South America has countless miles of coast line, yet there are barely any publicized windsurfing destinations other than those in Brazil.
When you look at a map you realize how one country dominates in occupying the majority of the west coast of South America. Miles and miles of untouched, undiscovered beaches. The country is Chile, the wind is plentiful and the waves are unreal. Photos by Chris Hughes.
HOW TO GET THERE
Let’s face it; you're nearly flying to the other side of the world so it's not going to be cheap. You need to fly to Santiago from where there are many options. We found the cheapest airlines for taking kit were Swiss Air and Air France. The actual ticket with both cost just under £700. Excess baggage with Swiss Air costs £114 each way, but on the day some friends of ours managed to pay this price for return! Air France charge £130 both ways if you pay in advance. LAN Airlines is the local airline and excess baggage costs US $200 each way (£100) per windsurfer. However, it is definitely worth checking with the airline before booking and packing your kit. Some will charge more if you have too much weight in one bag, whereas some will charge more if you have split the kit up into lots of bags.
From Santiago you can fly to Santa Domingo and then it's an hour’s drive to Matanzas. Or it is a two and a half hour drive from Santiago to Matanzas. The Chilean coastline is so long that you have to restrict yourself. Windsurfers base themselves at this tiny village where the amenities of the Western world are far, far away but within an hour’s drive you have six different spots to satisfy every kind of windsurfer and there are never, ever any crowds.
RENTING A 4X4
There are tons of rental companies at the airport. The one we used was called "Free Rent A Car Chile" but ironicly it was far from "free"! We got quite a good discount because Chris and I are good at blagging! So ours was cheap at £1,600 for 5 weeks (between 4 of us) but it should have been closer to £2000. This was the cheapest company we found. Most quoted over US$4,500 (over £2,000).
The email address for them is firstname.lastname@example.org and the website is www.freerentacar.cl
The best time to go is September to December, with the ultimate time being mid October until early December. As you move into January and February the weather system moves further south so you can still get amazing conditions but further down the country (for which we had no experience of). However, March is also a very good month in the Matanzas region but the swell big; quite often over mast high. The wind is generated by alternate pressure over the coastal and in-land regions; high pressure on the coast and low pressure far in land.
On a normal day around Matanzas the wind kicks in by 1 pm at the latest. This may sound quite late but the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm and the wind holds up until around 8pm so you still have plenty of sailing time. At Topocalma the wind kicks in a couple of hours earlier and it is usually around 5 knots stronger than the other spots. The prevailing winds are south westerly so if the forecast says the wrong direction then you probably won’t get any wind. In addition to this cloud and wind do not coincide, so if it’s really cloudy in the morning you might not get any wind, but there is often the chance that the cloud will lift and the wind kicks in later on.
The water state varies at each spot so see below. On the Chilean coast you are facing thousands of miles of open Pacific Ocean, so you need a winter wetsuit (5.3) if you want to last as long as possible on the water. You can survive with a long sleeved summer suit but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s about the same water temperature as the water in the south of England in early November so gloves and boots aren’t necessary.