I woke up at 8:30; both startled that I was late and surprised that I woke up at a decent hour. I ran downstairs for breakfast and ran into Chico Max and Leo, my surf guides, who I would spend the next 10 days with.
“Ready to surf, Liz G?”
Honestly, I was a bit foggy, and this was the first of many experiences where I would have great difficulty balancing a physically demanding surf trip with a hostel lifestyle.
We went behind the hostel bar to pull out some surfboards including mine, and the flashbacks set in. It was only 3 hours ago that I drunkenly talked some Brazilian guys into breaking into the unattended bar so they could see my 6’6 biscuit board that I hadn’t used since September. They were quite impressed, and I neglected to tell them that this was really a beginner’s board in disguise, or a hybrid—the marketing euphemism. But there was something about a board with thick love handles that I couldn’t part myself with. Sure, I sometimes missed a duck or two and got slapped in the face by a cold wave, but the ride was always smooth. And I thought of this when Guillerme, the Brazilian, let his grip go, leaving my board to be pulled to the floor by a gravity way out of it’s element.
“No!” Sacrificing my knees to the concrete bar floor, I kneeled with my arms out and eyes shut, ready to catch my little biscuit. I opened my eyes, and Guillerme had regained his once fumbling grip. We later resorted to plastic boards that we straddled across the bar counter, so that I could practice my paddling maneuvers with the Brazilians cheering me on.
After regaining focus, I was back on the road with Chico Max and Leo. Leo connected his mp3 player to the speakers, and I quickly grabbed my notebook, eager to discover what Chilean surf music was. By the end of the ride, I had a page of songs by mostly Australian beach bands and purposely omitted Leo’s obsession with “A Tribe Called Quest” and “Method Man.”
“Where’s our first stop?”
“Puertocillo. It’s a secret surf spot,” confided Max. After hours of highway driving, we found ourselves on an endless bumpy and narrow dirt road. The tight turns seemed to hug the cliffs overlooking the vineyards, and I retracted my head into the car to put my seat belt on.
“No, Liz G. If we go over the cliff, wearing a seat belt won’t help any of us. If we do go over, you need to be free so you can jump out the window.”
Cliff driving aside, I was more frightened by how much thought Max put into the possibility of the gravest emergencies. His comment reminded him to hand me a pamphlet about how to be safe in the event of tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches, and volcano eruptions. I memorized some of the terms in Spanish, just in case.
We passed droves of wild raspberry patches untouched by anyone, which spurred the first of many daydreams, beginning with, “If I had a tent, I could live here.”
Some Sublime tunes came on as we came over the last hill, exposing an animated Google Maps view of the cleanest and closest wave sets I’ve seen yet.
I took in a deep salty breath, knowing that my journey hadn’t even yet begun.