" When it's cold, we look and long for warmth. But I do love this concept of an infinite winter. "
Adjective. One of the most popular words of Chilean slang. A very common expression for saying something or someone is cool, brilliant or awesome.
Trekking through majestic forests and expanses of black sand, our two iconic cold-water surfers Pete Devries and Ian Fontaine go in search of the greatest waves across the pristine landscapes of Chile.Read the story
"Here, everything took on another dimension. We got lost in forests and on dirt roads. The coast was still well preserved, so access was sometimes difficult. Clearly, a good session must be earned."
AN ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK BY- Kieran Campbell, Jasper Smythe, Max Fowler -
SOUND MIX & MUSIC TECH- Max Fowler -
END CREDITS MUSIC- "Orson and Daisy" Performed By Kieran Campbell -
"My favorite spot of the trip was the one we named the "Jesus Light Wedge". It was a wedge between two rocks, which formed a nice straight line; super fun with rippable walls and air sections."
"On the last days, we saw some tubular peaks at the bend of a bay, so we naturally checked it out. By chance, we found a beach break of the Landes type, with proper offshore winter tubes."
“I will definitely return to this region, as I have really fallen in love with it!”
BACÁN : The story
Ian: It all started when MANERA asked me to go on a special adventure with Pete and his team. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I, the small Breton who loves winter because he can hide in his secret spots, was going to meet the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Times) of cold-water surfing and spend 10 days with him on a trip in South America. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning just thinking about it!
Packing was quite easy: beanies, coats, boots, hoods, gloves... Everything fit nicely in my luggage, except maybe my 6.4mm! It's the first time that I own a 6.4mm hooded, and that I leave the Finistère June sun to search for cold in the other hemisphere. It’s a rather strange feeling because normally, it is the opposite. When it's cold, we look and long for warmth. But I do love this concept of an infinite winter.
Pete: I’ve actually been to that area of Chile twice before. It reminds me of home in Tofino. The scenery, the climate… It’s just a beautiful place. I really like it here. But this trip was completely different than any other times I’ve been there. I’ve previously always gone at similar times of the year, usually during the winter so you can expect a lot of swells. Here, we were kind of in-between swells, so we got to surf a bunch of different waves and look at different zones I’d never surfed before.
Ian: Traveling there from France was long but painless. After a night sleeping on the plane, I woke up to a mystical scene of the Andes Mountains peeking out from the clouds at sunrise. After landing, I met up with the whole team at the airport: Marcus Paladino the photographer, Nate Laverty the videographer, and Pete the legend himself. All my bags made it, and my boards were intact; all was well. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Pete…
Pete: It’s funny because our route originally took us through Mexico City, but Nate once had a really bad experience traveling through there. So, we looked at a different itinerary that took us through Toronto. About a week before we’re about to leave, we see all these news stories about how horrible and understaffed Toronto airport is, and how there’s all sorts of problems. We already knew the boardbag would probably be left behind because, let’s be honest, no luggage handler wants to deal with these things. That’s exactly what happened, and my boardbag ended up stuck in Toronto…
Ian: Unfortunately, we had to hit the road and couldn’t stay in Santiago, but we figured it would probably show up a few days later.
Pete: It didn’t. I didn’t even talk to one person at Air Canada the whole time I was in Chile. The only people I could talk to were from the baggage claim at the Santiago airport, but they would only text me to say they basically had no information… for two weeks!
Thankfully, Ian let me borrow his boards during the trip so I could surf. They were quite a bit larger than what I normally ride, about four liters bigger, since I am a pretty light, small surfer. That’s actually quite a substantial difference. Luckily, the waves were powerful, and we got a fair share of barrels, so that helped.
Meeting as Strangers, Leaving as Friends
Ian: Pete is truly a legend. He's from the same generation as Parko [Joel Parkinson], and he's made a successful pro surfing career coming from a not-so-glamourous place where it's always cold. He's made that his strength and set himself apart from other surfers that way. He is very inspiring to me. Being from and living in Brittany, I can really relate to what he’s going through at my own French and European scale. I tried to take in as much information as possible and learn from him and his surfing.
Pete: I was kind of intrigued to meet Ian. I didn’t know him at all, and he was coming from a different country and different culture. He is so chill, down for whatever, and as surf stoked as I am. He was just excited to get going every day, and got along great with the whole crew. Honestly, it was a lot of fun to surf and hang out with him.
Ian: I have had a great time with the Canadians. I felt a bit of the same atmosphere as with my Breton buddies. By evolving a little bit far from the star-studded spots, we take ourselves a little less seriously and joke around easily, which is delightful.
Ian: The landscapes were remarkable. It was obvious we were very close to Patagonia. Everything was green, and the bays and beaches were stunning. It was cold, but I felt so good. To me, it looked like a mix between Canada and Mexico. Sure, it's kind of funny to say, but that was the first thing that came to mind, especially with this black sand and the big pine and eucalyptus forests.
In any case, I was blown away by the scenery. I enjoy wide open spaces and places with a lot of character, so I certainly got more than what I bargained for here. We found our first waves around the bend of a dirt road and a small fishing port. It was magical; the water was super clear and seemed very clean. There was life, yet without too many people on the horizon. We exchanged a little with some locals, seals, and sea lions.
Pete: I like to go on trips to beautiful and remote places. This area of Chile just has this feel to it; it’s hard to describe. The sunsets are incredible. They go into the water and all the waves are backlit green. You tend to get good weather a lot, and if it rains, it’s only for a day.
It's such a vast coastline. There are all these different bends and headlands. I just keep going back to these memories of my previous trips, surfing empty point breaks, enjoying the beautiful weather, and sharing waves with my friends. It’s a neat place.
A Good Session Must Be Earned
Ian: At first, I was totally coasting along when it came to looking for spots. Pete, who had been there several times before with Nate, was in charge and was very meticulous in his decisions. He really tried to understand the weather maps and the different spots’ orientations. He looked like me trying to find the best spot between Carnac and Perros-Guirrec in winter.
Eventually, I quickly got caught up in this game of analysis and map study. I do love to drive along the coast and search for waves. But, here, everything took on another dimension. We got lost in forests and on dirt roads. The coast was still well preserved, so access was sometimes difficult. Clearly, a good session must be earned.
Pete: I’m pretty obsessive when it comes to surf trips. I definitely do a lot of research beforehand if I’ve never been to a place and just try to pick it apart as much as possible. I’m obsessed with swell charts and wind models. That’s part of the process when you go somewhere you don’t really know that well, especially these kinds of more remote, temperamental areas that I tend to travel to.
You’re essentially an amateur scientist when it comes to figuring it all out. You’ve got to look at not only that, but also weather models and maps, swell direction, wind direction… Here, the tide can also make a big difference.
You really need to be on top of things or else you won’t get the best out of your trip. I like to just dig right in and make sure I’m doing the best to be in the right place at the right time. The better I can be at forecasting and researching different areas, then the better off I am. It’s part of my process; I get excited about that side too.
The Swells That Weren’t
Pete: We would wake up and leave our house in the dark. Then, we’d drive around looking for waves, surf, and then get back to our place in the dark. We were gone for probably 12 hours at a time. The days were long but fun.
Ian: We surfed a lot. Three sessions per day, alternating between our 6.4mm hooded in the morning, and 5.4.3mm hooded in the afternoon. The water temperature was 8°C, and the air temperature varied between 0°C in the first session to 10°C in the afternoon, which was more than bearable.
Pete: Chile is known as the land of the left point break. You have all these headlands that stick out, and then the swell normally wraps around from the south. Then, it just fans into beautiful bays to bring these perfect left point breaks.
But like I said, we were in-between swells so the conditions were different. Honestly, the waves this time were difficult! Those left point breaks were on the smaller side, so we needed to look at beach breaks that were challenging, pretty heavy, and with lots of closeouts. But we managed to find some really cool bays with rock wedges that were picturesque and great for shooting. Honestly, I was just scared I was going to break Ian’s boards on these shallow closeouts!
Ian: Pete had still not gotten his boards, so he was still using mine, Made in Europe. It was rather crazy to see him, the ultimate cold-water surfer, on my boards. Obviously, he still rocked it, despite the extra volume he was not used to. A swell was expected towards the end of our 10 days, and quite a special one coming with a lot of wind. We hoped to be able to score a particular spot…
Pete: We always checked the same spots pretty much every day, and particularly the point break in Buchupureo. The sand was the best I’ve ever seen it there, but we didn’t get any swells to make it do what it should do. We did surf it a few times. It’s a really beautiful and fun spot, but it was just wrong timing, I guess. It's impossible to know in advance.
Ian: The swell arrived but it was not as big as expected. We went to that famous spot, where the wave rolls over hundreds of meters of sand bank. It was quite amazing to see this with our own eyes. I could hardly believe it; a place so well preserved because of its cold climate, but of world-class quality.
On the last days, we saw some tubular peaks at the bend of a bay, so we naturally checked it out. By chance, we found a beach break just like in the Landes with proper offshore winter tubes. It was not big, 1m20 or so, but we were alone, and we really didn’t need anything else.
It was quite an experience at the peak. The offshore wind was super strong, with a light drizzle and contrasting colors in the sky. We were joined by colonies of seals and sea lions that surfed the wave with us and made sure that we were really their friends. They were so curious! I thought to myself that maybe I looked like them with my full hooded wetsuit and my moustache sticking out. We mutually checked each other out, and they let me score some tubular goodness.
Ian: After the sessions, we often ended up at the local café, sitting around a wood fire to warm our bodies and souls up. It felt really good to discover new cultures, to meet people, to adapt briefly to their way of life, and to try to understand the local customs. I am thrilled to have had the chance to discover these waves and this culture. I will definitely return to this region, as I have really fallen in love with it.
Pete: It was honestly a super frustrating and challenging trip for me, especially mentally. Looking back, I was super frustrated from not being able to surf how I wanted to surf. I got a phone call the day before we were leaving, telling me my boardbag had arrived at the airport in Santiago. Too little too late. We picked it up on the way out.
But it all worked out in the end. I was also simply thankful that I could ride a few boards and that I didn’t break them. I will remember some good laughs and good times with the crew. And of course, a lot of driving! Chile is such a special place; it was cool to be back.
By Ian Fontaine & Pete Devries