There is a saying down here in Punta San Carlos, “You just don’t know until you go.” And how true it was last week during the annual Liquid Force kite camp.
A big south swell arrived mid week from an earlier storm across the ocean off the coast of New Zealand. The first couple of days were joined with just enough wind to embrace the near mast high sets but as the waves continued to build the wind slowly died due to the upset of a tropical storm down south. Kites got bigger as those experienced enough tempted to dice with the light breeze, though inevitably this resulted in a lot of swimming. I tried getting out on a SUP but with walls of white across the beach break proved to be far more work than the reward. Though as the golden hour approached the hum of an engine could be heard over the thumping waves. Bennett Williams, a legend in the big wave scene, was staying for a couple of weeks to do some filming and had decided to fire up the ski to entertain the guys with some tow in surfing.
I watched on from behind the lens, if not a little envious that guys who had never so much as paddled into a head high wave were getting towed into double overhead sets, though at the same time I had to admire the event and this place for how accessible it makes these experiences. The smiles around the bar that evening told a story of their own, a story that would be taken home to many a friend across the globe. At the corner of the bar sat two pairs of knowing eyes, those of Bennett with a glint from the taste he had given a few earlier that day and those of Mike Botello another legend in the big wave scene, recounting the last the two of them saw each other at Cortez Bank.
The following day as I prepared the bar for another night of fogs and margaritas, Kevin came up from a session of tow-in and suggested I should give it a go. I jumped at it, pondering how it was that just a year ago I had hardly stood up on a surfboard and here I was about to tow into an almost double overhead wave. I chose to go the step off option instead of tow in, which involves jumping off the ski with a board onto the wave and then standing up more like regular surfing. After a few fun waves in the chilli-bowl, I motioned to Bennett that I wanted to go find something bigger and could he get me into one of the waves that jack up on the Bombora. We started back in the direction of the Bombora as the sun sat low, about make its final decent for the evening, when out of the yellow glow came Mike buzzing us only feet off the water on his way back up north.
The season is still weeks from close, but that image, sitting on the back of a ski with one wave legend as another buzzed us so low one could almost stick a hand up to touch the plane, the sun setting behind it and the bump of the next wave I’d surf welling up in the distance will be etched into my memory in a perfect form that would be impossible to capture. It is true, you really just don’t know until you go.