… is the name of an incredibly beautiful movie about Chile, the ocean and the surf (www.elmarmialma.com). I watched it in early 2012 in Melbourne and wanted to move over there straight away! It left a very deep desire in me to see for myself how the strong swells of the Pacific hit the long rugged coast of this country. I recently spent a couple of weeks in Chile, and it exceeded my expectations.
I stayed in Pichilemu and the surf spots around this small coastal town 4 hours south of Santiago. The surf conditions were not exceptionally good at the time, but very fun, raw and powerful. I arrived there with confidence, knowing that I usually prefer surfing in less paradisiacal (white sand and palm trees) settings, and would rather be at the bottom of a cliff, with pine trees and cold water… that was until I went in for my first surf and all I could think off was the comfort of being in board shorts! Yes, it was way colder than I expected, and I can only admire surfers from Ireland, Canada or even Norway who surf in much colder conditions, with water below 10 degrees, and get changed on muddy (or snowy) carparks, to put on a frozen wetsuit. Anyway, I still consider it as the prettiest place I’ve seen on the Pacific coast of South America.
As usual, I met more awesome Brazilians, Germans, a few Australians who had been on the road for months, if not years, and this really interesting French climber Helias Millerioux. He was just back from climbing Aconcagua – the highest mountain in the Americas – via the south face, which involves climbing a 2500m wall to reach the 6932m summit, over a 10 day period. He slept on this cliff, feet dangling over the edge, with no tent and only his sleeping bag… which didn’t seem to bother him.
He never bragged about this achievement, and the many others that he briefly mentioned, like free-climbing a 1000m face (alone, no rope), or climbing rarely explored Alaskan peaks. I didn’t need to be an expert in mountaineering to realise that he was a freak! In the water it was the same. He had rarely surfed before but he already was trying to get to the more difficult waves, and catching a few, always with a huge scream which left all surfers around smiling and looking at each other, probably hoping that they could get the same buzz out of catching a wave! His endurance was incredible: 4 hours in the freezing water every time he went.
This kind of attitude is infectious and quite inspirational, although I never managed to stay as long as him in the water!
Check out Pichilemu and what Helias has to say in the video below:
Helias’ website: www.helias-millerioux.fr