Video: Colton Feldman
Photos: Tim Zimmerman
Words: Blake Paul
I remember sitting at my computer in early August, contemplating; should we go back to Chile? Is it worth it? Is there snow? Can we make it happen? Alex Yoder and I had been dancing around the idea for several months. The summer was winding down and it was time to make a decision. There’s something about just saying “fuck it,” throwing all cares to the wind, and just committing. It’s a feeling you get when you’re nervous about something you know you have to do—then you just man up and do it. It was time to commit. A Rob would go, he would already have been down there, one chair ahead.
The crew met in the Atlanta Airport food court. Alex Yoder, Gray Thompson, photo master Tim Zimmerman, all American video bad-ass Colton Feldman, and myself. Jason Robinson flew down two days later, and Sammy Luebke came at the tail end of the trip. Spirits and motivation were high. Most of the crew had never met before, and some had never been out of the country, besides Canada, but that doesn’t count. We had seen posts on the web and heard it was dumping. Boarding the plane I felt like a little kid on Christmas eve.
It stopped snowing the day we got there. We landed in Santiago. Jet lagged and weary, we picked up the rental car, some food, and headed up the curvy road to El Colorado Ski Center. The sun was setting and spring was in full effect. High in the mountains we looked down at the city through polluted clouds. We all saw the greatest sunset of our lives that night. We snapped some photos and went to bed.
The trip was in motion, the wheels were spinning, who knew what was going to happen. No plan, no responsibilities, we were down there to take what we could get and document everything that happened. The first few days in El Colorado were completely gray bird and a tad bit icy. The snow level was especially low compared to last season. We were eager to ride and shoot. Hot laps were in full effect, we scoured the mountain for any unique features to board.
At the end of the day it was time to revisit the past. I had been thinking about this moment for a while now. We took up our last chair and headed over the the ridge above the Santa Teresa road laps. This is the run that A Rob had passed away on the previous year. On the walk out to the ridge the day was replaying in my mind. The weather was erie, broken up clouds and a soft gray light shining on the brown snow and rocks. The day felt the same as my last day shredding with A Rob. I pointed out the spot where he made his final turns. We tied a cross together out of wood, carved his name in the side, and jammed it into rock. We all sat together reflecting, no photos, no words, just silence.
Continue the story on the next page. There’s a whole new photo gallery and much more!
From El Colorado we piled in the van and headed south to Nevados De Chillan to stay with living legend, and ripping local Sebastian Goni. Good friend of A Rob, he had opened up his home to us a year ago and invited us back again. The terrain in Chile is insane, miles of rolling landings and and cornices all sitting below two dominate volcano peaks. Spring was still lingering even down this far south, but snow was melting fast.
The crew was blending properly, everyday was an adventure. There was no plan, no pressure. Every morning we would all hop in the rental van and head up to the mountain- the rest was a surprise. The first day down south we were hooked up with free cat rides pretty much anywhere we wanted to go thanks to Nevedos De Chilln Resort and our captain Nico. We stumbled upon this frozen wind drift that was shaped like a giant ice wave. The crew all picked out their lines, got their tricks, then it was time for media hour. Zim and Colton ripped it up while we snapped some hilarious photos, we ended up spending around four hours just all shredding this one feature. Everybody was stoked on the day and was able to have fun on their snowboards. Its the times like these that remind you why you started snowboarding in the first place.
After a couple more days of jumping through abandon buildings, boarding on logs, flying over mountain bike gaps, and pointing it down the inside of volcano craters, it was time to head to the coast. Once again we packed up the rental van, which was beginning to acquire a new fowl smell. We brought Sebastian, his girl, and smelly dog Chena. On the way down from the mountains J Rob shared some news with us:
“Are you guys down to pick up this German girl i met in the airport?..” Classic J Rob move. We all looked at each other.
“Is she hot?” everyone chuckled. Next thing I know we were picking up this tall skinny blond in the middle of the city. She turns to Gray and I in the backseat and hands us both a beer. I was a little nervous she was gonna kill us all in our sleep and take our shit but, whatever, at least she brought beer. Every time we burped she would yell out “shultz!” and stick her thumb on her nose. Some sort of drinking game in Germany, it was okay, but it caught on. An hour later Gray and I were belting out creed lyrics from the radio.
The next morning we woke up in this little cabin on stilts right on the beach. There was a world class point break right in front of the house. Huge clean double over head waves just off the shore of the glistening black sand beach. I had never seen anything like that in person. We watched people rip the surf all morning. Including a surprise visit from Bryan Iguchi and Blair Habenicht, who paddled out and got theirs. After a fresh crab lunch we headed over to CoCo’s house, Sebastian’s long time buddy and local surfing legend. He gave us a few boards and wet suits to borrow; and took us over to some smaller waves, we dubbed it the “gringo break.” We surfed till the sun went below the horizon. Everyone caught a wave and claimed it, J rob almost got swept out to sea, and Yoder nosedived about every chance he got to stand up. I had never laughed so hard watching our crew flop around in the near freezing surf. At dark we barged through a muddy cow pasture in bare feet back to CoCo’s house where he had prepared some homed papas fritas and a few other dishes. CoCo’s house has been passed down by his family for a thousand years. He had a powerful air around him, when he talked you listened. He explained that when the swell was good, he would surf the wave, and when the snow was good, he would drive to the mountain and surf the snow. We snapped a group photo and went home for the night.
After a few more days enjoying Chile’s southern coastline we bid farewell to CoCo and the German and headed back to the mountains. There was no snow in the forecast and not much hope for good conditions. The next few days we persevered, slashed some slush, hit a spring step down over some rocks, took some hot laps, shredded some ice, got kicked off the mountain by ski patrol, and summited the volcano to get a good look over to Argentina. We took what the mountain gave us and made the best of it. Not a flake of snow had fallen our whole trip, and the snow was melting more and more everyday.
The crew was anxious, it was time to relive some stress. Our last few days of the trip happened to fall right on Chilean independence week. Pretty much the party week of the year. On the first night, J Rob and I decided to go out at three in the morning. All the restaurants in town were throwing down, the party was popin’ at four am. I watched some dude stand at the bar and order a drink with one hand while taking a piss with the other all over the outside of the counter. The next night the whole crew joined us on the dance floor, we ended up getting down with this random group of Chilean ladies. Rumor has it that someone got some in the hot tub later. I don’t think Gray ever went to bed that night.
That was it, we had kicked off the trip with a bang. Time to head back to Santiago, pay the rental van fees and get back to reality. Some may think that we got skunked, that we went all the way down to Chile and didn’t get a single good day of riding. Well, that’s not the way I see it. We went down to Chile to snowboard, to travel, to meet new people, to take in new experiences, to do what A Rob would have done, and we had some damn good time. Snowboarding’s not all hammer days and double corks. There’s something along the way that everyone seems to take for granted, it’s the influence of the people and journey experienced that really makes it what it is. This trip was a blast and I learned a lot about why I love snowboarding and the people involved. I’ve said it before, but there’s something about doing it for all the right reasons, and when you’re standing on top a volcano looking over an endless mountain range with a group of awesome people, 6,500 miles from home, you realize why it’s important to say “fuck it” and go to Chile.