Chilean Adventures – Part One – The Sea
Simposio De Kayak Pacifico Sur
Location: Valdivia, Chile
When I received an email in my inbox in regards to a Sea Kayak Symposium to be hosted by Pueblito Expeditiones in Valdivia, Chile, I did not hesitate once in making my decision to go. I have had the opportunity to paddle in Chile once before in 2008 when I was guiding a few trips in Region XI, the second most southern region of Patagonia, and jumped at the opportunity to return to the southern hemisphere. The Simposio de Kayak Pacifico Sur was a huge success bringing over 75 eager students from around Chile and Argentina together in the small coastal community of Chaihuin for four days of sea kayak instruction, delicious food and classic, friendly Chilean hospitality.
I flew from Vancouver BC, Canada to Toronto; from Toronto to Santiago, Chile and finally landed in Valdivia in the upper most reaches of Patagonia. It was springtime when I arrived in late October and leaves were just budding on the trees with a showing of early spring flowers. Temperatures were fairly warm at 39.8 S latitude, 73.2 W longitude and the multitudes of local and migrating birds were a sight to be seen. (It was in Chile that my curiosity for bird watching was first sparked.) As we drove the road to the city of Valdivia it was easy to spot the Black Necked Swans in the marshes to the roadside and my excitement started to swell.
As the coaching team assembled in Valdivia, we were all warmly greeted by Pueblito Expeditiones’ three person team of Eduardo Saldias, Roberto Saldias and Jorge Muller with gusto. The coaching line-up included a solid team of UK paddlers Jeff Allan, Simon Osborne, Nick Cunliffe and Roger Chandler and then a ragtag team of North American coaches with Ben Lawry, Steve Maynard, Roger Schuman, James Manke and Santia Berrueta….what a fun team to work with!
We had an amazing array of venues in which to teach that included a calm river to work on strokes and maneuvers, Los Cormillos (the fangs) to practice rough water maneuvers and rock gardening and a beautiful sand beach with some beautiful surf breaks for long boat surfing. There was something for everyone. Even the weather represented well with mostly sun, peppered with the classic rain and wind storms that roll in from the South and leave just as quickly to remind us all that weather down in Patagonia is a very changeable thing; it kept us on our toes.
Conditions were fun for instruction with low to moderate swell and typical building afternoon winds that helped to create perfect conditions for students to learn to use tow lines, learn the necessity of holding tightly to one’s boat during rescues and serving up fun surf breaks with clean shoulders to practice boat control in dynamic conditions.
The classic dishes of Caldillo (soup), muscles, salads and Carne (meat) kept out bellies warm and the Kuntsmann local brewery was a great taste of the local micro brew culture. But most fun of all was all the students who brought their excitement and passion for the sport to make the four-day event unforgettable.
The showing of Kokatat ‘Traje Seco’ (drysuits) was incredible and we just had to take a photo of all the suits together in a rainbow of colour. It is no doubt, based on water temperature and changeability of weather, that staying dry is a necessity down there in Patagonia and it seems that Kokatat is just the ticket for staying dry in comfort!
My biggest challenge was teaching for 4 days in Spanish. It is a language I learned years ago, but I had such a fun time teaching kayaking and dusting off my conversational language, making for lots of laughs and a wonderful learning atmosphere. I had expected the experience to be a good one, but I could not have imagined that I would have been able to fall in love with Chile all over again. I hope to return next year with even better Spanish for more adventures with an inspired South American paddling community!! I have to say it was also wonderful to have The Hurricane Riders the Phantom Riders of Argentina, spreading the stoke across North America! I love being a part of our global paddling community!!