This winter the strongest El Nino on record hasn’t been kind to us in Cornwall, South West England. It has been one of the poorest in a long time, for weather and waves.
We have been plagued by gale force westerly winds and it has rained almost non-stop. Not just a bit of rain, but torrential downpours.
In the Welsh village Eglwyswrw it rained 75 consecutive days from October 26th, and it didn’t feel much different down here in Cornwall. Even the sandbars at my favourite winter spots were bad.
By Christmas I was ready to hit the eject button, and land somewhere with warm dry weather and good waves.
On the internet I spotted a special offer on flights to South America, just the ticket I needed. And it looked like El Nino was having the opposite effect down there on their summer. It was hot and dry, with non-stop swell.
Sat outside a cafe in Santiago’s Barrio Bellavista, hiding under an umbrella from the strong summer sun of the southern hemisphere, eating ceviche and drinking cold beer among the vibrantly coloured architecture – I couldn’t have been further away from the wet windy Cornish winter.
Here we met Dean Clements, the brother of a friend from Cornwall, and his Chilean wife Maria.
Dean has been coming to Chile since 2004 and moved full-time in 2014. Dean shapes boards in Chile under his DCD label, and together Maria and Dean run Euro Surf Chile, a surf product retail/wholesale business.
This business takes them up and down the coast, which keeps them up to date on which points and river mouths have good sandbars. They shared a few friendly beers with us, and a whole host of information to help us get the most out of our time in Chile.
After picking up our camper van we left Santiago and headed south on the Ruta 5. The highway is sandwiched between the Pacific coast and the precordillera of the Andes whilst it flows past vineyards and fruits farms.
We surfed points every day, camped, drank £2 bottles of Chilean Reserve, and ate great seafood
Turning off the highway many hours south of Santiago we followed a road along a forest lined river valley to the coast. Eventually arriving at the first of many lefthand point breaks and our first night camping under the Southern Cross.
For just over three weeks we trucked along the coast of Chile. Where we surfed points every day, camped, drank £2 bottles of Chilean Reserve, and ate great seafood.
Chile is developed and developing faster than ever, but it still retains many charms of it’s old world. The small local stores sell in-season locally gown fruit and vegetables, the fisherman still go out everyday in small traditional boats, and you can always buy the catch of the day near the beach, all of which is cheaper than shopping in the supermarkets.
This is something you don’t find in the UK or many other countries anymore. Chile is still full of nature and has many protected parks.
The whole southern half of Chile is littered with lefthand point breaks and if you look hard enough you can still find many uncrowded waves.
A camper van is the perfect way to travel in Chile and we used Wicked Camper Vans. The service was friendly, efficient, and most of all they didn’t try to rip us off with insurance or repairs – unlike my experience with other hire vehicle companies in South/Central America.
The vehicle was a simple but great camper, and was superbly maintained. The local knowledge Dean and Maria from Euro Surf Chile gave us was also indispensable.
Photography by Alexa Poppe and Introduction by Mark Sankey