Chile, Matanzas region
Girmantas | Windsurfing, Kitesurfing, Travel, Spots | January 03, 2010
Chile is known as a longest country of South America. 4300 km between the Andes and the Pacific ocean. Stretching from the driest place in the world – Atacama desert at the very north straight down to Patagonia with incredible ice glaciers, vulkans, forests and Magellan strait between South America and Antarctica.
Demographically Chile is not so wide in variety. Almost a half of 17 mil. inhabitants live in the capital city Santiago or surrounding areas. Obviously central Chile has better developed tourism: Vina Del Mar region, surfing capital Pichilemu, vineries route “Ruta Del Vina” and other well known places to visit. Despite the development and tourism, it’s hard to find english speaking person even in the capital. As there was not much info about chile in general, we chose the central area to visit, sea and explore the country for the first time.
Park in Paris
We have had all day long layover in Paris. So we took a chance to explore another great city. We happened to enter a nice park full of nude women sculptures. So we used our chance to generate some wind! How did we do it? Well, now nobody remembers how this tradition came up. Still every single lithuanian sailor knows that in order to have wind you need to polish the breasts of Jūratė (character of an old tale – young beautiful sea goddess) or some other sculpture or women. As almost every single small fishermen village in Lithuania has a sculpture of Jūratė, the sailors can call for wind by using the ritual and polishing with circular movements of the hand. This is a very responsible task, so exceptional concentration, usually met in the oriental culture, is necessary.
After the great trip visiting famous Paris places and wind generation, we put a tick on the Eiffel tower line and went back to the airport. The day was tiring, so we all fell asleep before the take off. Santiago greeted us with sun, warmth, customs dog sniffing for the drugs and already unloaded luggage. Damage was minimal. Only one bord was damaged slightly, after the trip through half of the world.
We took the rental car and immediately moved to the Pacific side. Roads in Chile are good, even on a gravel road you can keep up to 90 kph (55 mph) speed. On the other hand, maps – are notTruth to be told, maps are not so good. If you see tarmac on the map, not necessarily you find tarmac. If there is gravel – not necessarily you will find the gravel road. We expected to catch some wind on the very first day, so we took our way to Matanzas region. Thick orange-yellow sand layer on our bags in the trunk of the car baptized us as we drove through the area of National park. The conditions seemed to be not the best, so we continued to explore. At our first day we also managed to visit Pupuya, Topocalma hacienda.
Wind was too light. We took our time to unpack the stuff, put the footstraps and fins to the places. After some sand digging procedures, we drove down to Pichilemu, to look for accommodation. 4×4 vehicle is strongly recommended for Chile (and especially for windsurfing in Chile). We decided to save some money ($1000 USD for 4×2 vs 1700 USD for 4×4), as the trip itself seemed to be pretty expensive. Equipment fitted in, it didn’t felt bad on gravel roads, but the weak engine and small wheels struggled on the sand. Having 4×4 is huge advantage as you can easily reach some more remote spots. In the end of the day the difference in price is less than 10% of the travel costs, but may give you much more hours on the water.
Speed limit within cities is 60 kph (~40 mph), 90-100 kph (55-60 mph) on the motorways and 120 kph (75 mph) on the highways. Despite the fact that the roads are really good, you have to be aware of dangerous curves. Once you see the speed limit sign, trust me, it’s not without oppose. You can meet some police, they have some posts on the highways, also patrols on regular motorways. Once we’ve been reproved that front lamp is not working. Blood alcohol content limit is 0,06%.
There are two options to stay in central Chile while windsurfing – Matanzas or Pichilemu. There is wide range of choice. Hotels with half board to private bungalows and houses with kitchens. You may find a lot of useful info about Pichilemu in www.depichilemu.cl. In Matanzas you may stay in Surazo hotel (www.surazo.cl) and Olas de Matanzas camping (www.olasdematanzas.cl). It is important that Pichilemu is pretty well developed town with all necessary infrastructure, while Matanzas is a small village so you may have to drive 30 km to Litueche for an ATM or some food.
Chile is full of fresh vegetables and fruits (strawberries size and consistency of an apple, blueberries size of strawberries, etc), as well as fresh meat, fowl and fish. At any restaurant you may get a selection of fish (most popular – Corvina), shrimps, lobsters and other sea food. Early in the morning, when the fishermen are coming back to the shore you may get some sea goods straight out of the boat. Of course there is no problem to get some chili!
You must visit “Secreto” restaurant in Pichilemu. Surazo hotel chef at Matanzas village is cooking as good as waveriding. Traditional meat meal in Chile is beef steak with fried eggs and french fries. So the variety of food fits everyone perfectly.
Winds and waves
Surazo – strong southern wind is dominating Chile while creating side to side-off shore conditions in the most of the spots. And there is a plenty of spots down here! Point on a map and you will get at least three pointbreaks within 20 km range. On the other hand, if you want to catch some wind you must be flexible and ready to travel. On the beginning of wind season (Sep-Oct) wind blows all over Chile coastline. The closer to the summer (wich begins on Jan) – the more wind moves to the south.
Winds are created by high pressure area over the Pacific ocean and low pressure on the continent. Once high pressure expands to the north, wind is blowing all over the coastline. And once high pressure area goes down south, winds are not reaching further regions. 2-3 windy days (with clear sky on the afternoon thermal wind pick’s up) followed by 4-5 empty days is a common summer weather. Autumn (Mar-Apr) is the best for the waves. Most of the wave spots are situated on sandbanks, so during the summer sandbanks sit within a perfect shape to form the wave. Wind probability in autumn is better than for the summertime. But once again you may have to move up or (more likely) down to catch some good winds. Some spots to mention: Pichidangui (northern part), Matanzas, Topocalma, Pichilemu, Las Brisas, Llico, Santo Domingo (central area), Curanipe, Quidico and Isla de Mocha in south.
For windsurfing I’d recommend 4-5.3 sqm sails and around 80 liters boards for the lighter conditions and 70′s for the big days. And you will love Chile on the very first hour on such a day! Minimum set up would be 2 sails (4.0-4.5 and 4.7-5.3, usually if the wind blows – it’s enough for 5.0, otherwise 5.6 is not helping at all) and slightly bigger board. Of course, once the big swell hits the shoreline you will be struggling. I was on 82 RRD WaveTwin and it worked perfectly until waves reached mast high. I’d love to have 70-75 hardcore for those.
It is important to mention that Pacific ocean water is cold. You need wetsuit all the time. 4/3 or 5/3 short arm is enough as the weather is not so cold usually. If there is no wind most probably there is still some waves rolling on the points. In surfing capital Pichilemu you can easily find a surfing school, rental or even a surfshop – factory. Custom shaped surfboards are not so expensive compared to EU prices.
We haven’t met much kiters during our stay. Probably because the most spots are working with the offshore winds. If it blows usually its over 20 knots, and if not everybody goes surfing. Anyway it doesn’t mean that there is no kiteboarding in Chile. Several on-shore spots share pretty good conditions. The ones to mention around Matanzas – Pupuya and La Boca. Also many spots have small lagoons, sometimes a rivermouth so if you get tired of the waves (?!) you may get some fun on the flat water.
Shortly about the spots where we did catch some waves:
La Roca Quadrada
The spot is located downwind of Matanzas. Good choice when the wind is light. La Roca Quadrada is a northern point of Matanzas Bay so it always gets more wind. High rock on the shore and the canyon/valley deep in the bay makes the wind bend ant get stronger. On the first sight the spot seems to be scary because of the rocks, but when you’re in the water it is not too difficult to avoid them while going in and out. The wave starts to roll at the square rock and goes down to the very bay. On the way there are 3 places where waves are peeling nicer. So you can make at least 3 bottom turns. Of course once you’re down in the bay most likely you’ll have to come back 1-2 km (1 mile) by shore.
Spot is working almost with every wind direction, still the main role for La Roca Quadrada – reserve spot, when the others are not working. Wave is not too difficult but you have to take in to account that it goes almost plumb in relation to the shore line and once it reaches the rock it bends. If you catch a set 300-400 m offshore most likely the set is already starting to peel on the rock. Anyway it’s not too difficult to go upwind by a tack or two and catch your wave close to the rock.
+ Even small waves are formed well.
- Rocks close to the shore.
One of the best spots in Chile. Wave is rolling from the rocky point. Small waves are peeling deeper in the bay, but once the waves reach 2m (6-7 ft) you can start your waveride right in front of the rocks and easily can do 5 turns on the wave. The best waves come while the tide is coming in. The bottom is a sandbank so it’s not a perfect break but variety of sections makes this spot interesting and challenging.
The best wind direction is slightly from west. Due to the dune and rocky point southern winds are gusty here. It becomes difficult to get out of the bay also wind shadow reaches the riding area. Still it is not bad at all as Matanzas is almost the only spot wich works as a side-shore with WSW direction (f.e. La Roca Quadrada becomes side-on-shore). Once again the variety of spots around Matanzas makes it perfect destination for wave riders.
On-shore spot suitable for windsurfing as well as kitesurfing. Valley between two mountains generates wind pull, so it bends to the shore. It’s always stronger than surrounding spots, so on a light days Pupuya might get pretty tight. It’s only few minutes away from Matanzas, thus ten cars full of thirsty surfers may gather within five minutes.
For the first-timers it is recommended to check with the locals where is the safest spot to enter and exit the water. The path is pretty narrow right between not so friendly looking rocks. You would never think this is the place to go, but it is. Anyway if the wind dies (what happens on a light day sooner or later) you may get to walk back over a reef. We got lucky on our walk – no cuts and sea-urchins.
This spot may be described by one word – JOY. Wind goes over a mountain and gets stronger. Direction is side-off-shore from the left. The point further to the south (and the off-shore wind) eliminates the chop, so clear waves reaches the bay. Southern current overtakes a rock from both sides and forms a perfect sandbank. Waves are loooong and shaped really perfectly. Five turns on the wave is not the limit for Topocalma. Of course in order to pick the right wave you have to be as close to the rock as possible. This means going upwind. To do that is pretty difficult because of the wind direction. Anyway there’s no words to talk about that. You have to be there and ride that wave!
Access is nots so good as the wave itself. This is privately owned area, so tourists are welcome to pay entry fee (5000 CLP ~ $10 USD). Also they would ask for an ID or drivers license. And in order to get it back you have to be sure you’ll leave before 6 pm. It’s not so strict most probably but we had no will to try it out. Once you made it through hacienda gates it takes another 20 minutes to ride down to the beach. If you don’t have 4×4 you would leave your car before the lagoon and would sail over to the ocean side to enjoy the Topocalma wave.
Waves in Chile bring some other memories too. 1960 tsunami caused by the strongest ever earthquake washed away not only Chilean and Peru coastline but made huge damage in North America and Hawaii islands too. Wave height reached 25 meters (over 80 ft) in Chile and almost 11 meters (36 ft) in Hawaii that is 10.000 km (7000 miles) away over the Pacific ocean. Isla Chiloe was the firs inhabited area washed by tsunami. Only ten minutes after the earthquake half of a kilometer of the shore was under the water. Returning wave took everything including all of the island ships. General damages was over $500 mil USD and more than 2000 people were missing. Nowadays tsunami hazard signs are placed all over the coastline. Evacuation areas on surrounding hills and special tracks to reach them are marked everywhere.