Fastest summer

The fact that these photographs are not really in order, un-edited and of varying quality, and really don’t show much of anything is probably a better representation of a summer full of excess, a real lack of balance of any kind, and one that flew by at a speed like no other.  There was no time for rest.  It was to be a summer of accomplishment, getting stuff done.  Stuff got done, but the paradox of planning, is that the more you plan, the more you greaten your chances for things to not go as planned!

Sometime after Christmas I got word from the Latinwave crew (a.k.a. Las Ratas de la Quinta Region), that they were heading down south to the land of lefts to ring in the New Year.  Me, with not much better to do then getting drunk at Waitara and hopelessly trying to turn my Pichilemu land into something livable (both activities that would go on all summer and are still going on), decided to jump on board and make the caravan, b-line to Constitución.   I don’t remember much of arriving there, only that it was dark, I was alone and tired, and I could make out what seemed to be some lines coming in where the break was.  So with that little motivation, and the rumours about how the bank had been perfect of late, I threw out my sleeping bag and passed out in the dirt.  I woke to head high and perfect, and spent the next 3 hours doing laps on a perfect left wave machine with just a few chillers out.  It was then that I rode one all the way to shore and looked up and saw Las Ratas who had just arrived from an all night haul, and I must have given them the kind of ear to ear boyish grin that only shred sessions of that calibre can give.  =)

The next few days saw lots of fun surf, exploring the beautiful and wild beaches of the south, hanging out, partying and camping under the stars.  I even nailed down one session of battling a super sketchy slab solo in front of a fish dock with an even sketchier close out that could slam you into the cement break-water if you didn’t kick out in time, no one around except my friends in the car park and a belligerent German Shepard who I was on the verge of paddling out after me!

Las Ratas where convinced to spend New Years Eve camping under the stars, which sounded pretty sweet, but with the swell dropping and not much in the forecast, except for a wave of beautiful women that would be sweeping into Pichilemu sometime soon, and the fact I hadn’t properly showered in a few days, I made the call to head straight back to Pichi where I’d already planned to party with the Yavar brothers.

New Years 2016 was a long party.  Somewhere around 3-5 all-nighters in a row; I honestly can’t remember.  But I know that I was surrounded by truly great people the entire time, and that made it easy to push on with full energy each night.  Brian and Silvana showed up with a bunch of kids, and Las Ratas came back.

That was pretty crazy.  If it weren’t for Bri, none of this would have existed, as he was the reason I originally considered Chile as a place.  And here he was, back with his awesome Chilean wife after a year of hard work and good living in Vancouver, playing the good Uncle-in-law by taking the cuñados’ kids out of their sheltered suburbia life, and into Pichilemu, Capital mundial del surf (and other awesome things too!).  Well to make a long story longer, it was on one of those endless New Years party nights that I went outside the Yavar house for some fresh air and to check the scene on the street.  A tiny little white kitten with black spots came over to me, cried, then climbed up on my shoulder.  I’ve been taking care of the little orphan ever since.  He has tripled in size since that night 3 months or so ago.

As fast as Brian and Silvana had come and left, another old high school buddy Steve showed up.  The plan was simple: build a cabin on my property in Pichi, have fun doing other stuff too like surfing, partying and site seeing, and rent some enduro bikes and tour around.  A pretty simple and sensible plan.

The first week we built a shed out of wood, where we could store items and perhaps sleep in it if necessary.  Shed building went well.  Cheeto hung out with us the whole time and pissed off Steve a lot.  As well as Steve, Cheeto pissed off two of my best friends’ mothers of whom I hold dearly.  Interestingly, I had never really taken into account the bad rep that cats have (which in hindsight is ridiculous because my own father is true blue feline hater, but I guess I never paid much attention to his cat rage).  As believer in science and logic, I am not a “cat lover” nor “dog lover” nor any other kind of obsessed “…lover” person, but nor am I partial to any type of species of animal on this planet, which is probably why I chose to adopt and take care of the poor little abandoned bastard.  So the “cat hate” was a bit of a shock to me, it even escalated to the point where they convinced me the best idea would be just to leave Cheeto on my property (an idea I am still not at all opposed to), but the problem is he is still just a baby, and the site is not yet enclosed, so after no sign of him for 3 days, I finally found that neighbour’s across the road had been taking care of him after they had come back one day to find he had been chased up a telephone pole by two big dobermans.

As I said, the shed went up quick, but during that week, we were staying at the Waitara cabins, which gave us free entrances to the disco.  It sure made for a good lot of fun, but that shed could have gone up even faster, and although we were staying directly in front of the surf, no waves were ridden that week.

Prior to summer vacations, my good friend and teaching colleague Kris from Calgary, had mentioned to me that him and his fiancé Carolina were planning a road trip into Patagonia, and asked if I might be interested in heading down with them – at which point I was a bit torn on what to do.  Patagonia had long been on my list of places to check out, but I was reluctant to commit as my entire budget for the summer was based on a recently acquired bank loan (with massive interest) to pay for the costly utilities installations on my land, and hopefully have enough left over to frame a cabin.  Apart from the costs, time was also a serious factor that was fast running out.  And finally I had always felt as though Kris’ better half kind of had a way of patronizing me for who knows what, being a free spirit I suppose.

So personally, I was heavily leaning towards not going, but I needed to consider that Steve had just flown all the way down here to see me and have a great experience, and my reasoning to not go was rather selfish, so I felt it very necessary to throw out the idea to him.  And Steve was all over it.  Furthermore, he was convinced that we would indeed be able to rent motorcycles in Patagonia because that’s what people do, and that certainly made sense to me.  So I said, “heck yeah, let’s go!”

Now I believe what the trip taught me was that if you want go down to Patagonia in the middle of the summer, your vehicle of choice should have wings, and if it doesn’t, then it must only have two wheels and an engine.  Oh, how we tried to find ourselves some of those two-wheeled engine vehicles, but low and behold in the peak tourism time of February, there were none to be had.  After three full days of driving – and apart from a ferry ride, there was not much more, just driving – and Savage Garden and Backstreet cranked on long, bumpy roads (not to mention 2 of the 3 days Steve and I had hangovers, 1 of the nights had myself and Caro arguing over stupidities, which by the way I place a considerable amount of blame on myself and hope not to offend any other friend fiancés and spouses, but the whole thing just went sour), I couldn’t take it anymore.  I needed to do something fun.

All my years in Squamish working as a river guide, I had always been told by old raft guides and whitewater gurus about the world’s greatest rafting rivers: The Zambeze in Africa, The Grand Canyon in Arizona and The Futaleufu in Chile.  And I remember that night as we finally started getting to Futaleufu after a long day of driving and not much else, I saw some very familiar sites of a half broken wooden sign that read RAFTING, a couple rafts randomly placed in field, a bunch of even more randomly placed kayaks, paddling gear strewn all over the place, some beat up VW vans where dirty kayakers from any corner of the world were probably crammed into some makeshift sleeping arrangement.  And the nostalgia crept in.  This was the place.  This was the place I’d heard so much about way back in the day, and yet all this time in Chile, I just couldn’t find a reason to make it down to the point where I think I’d almost forgotten about it.  We checked into a gringo owned and run hostel full of backpackers and outdoorsy types, and I sat down at a table with a young couple from the Bay Area.  I couldn’t help to overhear that they were going rafting the next day, and quickly joined into the conversation.  I said I was interested in perhaps joining them, but if they knew anything more about the river.  They replied, “not much, it’s our first time, but that guy probably knows more.”  Pointing at a fully bearded, broad-shouldered ginger, who while kind of half checking his emails, half talking to us and half slowly mellowing out his mood with beer, perks up and looks at me and says, “It’s good, man.”  I didn’t have to sit there and continue hearing about him spending the last decade or so of his life paddling all over the world on the tight budget he gets just enough from sponsers who buy photos or videos of him throwing himself into harms way for kicks to know right away just from that quick legit expression and that two word response that: A. This guy is real whitewater guru.  B.  He knows what he’s talking about.  Yes, he had me at “good” and I said to my California friends, I’m in.



Small towns in Atacama desert not benefitting from economic growth


By: Sam Carey

Written: August 9th, 2014


As surfers living in Central Chile where all the best waves are lefts, our mission to head north for winter vacations was clear – find some good, rippable rights.  And we did.  But apart from surfing rights, it became apparent to me that I was witnessing a violation of human rights as well. 

During our all night road mission north, Pablo told me he knew a guy, Pedro “Pelluco” Abustamente from Viña del Mar (turns out I knew him too from surfing Reñaca, I just couldn’t remember his name), who had recently finished medical school and had gone up there to live, work as a general practitioner in Chañaral and surf everyday.  And we were going to try to hook up with him too.

Before the trip, the only thing I knew about Chañaral was that it was the nearest town on the map that could provide us with basic services during our stay in the tiny beach village of Portofino.  When we got to Portofino, it was pretty much flat, so we decided to head to Chañaral, find something to eat and quench our thirst in the parched Atacama air, also catch the World Cup Final in which Germany was playing Argentina, and after that stock up on supplies for our camp.


At first glance, I thought, “What a cool little town!”  Perfectly set geographically along a valley, backed by mountains and sitting right in front of the South Pacific ocean.  “Why did everyone I told I was going here say that it was so ugly?”  But as I aimlessly poked around the streets, an eery ghost-town-like feeling came over me.  Where were all the people?  Midday Sunday and an hour before the World Cup Final match in a football fanatical country – I’d imagine there would have been much more of a frenzy going on back in Viña del Mar – but I just figured here they were all at home already. Actually, the only people I saw on my walk-about were three gentlemen, one of them clearly inebriated while the other two were holding him up and helping him arrive safely to his destination.

The next couple days we got what we were after – good waves, warmer weather and we met up with the ex-Reñaca rider, Doctor Pelluco, which was great because not only did he give us the low-down on all the spots, but he advised us not to drink the toxic tap water due to the fact many of his patients were sick from the water.  We surfed only rights, one session at a lesser known about spot where we had a solid hour or more of just me and Pablo trading off long walled, point-break right handers.  At the better known spot, we also got great waves, but a little more crowded.  I had a little drama in the line up with a local – something I’ve become quite accustomed to, and it’s not that I’m disrespectful at all, it’s just I often find myself as the unfamiliar face competing for waves amongst those who think they own the spot, and I’m not one to shy away from the competition. Anyways, supposedly in Portofino I’m now known as “gringo loco”…


Well, it turned out that the local guy who I’d had a run in with obviously knew very well our good friend the Doctor Pelluco, given the fact that there are only few people that actually live in Portofino.  So we found ourselves all together at the “fogata”.  I had a chance to speak to pretty much all of the local surfers, including the fellow who I’d had a yelling match with prior, and we buried the hatchet.

While I was socializing, some things became clear to me.  Chañaral has serious social and developmental problems to the point of violating human rights. 

First off, the tap water is toxic because the large-scale mining operations nearby create mineral leaching, which contaminates the water table – “On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.” (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2014).  Second, although the international mining companies make exuberant amounts of money from copper exportation – total gross income for Chilean mineral exports has increased substantially in the last decade from roughly $20 billion dollars in 2002 to $49 billion dollars in 2012 respectively (Comisión Chilena del Cobre, 2013), nearby towns such as Chañaral see very little of those profits, only in the form of underpaid labour jobs.  Thus in turn, people are poor and cannot afford to buy bottled water, and according to Pelluco, in spite of doctor’s orders, they continue to drink the tap water, which leads to an array of health problems.  And lastly and worst of all, due to the lack of economic means, general health problems, geographic isolation and an overall sense of worthlessness, many Chañaralinos resort to using “pasta base” which is basically a shit-mix of crack cocaine with any number of common household chemicals.


According to the Portofino locals, children growing up in Chañaral are extremely vulnerable, malnourished and few finish school.  Some of the surfers, namely the original Portofino local, Chico Cristian, have started a non-profit surf school, where their goal is to offer these kids something, anything to inspire them to live and enjoy life through appreciating the waves, nature and simply getting out and having fun.  They told me that even though Portofino is only 8 kms. from Chañaral, many of the kids had never even been there.  Parents with substance abuse problems simply leave them in the house with TV and video games to keep them entertained.

That same day, these guys had organized a locals only surf contest, but they all claimed it was not about what happened in the water that made the day a success.  It was the fact that they had “brought a group of Chañaral kids out here to check it out, and they were super stoked,” was what one guy was claiming to me with literally tears in his eyes.  Some time before that, they did a skateboard event in Chañaral with very similar positive results.


I could go into detail more details about this situation, but the big picture is like this: How can a country continue to show strong economic growth in a bull market and yet fail to provide its citizens with basic human needs?  It seems as though neo-liberalism has not created the kind of wealth that it had promised.  The Chilean economy looks great on paper, numbers are up, so why are there entire towns that do not have something as simple as clean drinking water?  This is not sustainable nor ethical, and in my opinion the top economists and policy makers in this country should consider changing their approach to governing and come up with a plan or an economic system that not only ensures profits, but promotes development in all aspects of society.  Chile is the number 1 producer of copper in the world, accounting for 32% of all global copper extraction (Comisión Chilena del Cobre, 2013), which has done them well due to the global price of copper having “more than quadrupled in the past decade” (Oracle Mining Corp., 2012), but where is there proof of these massive profits?  I walk around the streets of towns all over this country, and apart from the lucrative Santiago neighborhoods of Providencia and Las Condes, I haven’t seen much public infrastructure that appears to have been built within the past 60 years.  Other than very basic “canchas de futbol,” which are usually private so you have to pay to use them anyways, there isn’t much for kids to do, no public swimming pools or affordable family recreational programs.  Most Chileans live forever in debt, theft is constantly a problem that continues to rise, and if people can’t even drink the water that they have to pay the water company for, well… WTF?  I’m not an economist, but something has to change. 

So as we sat in a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in an impoverished little town in the Atacama desert and watched Germany, a country that ranks 6th on the Human Development Index (United Nations Development Programme, 2014), defeat Argentina, 49th place HDI, regardless of having the greatest footballer in the world, and I thought to myself.  What is it with South American countries?  They have so much wealth, whether it’s in the form of copper or waves or Lionel Messi, but they still fail to have the same quality of life as other countries that have more or less the same amount of resources and people…  ??










Vulture “jote”



Ghost town?



Desert landscape


I was impressed by the white colour of the sand, but someone told me later it was toxic from mineral leaching.












Doctor Pelluco


Trip back home


Sam Carey is a teacher from British Columbia, Canada who lives, works and surfs in Viña del Mar, Chile.  He doesn’t make much for that, but he enjoys his lifestyle.

Chile Surf JournaL

Most people reading this probably already know that I’ve been hanging out in Chile for a couple years now (and then there was another year or so before that).  Well, I’ve decided to post a few photos I’ve collected throughout the past year along with some text, and hopefully with that, you may just understand why I’ve stayed here so long…

Photos courtesy of Sam Carey and Latin Wave Surf Media.

Chapter 1 – La Quinta Región

This is the region where we live, work and play.  The surf spots are mostly fickle beach breaks that can’t handle much swell or wind and on most days are basically just close-outs.  Having said that, we do get a lot of fun sessions, and when the stars align, spots can really light up.  Especially when the weather changes and the wind blows from the north (ironically, north wind turns all the perfect point breaks in the South to junk).  Now setting surf aside, I must say I really wouldn’t want to live in any other part of Chile.  Viña del mar has been ranked the most livable city in the country, and the historical port town of Valparaiso is right next door.  The Valpo vibe is more artsy, kinda like a smaller/dirtier version of San Fran, great place to go partying.  And realistically, we truly are lucky to be able to surf here all year round.


This is my friend Cata and me enjoying a good, early winter sand bar at Reñaca (the home break).


About 20 mins north there’s a beach that’s open to pretty much any wave activity coming from the south, which means it’s often a mess.  But on cool, cloudy days with the right wind direction, it can serve up some super rippable A-frames.  The rights are usually longer and more open, and the lefts are shorter and steeper.


Here’s a little wedge that has been thought by some to be none existent because it breaks so seldom.  But when it’s pretty much flat everywhere, well…

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One thing that makes La Quinta región so great is that unlike the South, which is pretty much entirely lefts, we have a lot of good rights here too.  This little gem is possibly the best right in the region.  (This photo does it no justice)


Here I am dodging a duck diver at Reñaca where the right pretty much always offers better walls than the left.

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A friend took this one of me from the rocks obviously without a decent camera lens, but it shows one of the few reef breaks we have in La Quinta.


When the swell is maxing out in the winter, like +4 meters, there are a few little nooks and crannies with some fun, playable little waves.  Here’s Frodo having some fun on his backside at Horcón.


Those same giant swells break somewhat differently in other parts of the region.  Rudy snagged these shots of a couple insane Brazilian tow surfers who knew where to be and when.  I was actually heading back to Canada in July right before this swell hit, and I ran into Kohl Christensen in the airport bar during a stopover in Panama.  He was heading down to Chile to charge some new, secret slab.  Turns out Kohl, Ramon and the like didn’t get what they’d expected.  Meanwhile, these Brazilian hellmen were reaping the rewards.

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Below is another quaint little seaside town about an hour or so North of us, which has one helluva fun beach break.  This isn’t a great photo, but I like it a lot because my old man took it.  It was cool having my folks here.  After this session, we went and got some really tasty empanadas and just relaxed en el pueblo.


There’s this one beach break in the region that can handle a fair bit of size, and south wind doesn’t seem to effect it too much, but as there are many surf schools here, you will always have a crowd.  The good thing is most of them are learning and too scared to surf anywhere else in the region, and when it actually gets really good here, you can usually surf circles around them.


This is Maxi (aka “Duende”).  He thinks since he shreds really well and wins contests that makes him the King of Reñaca, but the truth is he’s an immature little a–hole with some real social issues, which rumor has it, is likely a result of being severely hassled as a grom by the old locals.  Funny how that seems to always be the case with angry people.


Despite the hilarious characters in the water and the overall fickleness of the wave, when Reñaca is on it’s on, especially during north swells.  These shots were taken during a competition last summer with north swell.

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But when Reñaca sucks, it sucks.  I actually paddled out on this cold, overcast onshore winter day, as I was basically frothing to get in the water, and I ended up getting a couple fun ones.  When you really want it, it’s there for you, right?!


A lot guys in La Quinta prefer skimboarding and get some pretty crazy rides doing it.  Crashes can be painful.


And in Chile bodyboarding isn’t taboo.  In fact, I’d say there are more of them than surfers.  It makes sense though given that there are so many dumpy close-outs, which are probably a lot of fun on bodyboards.


And sometimes, only sometimes, you can actually surf right in the city of Viña del Mar, next to the castle in front of the casino, where folks can drink 10 dollar mojitos and catch glimpses of surfers ripping lefts.


Chapter 2 – Pichilemu

If you’re a surfer and you know anything about Chile, then you’ve probably seen some images of Punta de Lobos with its iconic, statuesque rock formations known as Los Morros, which provide the perfect backdrop to a big, perfectly wrapping, endless, left point break wave.

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It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to admit that I’ve gotten pretty much all the best waves of my life surfing here, and that this spot alone has helped me progress in surfing like no other spot I’ve ever lived near.  The vibe in the water here is mellow.  People are respectful, and everybody gets waves.  I think the mystical aura of this place somehow calms the crowd.  I definitely feel at peace waiting for waves here.  The photos below were of a totally average day, and by no means do any justice in showing just how good it gets with the right swell, wind, tide combinations.  It works with south wind, which is usually what it gets most.

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Punta Lobos has several sections, all of which can be perfect on any given day.  Here’s a typical El Diamante wave:


The Big Wave Tour makes a stop here every year.  Rudy was able to sweet talk his way into having the Armada de Chile give him the bird’s eye view to take some photos of the 2013 “non”-event.

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La Puntilla is sick.  I don’t care what anyone says.  Pichilemu locals know this.  Although this wave can quite accurately be described as a long paddle out (and paddle in) to a shifty, mushy peak that breaks fat at the best of times, it can in fact, dish out some super fun ramps and tubes.  I quickly snapped these shots before suiting up and having an amazing session.  On this particular day, La Puntilla was far better than Lobos.  As Gerry Lopez might say, “It was just one of those magical days.”

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Chapter 3 – Land of Lefts

If you continue roadtripping South of Pichilemu, things start to change.  The air gets a little cooler, the landscape resembles Oregon more than California and around every headland there is a left point.

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I love coming here to surf, but really, I just love coming here.  I won’t write anymore as I don’t believe the feeling I get here can be described in words.  Cata and I got a lot of good waves on this trip.  A lot.

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The first day, after driving all night and not sleeping much, we stopped at some of the standout spots only to find there wasn’t much action.  I was opting for rest, but Cata said we had to check one more spot.  These photos are from that session:

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Some Argentinian hippies arrived in their V-dub Van around the same time as us.  I think it’s safe to say they were happy they left Argentina and came to Chile.


There was one day we were down there during the September 18th National Holidays.  When we got to the spot, it was just so big and ugly, raining and onshore.  We were underslept and overpartied, but we waited around.  Sure enough, the squals passed, the wind switched round and it turned into just one of those epic, raw ocean power sessions, solid overhead plus sets.

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Here are a couple photos of a contest at another left point down there that I have not yet actually seen.  Looks pretty okay though, I think.

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Chapter 4 – Aprés

This is my Surf Journal of Chile for 2013, so I won’t include a lot of images that aren’t of waves.  However, surfing brings with it all those great times when you’re just hanging out with friends and doing whatever it is that’s not riding waves.  BBQing, roadtripping, campfires, watching the sunset then the moonrise then watching it all over again, HotSprings, relaxing in the sun or just plain old-fashioned givn’er…

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Memories of Central America


It’s been about two years now since I was last in Central America.  I admit I really do have the desire to get back to that tropical place where the water in the sea is warmer than the air, afternoon thundershowers explode on you every afternoon like clockwork allowing for a little hammock time and the early evening darkness has you going to sleep early as you lie down listening to the sounds of howler monkeys and an infinite number of insects and reptiles in the surrounding jungle.


In Nicaragua the wind blows offshore all day everyday for more than 300 days a year.


Costa Rica is a very “Gringo friendly” place where you can rent bikes,


and quads,




meet people,

and surf fun waves.