Monday, January 23, 2012

Surfing in the Pacific

I spent this past weekend with my buddies Felipe and Wasi out on the coast.  There's a string of cities along the coast just outside Santiago that are very popular during the summer months.  Everybody wants to get out of the heat created by the walls of mountains encircling Santiago, and the cities of San Sebastian, Isla Negra, Algarrobo, Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, and others are right on the Pacific Ocean about 30 mins away; the perfect weekend escape.

The high point of the weekend were the surfing lessons that Felipe and I took.  A friend gave us the name of a local who informally taught surf lessons out of a little lagoon close to Isla Negra.  We set up an appointment for Friday evening, and made the trek out to the coast.

Following the directions the instructor gave us, we turned off the main highway into a little residential neighborhood.  The roads twisted and turned around in such a way that it was extremely difficult to tell if we were still on the correct road (one of the annoying things about driving in Chile - the streets are practically never labeled) or not.  We flagged down a couple families walking along the sidewalks and asked if they knew where our beach was located.  Every one of them looked at the rest of the people in their group, and gave us a shrugging "no".  It was not the most reassuring of responses.

After bobbing and weaving through the streets in our truck, we finally reached the dead end described to us by the instructor.  It was a small extension on a dirt road with an end railing made out of large debarked tree sections.  We parked, and walked through the pine forest in front of us.  Upon coming out the other side, we found ourselves atop a steep cliff, overlooking a large touristy beach on our right, and our surfing lagoon directly in front of us.

This was the lagoon in which we'd be surfing.  The two sides acted as a funnel for waves that came in, and amplified them enough to surf even on calmer days (like the one we were there for).  After walking down to the shore, we met our surf instructor, Gabriel.  He'd been surfing for 15 years, and had all the mannerisms and attitude one would expect of a surf instructor.  It never ceases to amaze me how certain activities translate themselves to certain personalities, regardless of language, culture, or location.

We started with some basic stretching.  The pictures will do a better job of explaining the stretches than I could.

As you can see, the stretches Gabriel had us do ranged from the mildly useful to the clinically insane.  Doggy paddling on dry land isn't exactly how I'd plan to warm up for surfing.  After getting through our retarded gauntlet, Gabriel decided it was time for us to get out into the ocean.  We strapped into the boards, and headed into the lagoon.

Sadly there aren't any good pictures of us up on the boards (that's a 16 year old kid whose out there every day swimming.  I was able to stand a couple times, but it was too short-lived and not really glamorous enough to have any pictures taken.  Despite that, it was magnificent being out on the ocean.  The lagoon was beautiful, and every so often a flock of sea birds would fly overhead.  We would know when a wave was worth surfing, as it built itself up at the mouth of the lagoon, and slowly roll into the shore building steam.  It felt like slowly ascending the first hill the front car of a roller coaster, until the ride was finally upon you.  At this point, it's safe to say I've been bit by the bug.  I look forward to my next trip out.

As we were leaving, the sun was setting over the lagoon.  A fitting ending to such a day.

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