The Gringo

And so the crawl up through South America begins. A missed bus in Santiago was rewarded with a fun night out with crew from the Andes Hostel. 24 uncomfortable hours to Iquique. Kind’ve the Gold Coast of Chile. All high rises & casinos on the coast & slums out the back. Sadly the surf didn’t compare either with a selection of boogieboard wedges and slabs (complete with rampant hoards of juvenile boogs) about all on offer. After a couple of days and a snapped board for Pete we’d had enough & booked a ticket north to Arica. Final lesson before leaving – sea lions are freaking Gross!

The drive from Iquique to Arica is pretty spectacular with the bus dropping into and out of a series of massive flood-cut gorges – impressive considering the average yearly rainfall is less than 1mm! Arica itself is a great town, feels good, nice plazas and squares and the lookout from the Morros is spectacular.

But what makes Arica (from a surfers perspective) is the Chilean pipeline – El Gringo. This wave is a nasty, heaving, beast. Kind’ve like actual pipe but with no channel and a dry end section! Everyone gets hurt at some point. Pete snaps his next board first day. I opt out citing photo-duty, forgotten booties and onshore wind… The swell jacks up for Day 2 and its the pro-show with a couple of young brazilians & the local boogies charging. The only non-pro surfer to paddle out puts his head through the reef 1st wave resulting in a broken nose and 20 stitches…. We’re all a bit shaken by this & surfings done for the day. Check out some 9000 year old mummies and plan for the next trip north up into Peru – biggest swell of the season due next week and we know where we want to be for it…

This 16yo Brazilian kid was charging...though you might too if you were sponsored and had just spent 3 months at Pipe! Photo: PQ

But I have a real problem with shooting photos and not surfing a place (Ours and Deadmans excepted) so its back to Gringo for the last morning… Swells dropped a touch and is a bit more manageable but still scary as hell. In, few waves under the belt, out. Board and body unscathed. Result. Thanks Kurt and the crew at Arica Surf House – epic little spot. 24 hours to Lima.

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