The Land of the Lefts

Chile is appearing on plenty of foil radars lately, and unsurprisingly so. Uncrowded waters, simple living and plenty of flora and fauna to gaze at… And sometimes, the fauna gazes back too. Stefan Spiessberger joined his Duotone colleagues for a trip to the land of the legburners. 

Words: Stefan Spiessberger
Photos: Jean Louis De Heeckeren

Chile is known for being the longest country in the world. It is known for its wide variety of landscapes and climates. Deserts, volcanoes or glaciers, you will find it all. But there is one thing that catches the surfer’s attention when it comes to Chile and what it stands for: “the land of the lefts”. Countless spots with picture perfect waves, uncrowded and a scenery that makes any surfer’s heart rate rise.

As the summer in Europe came to an end we started to plan ahead and looked for destinations that haven’t been on the wing foiling map yet. The plan was to gather a few of the best riders and find spots that not many people have been riding on a foil. South America was on top of the list from the very beginning. A couple of weeks later we found ourselves in Matanzas, Chile. A place so raw with the energy of the Pacific Ocean right in front of our doorstep and a team loaded with excitement on what was to come in the approaching days ahead. The team included Clement Roseyro, Paula Novotna, Klaas Voget, and myself. A very versatile crew which made it super exciting to face the challenges and good times that lay ahead of us.

The trip started off a little sketchy. The day before departure, Clement tested positive for Covid. That left three of us arriving in Chile to a rather bad looking forecast for waves and wind for the first couple of days. While we were trying to find wind on the maps, Clement was PCR testing two times a day. We knew there was a solid forecast hitting the area around Matancas, where we were staying, in a few days’ time. So we organized a little trip to a small island instead. An eight-hour drive and a quick 20-minute flight. I’ll let Paula tell you all about it…

“We got to the island called Isla Maria but unfortunately we didn’t have much time to organize the logistics of how to get from the runway to the beach. So why not walk, right? The beach seemed close, but it turned out to be very, very far in the end. It was also very windy at the airport so we left the big wings and only took the small wings with us. We didn’t have much time as we had to leave back to the mainland by sunset. Our pilot was super helpful as he was looking around this small local village for a car or truck that could give us a ride and make our adventure easier.

Well, when we finally got to the water, I took the smallest wing as I was the lightest of the group, but I also had the smallest board. The wind was not that strong for the equipment we had, but the airport was too far away to go back to grab bigger wings.

Anyway, as I had a very small wing it took me quite some time to get up and keep going. I also crashed a few times. I believe it was seaweed. There was seaweed and sea lions everywhere, which was making it quite challenging. The spot was offshore and all I was thinking about was not falling. I didn’t want to meet these animals in the water face to face. Luckily everything went smoothly and we went around the “Roundabout” and started to look for the waves. That moment going around and seeing so many animals, wow, I still remember that. That was scary, crazy but magical! And I remember Stefan being so quick to get away from that spot as he was probably freaking out the same as I was. 

After the session, we quickly had to jump on the truck and head back to our little plane as we had to leave the island before sunset. Time was ticking and the sun was already gone. So there was another first for me: flying in a plane with my wetsuit on and helmet on my head. These memories are gonna last forever, for sure.”

Back at our base in Matanzas the excitement reached a new level and we couldn’t wait for the wind to kick in for the next few days! After five days and way too many Covid tests, Clement arrived in Chile to join us for the rest of the trip. On the road from the airport our local photographer Jean Luis told him all about the perfect lefthand pointbreaks which got him so hyped that after 20 hours of traveling he headed straight to the beach of Topocalma, where all of us where already on the water foiling this fast left. These sessions were all time, and we rode the wave until sunset. Powerful, tricky sections but surrounded by an incredible landscape. On the way back home we passed by some other perfect lefts – some with wind, some without wind. Each one of them better than the other and we got more and more excited to ride all these spots in the upcoming days.

So just a few days into the trip, we’d scored a crazy amount of good wave sessions. Within seven days, we foiled five different spots. All of them different but each one with super powerful and fun size waves. One of the best waves I ever rode with a wing was Pichilemu. A super long left with a very light wind but the wave was insane. Almost a minute-and-a-half of perfect glassy walls to ride and no one else other than our team on the water. It was better than anywhere else I have ridden a foil before. None of us except Klaas have been to Chile before. We didn’t know what to expect at all. But all I can say is, Chile is in the mix for the most beautiful place I have visited so far. It’s not only the perfect waves that make this country so special, it’s the combination of the land, the people and the amount of time you can spend on the water in prime conditions!

Places that combine these three things are rare to find these days, but if you look close enough, they are there. They still exist.

Chile brought out the best of all of us and we learned new moves and rode waves that we didn’t know were possible to ride on a foil. We pushed each other every session and had a huge smile on our faces almost every day. For me, that's the most fun part about wing foiling – everyone is in it because of the fun. It is exciting to watch your teammates progress and take that to fuel your own motivation to learn and try new things. There is always a good vibe and all of us could talk about wings and foils all day. We rode the longest waves of our lives, we flew airplanes in our wetsuits, learned a lot about this beautiful country and most importantly, had an amazing time in and out of the water. We will definitely be back.   

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