If ever there was proof that God is a goofy foot, Southern Chile is it. Endless sand-bottom points peel seemingly forever in front of rugged, beautiful backdrops that you have to see to believe. Some points are rippable, others are top to bottom barrels…and then there is Punta Lobos, one of the best left points in the world at six foot and one of the best big wave spots in the world at 30. Set in wine country, with a friendly population and a relaxed backpacker feel, this is one of the most enjoyable cold-water surf destinations going. (*For the sake of this guide, “Southern Chile” refers to everything south of Santiago.)
The Surf: Left points as far as the eye can see, typically breaking over a combination of sand and rocks. Southern Chile has something for everyone, with waves that rank beginners can learn on and others that only the world’s heaviest hell chargers would want anything to do with.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Punta Lobos: One of the best left points in the world, this wave is good from 2 foot to 40 and hosts a Big Wave World Tour contest each year.
- Puertocillo: A sandy left point that is somewhat difficult to access (it is on private property), but that is one of the best and longest barrels in the region.
- Pichilemu: A long, soft left point in the town of Pichilemu, this wave caters more to the beginner crew, or those looking for a mellow, cruisy ride.
- Infiernillo: Yet another epic lefthand point, Infiernillo is hollower than Pichilemu and Punta Lobos, and often less crowded too!
- Piedra de la Iglesia: A long left point (surprise!) in the far south of the country that is often uncrowded.
The Water: Development is wreaking havoc on the local water quality, especially around pulp mills and other industrial factories, which typically have the money and power to disregard environmental restrictions. In isolated country areas, however, the water is pristine. And did we mention cold? Oh yes, it’s chilly in Southern Chile. The Pichilemu region ranges seasonally from 55 to 63 F (13 to 17 C), and it only gets colder the further south you go.
The Season: Chile is one of the most consistent stretches of coast in the world, with around 300 days of swell per year. In other words, there isn’t really an off-season. That being said, large souths are most common in winter (between May and August), but inclement weather and adverse wind conditions can also be common the further into winter you go.
The Vibe: While the breaks way south are pretty uncrowded (and often empty), the Pichilemu region has a well-developed surf scene and crowd pressures can be a problem. That having been said, the Chilean people are some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the world, so as long as you come with respect and a good attitude, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Things To Do: If wine is your thing, you’ll enjoy the wineries and vineyards in the region. There is epic skiing and snowboarding only a few hours away, and if you are into trekking/camping/rock climbing or any other form of outdoor adventure, Patagonia is to your south.
Where To Stay: Pichilemu is a town set up for backpackers and surfers, so you will have no problem finding hostels and surf camps at fair rates. Farther south, you would be wise to take a tent.
What To Bring: A shortboard and step-up, and a rhino chaser if you are coming for Punta Lobos. Thick rubber—a 4/3 with booties, gloves and a hood is a minimum, and in winter you’ll probably want more. Cold weather gear for on land would be good as well. Bring a bit of cash too—although Chile isn’t the most expensive country you’ll ever visit, it isn’t the cheapest either.
Getting There: Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago is the main gateway into Chile. From there, you’ll be looking at a road trip that could range from five hours (to Pichilemu) to 20 or more, depending on how far south you want to go. Visa’s are available upon arrival, but be aware that citizens of many countries will have to pay a “reciprocity tax” when they arrive in Santiago. Airport code: SCL.