ARICA, CHILE — (July 2, 2003) The Billabong Odyssey, the multi-year search for the world’s biggest waves, has landed on South America’s swell-rich West Coast. And after being officially underway for only two days, the photographic evidence so far seems to clearly support the theory that Chile may be one of the greatest high surf venues on the planet.
With thousands of miles of coastline, unimpeded exposure to a huge expanse of swell-producing ocean and a relatively short history of surfing, Chile is a big-wave-hunter’s dream. And while the waves of the last 48 hours may not have been the very biggest ever ridden in South America, it’s certain no waves of similar size in this region have ever seen the level of surfing put forth by the star-studded crew on this leg of the Odyssey.
Surfers currently on the South American project include Shane Dorian of Hawaii, Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach from Southern California, Ken “Skindog” Collins and Adam Replogle from Northern California and Brenden “Margo” Margieson from Australia’s Gold Coast. Soon to arrive is Cheyne Horan, also from Australia.
Equipped with a fleet of Yamaha Waverunners transported to Chile by container ship, the Odyssey surfers have been able to access outer reefs with waves that would be very difficult to catch using traditional paddle-surfing techniques — and even then would allow very little in the way of maneuvering. The use of the watercraft not only allows for a quantum leap in the level of surfing performance, it provides a vastly raised level of lifeguarding safety.
“I’m blown away at how good the waves are here,” said Shane Dorian, on an adventure break from his duties as a competitive surfer on the ASP’s World Championship Tour. “There’s tons of swell and an endless assortment of reefs with a lot of very hollow waves to ride. The outer reefs are amazing. This first swell turned out a bit bigger than I was expecting I can’t wait to see it get really big.”
The Billabong Odyssey is working closely with the Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy) to ensure safety in the high-surf conditions and to identify reef structures with potential to produce much-larger-than-normal breakers.
“We are honored that the Navy has allowed us access to their seas,” said Billabong Odyssey director Bill Sharp. “The Armada de Chile has a legendary reputation in this ocean — we are very excited to have met with their top officers and appreciate them sharing with us their intimate knowledge of the region.”
The Billabong Odyssey’s South American expedition has been made possible by the support of Lan Chile airlines, MapCargo freight services, the Panamericana Hotel Arica and Marejada, Chile’s surf magazine. Surf forecasting for the Billabong Odyssey is provided by Surfline.com.