Story Features Oneballjay shedders: Blair Habenicht, Matt Edgers, Forrest Burki and Lucas Debari, Enjoy....
Chile is a very long and narrow country, at 2700 miles long and an average of only 109 miles wide it’s a mere ribbon of land strung out along 2/3 of South America. The rugged Pacific coastline runs along the entire west side while the skyscraping Andes mountains flank the majority of the country to the east. With this geography it is easy to see why Chile is becoming a country of “action sport” (or whatever you want call them) enthusiasts. Chile is a surfer and snowboarders dream, and even better if you want to do both.
Along with my friends Blair Habenicht, Lucas Debari and Matt Edgers, I was lucky enough to visit this amazing country last summer (their winter), and was pretty darn pleased with what I found. I had the full kit with me, skateboard, surfboard, snowboard; going for the hat trick, S cubed if you will. And while we planned the trip as mainly a snowboarding endeavor, I’ll have to admit that I was most excited about the surf potential of Chile. Everyone I talked to who had been there spoken highly of the surf, and the photos I found on the interweb agreed, good set-ups and consistent swell awaited.
As far as the snowboarding went, the reports weren’t half bad either. Lucas, the only one in our crew who had been to Chile before, had told us of 2,000 vert road runs that stayed untracked all day. Sounds good to me!
I arrived a week or so after the others ( I had to stay and work so I didn’t come back completely broke), and was given vague instructions on where to find the nomads that I was going to be traveling with for the next month or so. “Take the bus to Chillan” Blair told me. And so after arriving to Santiago, grabbing all my crap, which was basically impossible for me to carry alone: heavy ass snowboard bag, surfboard case with three boards ( I had to bring Blairs’ board too), backpack, duffel, and skateboard, take the bus to Chillan was what I did. That is after getting fleeced by the taxi driver for a ride to the bus station as well his helpers who wanted ten bucks each to help me with my things.
(Always learn the currency of a new country ahead of time, incuding the slang for what they call it, i.e. “buck”)
After the 5 hour ride to Chillan (pronounced Chiyan) I was dumped off at the bus station, and while guarding all my stuff, tried the figure out what the heck to do next. My saving grace was that Lucas had a cell phone, and after borrowing a stranger’s phone, since I couldn’t leave my stuff to walk to the pay phone, and couldn’t carry it all myself, I was able to get ahold of Blair. He told me I needed to continue on to Las Trancas where I could find them “at the Snowpub, or maybe just go the Beta Boardshop, they’ll know where we are.” Ok, how do I get there? Lucky enough the guy who lent me his cell phone happened to be going there too! Him and his two friends were nice enough to help me carry my gear, split a cab with me to the next bus station and get me on the bust to Las Trancas.
My eyes were glued to the window as bus climbed the windy hills. Not because there was that much to look at, but because the bus was so crowded, not even standing room was available. After about an hour and a half I jumped out in front of the snow pub, shuttled my gear through a fresh coat of snow to the door and asked inside if they had seen three gringo snowboarders around lately. Nope they said. “Beta Boardshop?” I asked. Nope. “Phone?” Down the street at the market they said. So I called the cell phone and Lucas answered, I could hear him, but he couldn’t hear me, and just then a trucked passed coming down the mountain with three snowboarders in the back. “It has to be them” I thought as I hung up the phone and chased the after the truck. They stopped about a half mile down the road at the Beta Boardshop, and I was as good as home. It was quite a relief the see the familiar faces after nearly two days of traveling as we exchanged greetings and I met the guys we would be staying with. (who were way to hospitable and fun to hang and ride with)
The small town of Las Trancas is a short drive down from the ski center called Nevados de Chillan, which was formerly named Termas de Chillan after the thermal vents that litter the sides of the Volcano. We spent the next week riding there and it was by far my favorite mountain that we visited, very well rounded. Trees, rolly pollies for jumps, hips and what have you, steeps, and even an air bag to practice your tabletops and Susie Q’s on to.
After three good days there we got shut down by weather and decided to head down to Chillan to buy supplies and check out the public market, which is one of the best in Chile.
In Chillan we loaded up on food, especially langonizas (smoked sausage which is the pride of many Chileans) and as many wool and alpaca beanies and hoodies as we could jam in our packs. We stayed in Las Trancas for a few more days but continued to get shut down by weather. It was snowing up high, but since there are no trees up high and it was raining at tree line and below there was little to ride. Time to move along.
We spent a night in Santiago, which is an interesting city if you can handle the intense smog, then headed up to the resort of El Colorado. A super sketchy one lane road takes you to the mountain, it has something like 35 switchbacks, and to add to the sketchiness of the drive, the tires on the so called ski van we were riding in were balder than a Buhner buzz cut night. Luckily we chained up, but unfortunately the chains weren’t much better than the tires and we stopped at least a dozen times to fix them. It was well worth it though because the sky had fallen and the mountain was under knee deep fresh.
The next day we got a taste of the 2,000 vert runs that Lucas had bragged about, and he hadn’t embellished a bit. Getting back up was the hard part, they went down to a road, so depending on your luck a run could take only an hour or so, or you end up waiting with your thumb out for a couple, then have to walk two or so miles back to the resort. Having a car to shuttle is the way, but dirtbags can’t afford rental vans and we ended up doing some walking.
WARNING! If you ever ride El Colorado, or anywhere in Chile, be very very careful of rocks. They are sharp and often lurking under thin layers of tempting snow. Core shots are almost a guarantee off piste. But boards are fairly painless to fix or replace, while skin, muscle and bone are not. Blair found this out the hard way, and ended up buying himself ten stitches to the dome from the emergency room. It went like this, “ooh that looks nice,”….. charge……board to rock contact……. Cartwheel…. Head to rock contact…. Cartwheel, etc. We knew he wasn’t ok when he finally came to a stop after four or five rolls, on each one we could hear the crack of his board hitting rocks, and we knew his body was doing the same. When Blair finally came to a stop he was moving but did not respond to our calls, when we reached him he was bloody and concussed, but was able to ride the rest of the way down. Blair had to take it a little easy for the next few days and we were all a bit more cautious off of the runs. Nonetheless we stayed for a week of good riding.
SURF TIME! Blair and I decided we’d had enough snow and went to check out the coast. The report was calling for 12’ at 14 seconds or something, and when we got there it was definitely all of that. The surf in Chile is super consistent for mainly two reasons: the Humbolt current that comes up from the Antarctic which one of the fastest moving currents in the world, and the constant winds of the roaring forties which lay just to the south. Once out, it was, as usual, bigger than it looked and the swells were rolling around the corner in that make your heart drop and paddle for dear life fashion. After we got accustomed to the lineup we each snagged a few of the bigger waves of our lives. (as well as took some of the worst beatings, I got pushed all the way to the bottom on one). We stayed in Pichilemu for about four days in a cabin owned by a rad old dude named Jorge, who drove as to the beach every day that he wasn’t teaching history at a local school. It was bad ass, he just kicked on the bluff while we surfed all day. We later found out that his son is a local pro surfer and it explained why he was so on point with the surf routine. His son is named Conejo or “The Rabbit” and we saw some ridiculous pics of him surfing Punta Lobos at about 25 feet. And considering that it was pretty damn intimidating when we were out and it was only 10-12 feet, the guy gets some major respect from me. It gives you a whole different perspective on those big wave photos when you have actually surfed the spot.
After surfing we headed back to Santiago, went out to a crazy club where our friend Tarek almost got stabbed once, sounds fun huh? The other guys headed back to Washington and I stayed another week to make up for the one I’d missed at the beginning. The last week wasn’t quite as action packed as the rest of the trip, but I did get to go back out to the coast and also checked out the skatepark in Santiago.
Well, some other stuff happened to…. We partied, pisco is cheap as hell down there, tried to meet some of the many beautiful women, but its tough when your best Spanish is yo quiero taco bell, crashed at many different peoples houses. Hmmmm, what else? Chilean food kinda sucks, salty and overcooked, but they have good pizza. Saw some guy in a military uniform who looked a lot like Hitler (there is a large German influence there, and it is rumored that Hitler actually fled there…..along with Elvis) And that’s about all I can remember right now and I’m really surprised if you made it this far.
GO TO CHILE!!!!! Or wait, don’t, the mountains suck and the waves are crowded.
Thanks to all the people who helped/tolerated us during the trip: Ariel, Gato Cosmico and friends, Nico Saaric, Matias, Jorge, and all the others who I can’t remember right now, your names are misplaced but the good memories aren’t