed it with wave selection and had some of the longest rides and biggest aerials. For sure Camille Juban was the outright winner, but I enjoyed watching Kai sail these conditions more than Marcilio (who basically did one big move on the waves he took but didn't get a lot of nice looking top to bottom turns). That's the way it was though. The judges over and over scored a one-goiter wave higher than a really sweet fast ride with lots of spray and maybe an aerial. C'est la vi.

Marcilio Wave 360. I could do that. In a dream.

Lots of people were watching.

I don't have a lot of really good pictures of Camille, but he was amazing to watch. No one else was generating as much speed as he was, or turning with so much style. Hats off to this guy, I had never heard of him before this contest.

Josh Stone is such a badass.

Berndt Roediger throwing some style out there with the head toss a la Levi. Levi registered but didn't show up. I get that he's not into competition, but everyone would have loved to see him.

This was the biggest wave I saw anyone catch  all week. We were watching Berndt struggle to get over a huge outside set. He got over the first, the second, then the 3rd, just as they were cresting. Then this one came and everyone started yelling 'JIBE JIBE JIBE' from the beach. For sure Berndt couldn't have heard the crowd over the massive waves breaking, but sure enough he jibed onto this giant. There was no where to go on it but it's always great to see someone catch a wave this size, sorta like watching people surf Waimea.

Here's the same wave breaking.

And here was the penalty. A tough time getting back out with white water that goes over your 340cm mast.

I've got more pictures here and they're full sized, if you're interested.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Maui - part one of a 10 part miniseries

Maui made me so very lazy about blogging. The delightfully warm water and air quickly sublimated me into a cloud of "I'll get to it later". In about 26 days of potential sailing, I ended up with about 5 or 6 with that perfect combination of wind and waves. The rest of the time, it was either wavy or windy but not combined. The trip, as a whole, was a success. And by success I mean I'm a relaxed puddle of goo ready to take on the world.

It wasn't all sunshine and daydreams, though. About six days into the trip, I thought the fun part of the trip might be completely over. It was probably the best day in terms of conditions. The wind was solid 5.0 and the waves at Lower Kanaha were head to logo high, and peeling with wide open faces for  what seemed like a hundred of yard. On the way out, one could score massive jumps and on the way in we were getting fully powered rides down the line, easy top to bottom, with lips peaking sporadically, begging to be hit. After about an hour and a half, I was on my best wave of the day. It was logo high and apparently glassing off. I sprinted down the line and laid my sail down for a fully committed bottom turn. I started hitting some chop and before I could react, my board was bouncing really hard. My leg locked fully extended and the board rail caught, jamming my hip so hard that I felt a pop. Pain was shooting down my leg, so intense that I suspected I did some major damage.

After getting worked by the rest of the set, I was able to sail in wincing. I got to the beach, was beat up by the shore break in my mini-agony moment, and was able to hobble over to the dune. Jacob saw me and came in. I told him I didn't think I could sail my gear back up, so he sailed it up to the launch and I went to go sit in the car. I didn't want to ruin the day for him and tell him to pack it up because it was just so damn good out there. I sat in the car for a while. My hip and upper leg were throbbing to the point where I thought I was going to vomit. Jacob came back about 45 minutes later to check on me, and I told him I thought it would be good to get it checked out. We went over to the hospital in Kahului and I waited an hour and half, popping all the advil I could get my hands on.

My friend Sierra from previous board tests is an ER nurse at the hospital, so she came over to see if she could help get me looked at sooner. After about six Advil, I was feeling an awful lot better. I could stand up and walk around on my own. I was going to be called next, but decided to save on my insurance deductible and put myself on an ibuprofen diet.

The next week or so would be light sailing. The days I pushed myself even the slightest bit would aggravate my hip. My friend Ingrid Larouche, who happens to be an excellent physical therapist, told me that it appeared I injured my bursa, which is a fluid filled sack at the top of the hip. It sits right next to a nerve, so that would explain all the shooting pains and difficulty sleeping. The program for this type of injury just so happens to be rest and advil. About 10 days after the injury, I was pretty much fine. It turns out that I'm just a wuss with no pain tolerance. Go figure.