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Published: February 22nd 2007
Pete after a heavy night out.
At the airport it was straight into a taxi to get us to the bus station in Santiago to board a bus to Pichilemu. When we arrived in Pichilemu we were greeted by a young local who asked us if we needed a place to stay. We pulled our boardbags along the dirt streets, taking care to stay out of the way of the many horse and carts rushing by. We arrived at a guest house called Rapa Nui and checked into a room. It looked like a cool place, more like an english bed and breakfast full of Chilean family's on holiday than a hostal. After spending a week in a shared dormitory with 12 people, it was a welcome change. Me and Pete dumped our gear and then guess what??......... That's right, we practically ran to the beach with our boards to go surf. Apart from some fun body surfing in Brazil, i hadn´t surfed properly for a couple of weeks and i was craving waves badly.
Pichilemu has 3 classic waves. The main beach in the town is called puntilla, there is another beach a 5 minute walk south called Infernillo and then the most famous wave,
Punta de Lobos a 5 minute car journey south. We jumped in at Puntilla and enjoyed some nice head high waves. Puntilla reminded me a lot of Lobitos in Peru. It is a left hand sand point that breaks over a massive sandbar. In front of the sand bar is a large lagoon that people use to paddle kayaks and ride banana boats behind motor boats. It is the height of the Chilean summer, and the beach was packed with people enjoying the sun. The waves were fairly crowded, but there were plenty on offer and it was great to be back in the water on a board again.
That night we wandered round the streets to explore. Pichilemu is a beautiful place. It achieves the perfect balance of having all the attractions you need without feeling like a tourist trap on the gringo trail. The streets were extremely lively with cool bars, restaurants and shops. The circus was even in town and a huge big top tent had been erected in the middle of town. The town is surrounded by beautiful pine forests and hills. Although there are other westerners in town, we still attracted a fair amount
of attention as we wondered around the streets, but maybe that was more due to Pete´s boat race than anything else.
I spent the next few days surfing as much as possible at Puntilla and settling in to my new environment. Although i was back in the water, i was feeling pretty bummed with being in south america. Due to a problem with our airline, the earliest date we could leave Chile for New Zealand was 19th March (6 weeks away) and i was ready to explore a country with more of a western culture, where i could speak the language. Although i was enjoying being back in the water and surfing great waves, i wasn´t looking forward to the prospect of spending 6 weeks more in South America. I felt stuck somewhere against my will. Our plan was to stay in Pichilemu for a week and then head to Mendoza in Argentina to possiblely go to a spanish school and live with an Argentinean family. However, we found out that there was a Spanish school in Pichilemu, so we went to inquire about classes. The school looked great and the prices for lessons were reasonable, but i still
hadn´t decided what i would do. I was keen to improve my spanish, but if i was going to go to spanish school in Argentina, then i couldn't´t really afford to attend classes here. However, being back in the water was making me think that i didn't´t want to leave the waves for 2 weeks in Argentina. I decided to spend the weekend deciding what to do.
There was a surf competition at Punta de lobos that weekend. Unfortunately the waves had dropped off and were fairly small, but myself and Pete enjoyed watching the competition on the beach and checking out the break. I didn't´t surf, but was looking forward to returning when the swell picked up again. We enjoyed some beers and food in the evening and by sunday night i had made a decision on what i was going to do. I would go to group classes on monday to learn spanish. If i enjoyed the classes i would stay in Pichilemu and take more lessons. If i didn't´t enjoy the classes i would go to Argentina, but not to go to school. Pete was also going to attend the school, but only for a week
of one on one lessons before definitely going to Argentina. He was keener than me to check out the cheap food and wine in Mendoza and had already enquired about possible activities. The fact that we had been told by everyone who had been to Argentina that the women are the most beautiful in the world had nothing to do with his decision to leave the surf so rapidly;-)
Monday came round and it was time to go back to school. I packed my rucksack, stole a pen off Pete and set off to walk to school. When i arrived i met my classmate Kasper, who was from Switzerland and also surfed. My teacher was called Tatty and from Pichilemu. After getting used to having to actually apply myself to something after 4 months of doing nothing but surf, i started to really enjoy myself. It took me about 2 pages of notes before i remembered how to write with a pen, but i had definitely made the right decision to come. Tatty was really friendly and a great teacher, making the lesson fun and informative. Kasper was a little behind me with his knowledge of spanish, so i
enjoyed being the swot of the class for the first time in my life. In all my language classes at school, i would pay attention to anything other than the teacher.
After my first lesson my mind was made up. I wouldn't´t be going to Argentina. I had found the perfect place for me to learn Spanish. The school was super chilled and full of cool people. I could surf world class waves outside of class. I had a cool classmate to learn with and in just a few days Tatty had taught me so much new stuff. There were no english speaking people at our hostal, so i had loads of opportunity to practice my new vocabulary. I found myself looking forward to going to lessons everyday and i only wished i had found a similar place earlier in the trip. My attitude had completely changed. I was now wishing i had longer than 6 weeks left in south America so i could continue to learn more spanish. I wished i could go back to Canoa in Ecuador and have my time over again, but with my new ability to speak to the locals more.
week at the school flew by. I got to know a lot of people and enjoyed hanging out there. The school was owned and run by a cool californian couple called Chris and Val. They were both surfers and had created a homely environment that was primarily a place to learn, but also a great place to chill. Outside of class you were permitted to use the kitchen, relax in the lounge, watch a surf film or play chess and listen to music. All the other students surfed and the other teachers were equally as friendly as Tatty. Each week on Thursday night there was a free conversation hour where everyone enjoyed a beer and played games to practice spanish. After the conversation hour in the first week we enjoyed a bbq with some of the teachers that lived at the school. It was here that all my dreams came true and i met my idol Kelly Slater. Well, nearly??
After i met Sophia Mulalovich in Peru, i had been joking with my brother that he would never meet the number one golfer in the world. He said that him meeting the equivalent female golfer would be any old
On of the locals with his new board
granny to win the last stableford competition at Leigh golf club. He refused to be impressed till i had met Kelly Slater. One of the teachers at the school looked remarkably similar to Kelly. After a few beers i decided it was a great opportunity to try and blag my brother and all my friends back home that i had met the 8 time world champion in the flesh. I explained the story to Brian and he was more than willing to play along and pose for a photo. Pete set the shot up perfectly, only using the light from the campfire to partly disguise Brian´s face. Pete has become pretty nifty with his camera skills, as you can see from all the photos on this blog. I don't actually have a camera and steal all my photos from Pete. We got Brian to pose with the kind of attitude you would have when you are the world number 1, and i smiled like Christmas and my birthday had come at once. I put the photo on an e mail, accompanied with a fabricated story of how i had met Kelly Slater on a photo shoot with quicksilver and it
looked fairly believable. I sent it to everyone back home to see if anyone would spot it as a fake. Everyone fell for it hook line and sinker. The only person to uncover my plot was my girlfriend Emma. The reason?? BLOODY HELLO MAGAZINE!!! I hadn´t figured on there being a Photo of Kelly on a in beach with Cameron Diaz in the latest addition, when he was supposed to be surfing Puntilla with yours truly.
Once Pete left for Argentina, i continued to attend school. For the first few days of my second week the waves were pretty small, so i spent most of my free time studying. I didn't´t want to pay money for lessons and not give it my best shot. I made an effort to learn as much as i could. I made pages and pages of notes and started to redecorate the walls of my room with them. I figured that whenever i was in my room i would always be studying. It seemed to work and i could feel my vocabulary slowly getting bigger. However, after nearly 6 days of not surfing and studying hard, i was more than relieved to see the
arrival of a new swell. I still continued to study, but i spent as much time surfing as i could. I surfed Punta de Lobos with Kasper and his friend Sandro when it was head high and breaking all the way through to the inside(about 250m). It was probably the best surf i had had since Pacasmayo in Peru. The wave was so much fun. The first section was pretty fast. It would then have a fatter section before walling up for a long fast section on the inside. On a couple of waves i though i was going to get my first barrel, but it wasn´t quite big enough.
That week the sand banks at Infernillo were much better than Puntilla and i had some sick dawn sessions without anybody out. One morning when i walked round the headland from Puntilla to Infernillo, the waves looked that good i actually ran the 400m down the beach to the jump off point from the rocks. It looked like a cover shot from surfers Path and there was nobody out. Perfect lefthanders were reeling off the point, one after the other. There was no wind, just perfect morning glass as
the sun rose over the horizon. I shared the waves with a couple of sea lions and the occasional penguin before more people arrived to spoil my solitude. During this time my mates Jamie and Gaz were celebrating there birhtdays back home. As Pete wasn´t around to indulge in our tradition of getting drunk for freinds birthdays, i decided to dedicate a wave to them both and enjoy a few glasses of red wine in the evening. It was cool that some of the best waves i have ever had were for my mates back home. Happy birthday fellas.
As well as being my teacher, Tatty also became my guide to Pichilemu. She showed me all the best places to eat, drink and party. She also introduced me to the best ice cream i have had since my summer in Devon. She tried to get both my left feet to dance the salsa on a night out at the disco with Kasper, Sandro and Maria, but unfortunately failed. We also went horse riding on the beach. My horse was called Rambo, and was proper hard. I was glad, cos it made me look more like John Wayne rather than
something out of Broke Back Mountain.
As i am writing this i am half way through my third week at the school. Pete is due to return from Argentina in a few days and then i will decided what i will do next. I want to explore more of Chile, but am loving being in Pichilemu so much it is becoming increasingly harder to leave. I want to continue to go to school and learn as much spanish as i can, but my travel budget wont really stretch to many more classes. I guess i will have to make a decision in the next few days??
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