We were at the bottom of Chile. We went searching for a wave that would handle the big, clean southwesterly swell.
We had heard of a wave just a little way up north of our location, and so we drove. Of course, the spot was a skunk. The boys went running to the cliff, but I slept in the car. When we were driving away, out of that little dust road, another surf vehicle came tearing past us like a bat out of hell, and Jon the Seppo’s redneck blood came pouring out.
“They’re trying to lose us!” He shouted inexplicably, and tramped on the gas. We rocked onto the road at full-tilt. John overcorrected and we went careering away after our prey.
They were driving way too fast for it to be normal on the narrow dust roads, and the dust cloud was smothering us. Jon couldn’t see much and had to hold back for visibility.
We went back into cruise mode, came around a corner and there they were, sitting in their shiny 4x4, waiting in front of a gate. We cruised past slowly. Once we had driven past them, and around the corner, we stopped to discuss tactics.
“For sure they were waiting for us to go past.”
“They’re holding. Let’s go back.”
“OK let’s just wait awhile. Once they’ve gone, we’ll slide on back and see where they’ve gone.”
We waited for five minutes, turned around and headed back. They were gone. So we pondered in the car for a while. Terence the Kiwi got out to check the gate. It was open. We looked at each other. The year was 2003, the southern part of Chile was still wild and roads were dust tracks, and we had been warned over and over again not to go onto private property.
The stories and rumours were abound down in the far south, of cowboys and shotguns and seriously messed-up black magic practices, had made us all nervous and wary to venture off the beaten track. However, it took us a unanimous split-second and a few grins to decide to go in.
We headed down the track, nervous but so excited. We went over a rickety little bridge and came to another gate. “Here’s where it ends,” a pessimist among us muttered. I got out and tried the gate. It was open. We were fully committed and ventured through, closing the gate behind us.
The track got rougher and more convoluted. Some really steep sections, loads of loose gravel, and at the top of one particularly steep section we came to another gate. Our hearts sank. Here we were deep in private property, and the odds of this gate being open were slim. We tried it and it yielded. The gods were with us.
The track took a radically steep downhill, as it headed from a height back down to sea level. We rounded the corner and the track was just way too steep to even attempt. So we pulled over. Climbed the edge of the track, and came to a huge field, which we all set out across at a trot. The chubbier ones of us were left behind, me in the front.
Below us was an empty bay. A flat beach, with a couple of cows grazing. Jutting out into the windy ocean was a headland, and reeling off the headland, over a super shallow bank, was a flawless left-hand barrel
Our pace was slow over rough ground. We got to the far side of the field to find ourselves at the edge of a huge vegetation-rich drop. Below us was an empty bay. A flat beach, with a couple of cows grazing. Jutting out into the windy ocean was a headland, and reeling off the headland, over a super shallow bank, was a flawless left-hand barrel.
The first one we saw just spat rudely as we watched in shocked silence. Another set racked up on the outside. From our vantage we could see the swell bending and refracting off outside rocks, connecting off the headland and reeling down over the bank relentlessly towards the beach.
As we watched, the guys who had been waiting at the gate cruised across the beach in their 4x4 vehicle, and we all instinctively ducked behind the bushes and shrubs. So it wasn’t a secret spot, but it sure as hell was off the radar.
We sat and watched for maybe half-an hour, weighing up the odds. Go down, show the guys we have found the spot, piss them off properly and get barrelled off our faces, or come back another day when they had gone and we would for sure have it to ourselves without the pressure. We bailed, elated and bummed at the same time.
On the way out we spotted another gate, leading into another field further up the coast, and made some mental notes.
We returned, two days later. The locals had left, and the wave was terrible. Howling wind had ripped the guts out of it, and despite there being a few gems, loads of waves were shifty and nasty. We headed off for the ‘new gate.’
Praises! It too was open. We headed in. The first field was full of sheep. We felt it necessary to shield the Kiwis’ eyes from the field of frolicking temptation. Five people found it funny, and one didn’t. So it was funny.
The track came to an abrupt end at the top of a very steep downhill. We climbed out and ran down, fired up by a chance that there might be more waves. Then we came upon The Place. A perfect left spiralling off yet another headland in front of a semi-deserted village. We were on it, and put on our wetsuits and ran down. The dogs in the village went crazy, some old couple came out and were full of smiles and old Spanish phrases, and escorted us through the village, to the beach.
They were stoked to see us. Small, with deserted buildings, three black pigs, a few cows and loads of little dogs, and a perfect, empty left.
I was pumped, all those fifteen years ago. Finding a new spot, whether it actually exists in other surfers’ minds or not, is like the first time you get barrelled – a mammoth progression of a surfers’ soul. Little Pumpkins was yet another perfect left in the land of perfect lefts.