We went searching for a wave that would handle the big, clean south-westerly swell. We had heard of a wave up north, and so we drove. The spot was a skunk. The boys went running the cliff, but I slept in the car. When we were driving away, out of the little dust road, another surf vehicle came tearing past us like a bat out of hell.
They were driving way too fast for it to be normal on the narrow dust roads, and the dust cloud was smothering us. Our driver 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.
We waited for five minutes, turned around and headed back. They were gone. So we pondered in the car for a while. The Kiwi among us got out to check the gate. It was open. We looked at each other. We had been warned over and over again not to go onto private property. The stories and rumours that abound down in the far south, of cowboys and shotguns and hard black magic, had made us all nervous and wary of venturing 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," some pessimist said. 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 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 been 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 road was just way too steep downhill even to attempt. So we pulled over. Climbed the edge of the track, and came to a vast field. We all set out across the field at a trot. Rough ground, our pace was slow. We got to the far side to find ourselves at the edge of a significant, vegetation-rich drop. Below us was an empty bay.
There was a flat beach, with a couple of cows grazing. Jutting out into the windy ocean was a headland, and reeling off the cape, 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. We all instinctively ducked behind the bushes and shrubs. So it wasn't a secret spot, but it sure wasn't well known. 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, 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, the wave was terrible. The howling wind had ripped the guts out of it. We headed off for the 'new gate.'
It too was open, so we headed in. The 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, incensed by a chance that there might be more waves. Then we came upon The Place. A perfect left was 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 town went crazy, some old couple came out and were full of smiles and Old Spanish phrases, and escorted us through the village and to the beach. Small, with deserted buildings, three black pigs, a few cows and loads of little dogs, and a perfect, empty left.
Finding a new spot, whether it 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.
Stylish surf lodge Hotel Alaia is perched amid the dunes at Punta de Lobos
The skatepark at the hotel’s entrance, the big, colorful surfboards in the lobby, the small in-hotel Patagonia store, and the view from every guestroom window all attest to the inspiration behind Hotel Alaia.
The 12-suite property puts guests just moments from one of the country’s top surf spots—a picturesque stretch of coastline and natural wonder in itself—as well as being a celebration of all things Chilean.