Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ramoncito y Yo

Say hello to Ramoncito. He is a 1977 Chevrolet van that somehow found his way to South America. He doesn't always work perfectly, but his motor is strong and reliable.  He has 3 manual gears that shift on the column. He thinks power steering is for sissies. His battery only lasts a few minutes with the lights on without running. His gearbox jams if you don't handle the shifter with care. Sure, he's not flawless, but his personality makes up for all his other quirks doubly.

It did not take me long to learn in Chile that, for windsurfing, it's really, really nice to have a set of wheels.  Sure. For a short trip, one could arrive and take a bus with all her gear to Matanzas and have a great chance of scoring some of the best port-tack days of their lives. But if one wants to spend a little more time exploring this country with thousands of kilometers of coastline, a vehicle can greatly facilitate.

The trouble is the cost of driving is fairly expensive in Chile. The discounted cost of renting a vehicle that can carry your gear is along the lines of $2000 a month. After that, the cost of gas is about double. If you want to go north or south, expect to pay a $5.00 toll every couple of hours. Getting around isn't cheap, unless you ride the bus. Then you are stuck at bus stations with a massive bag full of gear, hoping to hitch a ride to the beach.

But I was lucky. While in Maui I met a kitesurfer who connected me with a cousin who had this old van to rent. The price was going to be a fraction of what a normal car rental would cost. I was in luck.  As soon as I was shown a picture, I just had to drive it. When I arrived at the owner's house my excitement grew when I first saw him. I asked if he had a name. The owner grinned at me, "Ramoncito". Then Ramoncito wouldn't start.

Eventually we got him started and I set off on the nearly four hour trip to Pichilemu, sure that somewhere along the way he would just die. But that's not the case, when Ramoncito is getting to go on a trip, he's more dependable than most of the cars I've driven. Ramoncito felt like a companion as much as a car. He would help me discuss the best way to find my way when I was lost in the middle of a shady port town. When I spent a couple weeks in a town, it wasn't long before the locals would wave when they saw Ramoncito chugging down the street.

Ramoncito just has "buena onda". The loose translation for this is "good vibe", but it's a bit more versitle of a word, describing the moment, the experience, your mood and everything that's happening all at once. Whenever I parked, someone would walk by and smile at me and ask me a couple questions about my compadre.

So what is the meaning of Ramoncito? It's a nice familiar way of calling your friend named "Ramon" the nickname "little Ramon". (Some of my Chilean friends are kind enough to call me "gringuito" instead of "gringo".) I can't venture a guess as to what the name implies to a person who grew up in Chile. To me, I think Ramoncito would be that cool, older half brother who bought you beer when you were a teenager and gave you that big box of classic pornography when you graduated high school.

I returned Ramoncito to the owner yesterday and I gotta say -- I miss the dude.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ok, Matanzas

Klaas Voget being Klaas Voget

When you talk about wavesailing in Chile, probably the first spot that comes up is Matanzas. It's a small town on the coast with not a lot going on beyond windsurfing. The name of the town literally means "murders", for reasons I don't know. My first month or so in Chile I did not sail at Matanzas, opting for places that were closer to Pichilemu and I couldn't get a clear explanation for what made the spot special or outstanding. Topocalma supposedly had the amazing offshore wind and 20 turn waves, Pichilemu had the wave that could be ridden for a minute and a half, Llico had stronger wind and opportunities for huge jumps, Matanzas did not have a claim to fame with the people I spoke to.

But after having sailed Matanzas several times, it turned out to be my favorite spot. Sure the wind was light and flukey on the inside (like nearly all of the wave sailing spots in Chile), and the wave was not the longest or the most aggressive. What I found is that Matanzas delivered something nearly every day that I could enjoy. Sometimes it was scary-fun, but usually there was some part of the day when the waves were reasonable, fast enough to carve turns on and peaky enough to find steep sections. Matanzas seems to be the groomer slope of the Chilean coast, it almost always works. Frequently on the days when it is windy it is chest to head high around noon, and builds to head to mast+ in the afternoon. On lighter wind days with big waves, it frequently becomes a pro's only show, which is not to be missed.

My friend Bjorte has to run away from a heavy one.

There is nearly always a peak to backdoor on every wave. The guys who know how to read this spot make it look amazing.

This is the spin cycle and it's really easy to get there because there is a strong current that runs down the beach.  If you get caught in a heavy set going out and can't waterstart for a few seconds you end up taking a beating for a few minutes and finding yourself 100-200 meters down the beach. The good news is that it's relatively safe even though some gear gets broken.

Belgian friend Gregory getting some air. There are a million incredible wavesailors from Europe in Chile that you've never heard of.

My anemic bottom turn

Hotel Surazo is built right at the launch which is both a good and a bad thing. The good part is that it's an incredible place to stay and the restaurant has amazing gourmet food. The downside is that it's really pricey and even the camping options are over-the-top priced.

Olivier is actually a windsurfing teacher in Texas. Really nice guy and oh yeah. He rips.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I sailed x many days last year...

Sorry folks, I stopped counting some time in August around 120 sessions I think. Maybe I got close to 140 in the bay. Then like 20 days in Maui. Then 15 days in Chile maybe. Who knows. It was for sure more than I've ever sailed. I learned some new tricks, too, which is pretty much my thing if I had to choose a windsurfing "thing". I'll probably look at the calendar more closely when I get home.

One of the cool things is that happened this year is that I got my girlfriend to start windsurfing. She had a couple lessons with Big Winds then Brendon from ABK took her under his wing a bit as well. I always think your loved one needs to windsurf because it's something (s)he wants to do, not because s(he) feels like it's something you want h(im)er to do. I'm not sure where we stand on this issue, but she has been bugging me about getting out on the water when the seasons starts in the bay area again. I guess that's a good sign.

I'm pretty sure she's my only regular blog reader, so the least I could do is put her picture up!