Words and images by Sean Jansen.
On my second visit to South America I decided to travel in one big loop from Brazil eventually ending up in Colombia . I feel I have enough experience of the continent now to really say it has so much to offer in the world of surfing. There are amazing spots in every country I visited, some of the best I've ever seen as well some incredible surfers that most people will have never heard of.
I walked down to the beach in Rio and watched Wiggolly Dantas absolutely destroy a waste to shoulder high wave. Surfers around the world have a tendancy to write off Brazil because of the dumpy close-out beach breaks we watch on the world tour. We only ever hear about the surf in Rio or Florianopolis and occasionally Fernando de Noronha. However, Brazil is probably the country out of all in South America, that boasts the most potential for world-class waves and surfers. Lets just say, I was thrilled I took a closer look to find out.
During my visit, it was obvious that there was something special about the surfers I met and that a future world title winner would come from this country. I was proven right of course [Medina]. During my first week in Brazil, not knowing a single surfer there, I walked down to the beach in Rio and watched Wiggolly Dantas absolutely destroy a waist to shoulder high wave. Little did I know that he would be on the 2015 tour five months later.
Shapers like Jon Pyzel go down there and unwind after racking up a new quiver for the likes of John John. Brayner Alves is another name to look out for. Coached by the infamous Fabio Gouveia, he bounces back and forth from Fernando de Noronha and Florianopolis. You better believe I won't be the last person to tell you about him.
My next stop was Uruguay - a country more famous for their recent exploits of marijuana legalization than surf. However, few know that Uruguay has some amazing beach breaks. So amazing in fact that shapers like Jon Pyzel go down there and unwind after racking up a new quiver for the likes of John John. It may be chilly, but in the peak of winter it fires.
Guys like Sebastian Olarte, Tanja Fernandez, and Segunda Vargaz, are among the top surfers from Uruguay who recently competed in Peru at the ISA World Games. Uruguay, in my opinion, is a country that will surprise many and if it's surfers had a little publication I feel like they could be in the same contention for the QS as their neighbouring countries.
Argentina is another uprising country that many recent world stage surfers are coming out of. Most of us know about Alejo Muniz as a Brazilian surfer. However, he's actually Argentinean and his brother Santiago Muniz flies the flag of Argentina when he competes. Guys like Leandro and Francisco Usuna as well are on the QS, battling it out to try and represent their country. Keep an eye on Argentina, there are fantastic surfers there and along its coastline there's potential for discoveries that could change the way we look at surf exploration.
Now, to mention surf exploration and South America in the same sentence would almost perfectly segway Chile into the picture. It's without question, the country of South America that has allured surf explorers to the continent. To have a country that is nearly the length of the west coast of the U.S. is just begging to be explored.
Kepa Acero went down to Patagonia on a rumour from the Lombari cousins and scored to unfathomable proportions.
We all know about Ramon Navarro and some may have heard of Cristian Merello but there are so many talented surfers spanning the length of the country. There's Camilo Hernandez in the north of Iquique, where the slabs give way to spitting tubes. Fabian Farias resides in the south where the left points bend their way around headlands and peninsulas.
There's also an immense area down in Patagonia that's waiting to be discovered. Kepa Acero went down there on a rumour from the Lombari cousins and scored to unfathomable proportions. That's only the tip of the iceberg though. Continuing my looping journey I ended up in Peru which has been searched from head to toe. A slightly different prospect to Chile in that sense but with just as much potential to bring talented surfers closer to the forefront of the sport.
Joaquin Del Castillo, in my eyes, will be Peru’s future for the QS and possibly the CT. Peru has to have the most popularity with regards to travelling surfers. From the longest ocean wave in the world at Chicama, to the spitting and twirling tubes of Cabo Blanco. Lest we not forget Pico Alto also. The giant wave that brought us Gabriel Villarian who has been put on the stage with the best big wave surfers around the world.
During my visit, I was given the great pleasure to meet one of Peru’s brightest futures. An 18 year-old kid who can spin out of anything and with his older brother Roberto and father and legend of Punta Hermosa (home of Pico Alto) Paco, pushing him and fueling his fire, Joaquin Del Castillo, in my eyes, will be Peru’s future for the QS and possibly the CT.
The two final stops of my journey were Ecuador and Colombia. Two countries that many will never travel to for surf. Ecuador’s future however, is looking up with its beach breaks and sub tropical waters making it a really fun place to go to surf dumpy close-outs to classy point breaks.
The surfers of Ecuador like Aurelio Prieto and Jonathan Zambrano Chila, rip the waves around Montanita and the point regions of the south. Ecuador was a surprise to me but it doesn't compare to my astonishment when I visited Colombia.
The most astonishing out of all the countries I travelled and photographed in was Colombia. Colombia, unfortunately still has the stigma of its dark past when Pablo Escobar and his bandits were taking over the country. It has been a long time coming and the government has done some significant work in making Colombia a bright and successful country to visit as a tourist.
Besides its past and recent exploits of trying to manage tourism, Colombia holds waves and surfers that little to no one knows about. It's the only country in South America that shares a coastline with the Pacific and the Caribbean, making it an exciting prospect in terms of surf exploration.
There are two surfers in Colombia that I took interest in. Howard El Chespi, born and raised in Cartagena on the Caribbean side, is a young, driven surfer that has to take a one hour bus to get to the closest wave. When he gets there, he's met by tourists sun bathing on the beach and a dumpy close-out that one would think would be a terrible place to learn and progress. However, he makes every section an air section and manages to land crazy manoeuvres on a regular basis.
The other is Simon Salazar. Probably Colombia’s greatest potential. He travels around Colombia and South America with his sponsors and rips fun waves along the Caribbean as well as the Pacific coast. He has a surprisingly smooth style considering the waves he surfs regularly and appreciates any opportunity to get in the water.
The unfortunate thing most of these guys have in common is that whilst pursuing their dreams to become world class surfers, they have to earn a living and support their families via other means. We all saw Carlos Munoz rise to the occasion at Lowers and beat Gabriel Medina. They need a similar opportunity to showcase what they have on an international scale and I personally can vouch and say that they could not only surprise, but also embarrass the top seeds if given the opportunity.