First of all, thank you to those who shared my previous posts on Bolivia as it did bring some new visitors to the site. I’m always happy to share photos with more people 🙂 For now I’ll take a little pause from Bolivia (I will get back to it with more). This one is from northern Chile. An alternative title to this could be “the dumb luck”. I arrived late to Antofagasta without a particular plan. The city wasn’t of particular interest to me and I wasn’t in the most energetic state to look for a bed in the middle of the night. Instead I went to the bus terminal to see what’s out there at night that goes along the coast. The bus to Arica presented itself with perfect timing.
Shortly upon arrival I overheard that there is a surfing championship taking place. I’ve rushed towards the southern part of the city to la península del Alacrán (or isla del Alacrán) where the better surfers ride the waves. I’ve only managed to catch the preliminaries of the event, which were still massively entertaining. Even more so given that none of this was planned and I stumbled upon all the fun thanks to some dumb luck.
My exposure to surfing doesn’t go beyond the occasional trips to gorgeous Tofino in British Columbia. Generally speaking, I don’t have a lot of experience with board sports beyond snowboarding. Looking at surfing with that reference point makes it an interestingly unique sport. What I find special is the dynamism and the fundamental need to respond to your environment. Mountains do vary and the conditions do change from day to day, from hour to hour. While it takes a lot of experience to be able to read the mountain and keep safe, the response to your environment is not as dynamic. Sure every part of the mountain presents a different obstacle and that’s part of the charm but in the moment the mountain is static (unless you get hit by an avalanche or something). This is not to say snowboarding isn’t dynamic (that would be wrong to say), different dynamism would maybe be a fairer description. Both sports present a rousing combination of patience and energy. Trying to read a wave is a challenge for me, it dictates the setting and prompts you to respond that very moment. It may not mean much coming from me, given how bad of a surfer I am. And surely reading waves becomes second nature to those who practice but I imagine the thrill of responding to them would still remain for many.
Watching the pros in real life has turned out to be a special experience. It’s an addicting environment and even in these cold rocky waters it’s easy to see how one can get sucked into this lifestyle. Waves in this particular spot break onto rocks which keeps beginners out of the waters. I thought they were large enough to keep a saneperson out. A week later towards the middle of the country I’ve met a guy from Arica. I showed him these photos and he partially unimpressed by the size of the waves replied that these aren’t all that special; that at times things get even more violent. He mentioned an incident a few years back when a brazilian surfer got sucked onto these rocks and seriously injured his head.
I used to listen to Freakonomics podcasts in grad school and a segment from the show came up to mind the other day, about how people change their behaviour depending on their surroundings. It got me thinking about how our surroundings affect our daily lives, rhythm, lifestyle and the lessons we take from it all. Then I thought about one of the motorcycle trips I took years ago in northern British Columbia. Certainly feels like a world away today. What I now think I learnt from it is quite different from what I thought at the time. As silly as it may sound, one of the most recurring thoughts during the trip was about packing the bike as it affected the ride and is something I had to do every day, sometimes several times. I mean look at it, that mountain in the back of the bike looks pretty unwieldy. I felt quite pleased that the situation has been slowly improving day by day.
One of the things I now think I got out of the trip is a marginal lesson on how to enjoy myself. Let me explain 🙂 Such trips in northern Canada can get bumpy. It’s nothing to complain or write home about, but on some days with hands frozen to the handlebars, a numb face and sore body parts it’s easy to start to wonder “why am I doing this?”. Unlike the packing situation these thoughts have surfaced only once in a while. One day in particular comes to mind, a few days before I took this photo. Almost in Yukon the weather was woeful with a temperature around 0, rain and wind. At a much needed pit stop an RV driver came up and stated that my friend and I must be either very brave or very stupid. It’s probably a bit of both but my frozen face could only summon a smile in return. I didn’t really think much of his question as my mind had been fixed on a hot soup I was about to get. It’s quite fun to get surprised by a ready convenience at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. The attendant’s demeanour added to the whole atmosphere as she nervously and frantically rushed to serve the only 4 customers like she was serving a full house in lower manhattan 1000s of kms south. Maybe she wanted to hurry us out of the place to get back to peace and quite until the next pack of customers, whenever they might pass by.
What I’m trying to say is that it takes a certain mindset to smile and disregard every inch of your body screaming “get me out of here”. Then you stop wondering “why am I here?” and start thinking “isn’t this something!”