Summer in Chile

Over the past year, kayaking has completely changed the direction of my life. It has taken me on long, sleepless flights to Zambia, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Australia, and most recently, Chile. It has left me begging South African custom officials for days on end to allow my ‘wave ski’ into the country, and it has pushed my mental strength almost daily. Kayaking has left me fending off baboons with my paddle and sharing eddies with crocodiles; but best of all, it has given me a purpose to travel, and it has taken me to remote corners of the world that can only be accessed by kayak.

So, after returning from a couple months of chasing waterfalls in Mexico, we set off on a new adventure, with our sights set on Chile. Our trip began on the Rio Maipo in the small town of San Alfonso. The river was fast, continuous and full of great boofs! Unfortunately, the water rights to the Rio Maipo were sold during General Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1970’s, and a project to dam the river is now in place. We both feel very lucky to have seen such an awesome stretch of whitewater before it gets dammed.

We then began the long journey south, with stops in Chile’s infamous creek boating capitals, Pucon and Choshuenco. While the water was low, there were still plenty of rivers to keep us busy. The Rio Fuy has got to be one of the most epic and diverse rivers that I have ever paddled on; it truly has something for everybody. Whether its class four river running on the upper stretch, waterfall-hucking and creeking on the middle, or continuous class three on the lower, there is no such thing as a bad day on the Fuy.

We then decided to pack up our rig and head south to the infamous big water of the Rio Futaleufu. After two days, three ferry rides, and nearly ten hours of driving on dirt roads, we finally arrived at our home base on the river, Cara Del Indio. It’s hard to explain the magic of the Futaleufu, but it’s definitely no secret to whitewater enthusiasts. Maybe it’s the warm, crystal blue water with world-class rapids, or the dramatic skyline and epic canyon views. Whatever it is, the Futaleufu is one of the most spectacular rivers that I have ever been to.

Lucky for us, our trip happened to line up with the annual ‘Futa XL’ event, which encompassed everything from big wave surfing to down river freestyle to boater cross! Having never competed in any whitewater event in the past, I figured “what better place to start?” than on the classic Bridge-to-Bridge section boater cross. The race started with a half-mile sprint (ugh) to the first rapid, Entrada, and from there on out it was continuous big water class four until the finish line. When the race was over, I was sweating through my dry top and I could hardly grip my paddle, but I was greeted with high-fives and hugs from the awesome ladies that I competed with. (Can I still claim ‘top ten’ if I got seventh out of eight???)

When it came time to leave Futa, I was already planning my next trip back. If you ever get the chance to visit the Rio Futaleufu, it is worth every inch of the unpaved pothole-filled roads that it takes to get there.

The past three months in Chile have been truly spectacular, and the whitewater did not disappoint! Whether you are looking for class two or class five, Chile has something for everyone, and I can’t wait to go back someday and explore new rivers.

Hasta luego, Chile!  ~Ali

All words and images copyright California Women’s Watersport Collective 2016. All rights reserved.

Author Ali Chapman hails from Northern California, studied in Perth, Australia and works as a whitewater raft guide on the beautiful Tuolumne River near Yosemite National Park