Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Chilean Coast

This is a video made by Klaas Voget that features he and Victor Fernandez. Together, two of the best wavesailors in the world. The video shows what I consider pretty typical days at Matanzas and Topocalma. They are good days, but not what you would really consider "e-word good*" days at these locations. Days like these happen about 10-20 days per month in November, December and January from what I can tell.. Then there are about 5 days per month that are 30 knots and double mast high.

Before setting off on my journey to Chile, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I had expectations of it being windy and wavy, but what I found was a coastline that has basically more wind and more consistent waves than anywhere else in the world** It was more than getting my fill, a lot of days were more than I could comfortably handle. Many days ended up being more of swimsurfing than windsurfing for me.

Maybe the most useful thing I can offer on this blog is to help set some kind of bar for folks considering the journey to Chile in the winter. I don't mean this in an offensive way to anyone, but after my trip to Chile, I still don't know if I'm quite up to the skill level for much of the coast sailing. Also, it seemed like about half the people who were there had a lot of experience port tack sailing and were ready to tackle the big challenges of sailing there. Me? I can do a few freestyle tricks. I can jibe and tack pretty darn consistently. I've sailed in Maui, Punta San Carlos, Pistol River and spots on the coast in Northern California (all starboard tack wavesailing). Sailing the coast of Chile felt very borderline "I should be there".

It was amazing. Every day of windsurfing there felt like one of the hardest days of sailing I've ever had. It was rewarding connecting turns for the first time going the "wrong way", but in hindsight, I was most definitely out of my element. Had the trip only been a week, or even much less than a month it might not have been worth it.***

Here's what I would make the requirements for someone seeking advice:

- Rock solid jibing and tacking.
- Lots of experience sailing extremely underpowered and overpowered on small gear in wave conditions. Also, experience fighting strong currents.
- At least some port tack wavesailing experience. A lot of Europeans arrived with a good deal of this in place. Also, I think South Africa is a good place to learn to sail port tack where the conditions are not as challenging.
- A mindset for challenging your sailing level to the max.

If you feel like you meet all of these and would like the most amazing wavesailing experience of your life, then you should start planning your trip now. You will not regret anything about it. I promise.

*I hate the word "epic".
** Not sure about the wind, as it didn't blow nearly every day when I was there, but for sure there are almost always waves on the Chilean coast. Big ones.
***Just because the learning curve is long. That said, there are really consistently windy flat water spots worth visiting, not to mention Chile just being worth visiting for culture and nature.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

If you lived in Southern Chile

If you lived in Southern Chile, your Tuesday afternoon session might look something like this.

I ditched my gear for a few weeks to do some standard backpacking style travel in the Lake Region of Chile and saw this scene going on in a town called Puerto Varas. I sat there by the lake for about and hour and saw little white caps developing across the deep blue water. I started picturing myself zooming across the water in the incredible scene just moments before I saw that exact thing happening right before my eyes. A small part of me died that day knowing I couldn't join them, but I was happy to be able to grab some shots of these Llanquihue Lake windsurfers in front of Osorno Volcano as well as some other unidentified (by me) mountains.