It has been a slow start to the South Pacific season. After the El Nino of all El Ninos lit up the North Pacific all winter, a week without an XXL swell—let alone a month—just seems sort of wrong. But downtime between swells is a good chance to scout locations and prep for upcoming sessions.
When it comes to XXL swells and big wave events, logistical preparation is as important as physical and mental training.
Trevor Carlson is the first alternate for the Big Wave Tour this year, and will almost certainly surf in the Punta Lobos Challenge, one of the three southern hemisphere tour stops tentatively scheduled (swell depending). Trevor had never been to Punta Lobos, Chile, and so even though the forecast showed small to no swell, we figured the Big Wave Awards were a good opportunity to fly over for a scouting mission. After all, we were already halfway there.
Trevor isn’t the only person prepping for the Punta Lobos Challenge. Over the years, I have developed a network of friends and contacts in Chile—the big wave community in Chile is small, so after chasing a couple of the biggest swells in the country’s history, I know pretty much everyone. And the topic of conversation on everyone’s lips this week is the list of invitees for the Punta Lobos Challenge Trials. The World Surf League is handing out five wild card spots into the Punta Lobos event—and if last year is any indication, the value of a wild card berth cannot be overstated.
‘Makua Rothman was a wild card into the Pico Alto contest in 2014, and ended up winning the event.’
Only one other big wave event ran that year, due to lack of swell, and Makua ended up placing second there (in Spain) after being awarded another wild card, since he was leading the tour ratings. And just like that, Makua’s life changed. From one-event wild card to world champion and full-time rated surfer on the world tour—it’s no wonder that the local community here in Pichilemu are clamoring for their chance to surf the trails.
Topocalma Chile. Photo: Brad Scott
The 28 invitees were announced this past week, and the roster includes a who’s who of Chilean big wave royalty. World traveling pros like Leon Vicuna and Rafael Tapia are joined by underground charges like 21-year-old Mathias Guerrero, who is studying engineering in Santiago and has earned his way into the trials on the back of grit and determination, not to mention a break-out season in Hawaii this past winter.
With the invitees announced and the waiting period for the event open, it’s now just a matter of waiting for the first major swell to run the trials—then, after that, if a monster of a storm points itself at the central Chilean coast, the main event might just run. But that’s the problem—because right now, six weeks into the Chilean winter season, there is one invitee to the party that hasn’t shown up yet: swell.
With rosters finalized and big wave guns dusted off, now it’s just a waiting game. And until that first beast of a swell rears its head, there isn’t much to do except make preparations—physically, mentally, and logistically. Bienvenidos a Punta Lobos!
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