South America boasts some of the world’s bests tourist attractions such as Iguazu Falls - one of the world’s largest waterfalls; the Amazon Rainforest with its intricate ecosystem; the infamous Inca Trail leading to Macchu Picchu; and the Andes – the longest mountain range in the world, just to name a few. Then there are also the beaches, lakes and glaciers that make South America such an amazing place to visit.
Most of South America hasn’t yet been spoilt by development and it is easy to find yourself off the beaten track, immersed in the diversity of cultures - with some indigenous people still living the same as they have for hundreds of years. With different influences from Africa, Asia and Europe, each country has its own distinct culture and way of life.
South America is home to one of the longest waves in the world - Chicama in Peru. Peru, along with Chile, Ecuador and Columbia all have coastlines on the South Pacific Ocean and have a large expanse of open water for the swells to generate and develop. Surfing along this west coast is generally quite uncrowded most of the year. The water gets increasingly colder in Argentina and Chile the further south you go, and therefore usually less crowded as well. The powerful Humboldt Current generated in Antarctica brings constant surf to the Chilean coast. Waves are also generated by wind coming from low-pressure centers off central Chile.
Surfing is most popular in Brazil, with many Brazilians embracing surf culture and lifestyle. Brazil's long Atlantic coastline offers a huge variety of consistent waves although it may not be as consistent or as big as the West Coast.
South America can be travelled year round, but some of the most popular tourist destinations like Machu Picchu, Patagonia, the Amazon and the Andes have varied seasons and when heading towards these areas you need to take into account how their expected temperatures & rainfall may affect your trip. For example, summer heat in the Amazon Jungle may be unbearable but this will be the best time to visit Patagonia. The peak season for tourists is usually during June through to August for the north of South America as its perfect weather around the equator, whereas December through to March is the most popular time for the southern area of South America.
Southern hemisphere storms send consistent surf to almost all coastlines on the Pacific side during the winter months. Summer is the best time for clean surf, even though the waves are often bigger in the winter. The low-pressure systems that usually produce sizable surf are very close to the coast so the surf is sometimes out of control. Winter wave heights sometimes reach 12-15'. The waves have juice all year, so the visiting surfer should have a board that can handle a wide variety of conditions.
If you’re travelling to Chile between May & September - the northern region of Chile is where you want to head. It is renowned for its hard breaking waves and long lasting tubes. Between September & March the southern-central region of Chile offers a surfer the opportunity to surf extremely high quality left-hand points that break over sand/volcanic rock bottoms. Chile is not known for its tropical waters, so a thick steamer is essential for most of the country. Depending on when you go, you can find warmer spots towards the north of the country near Peru.
Located just south of the equator, exposed to north and south Pacific ground swells, Northern Peru receives world class surf year-round. The north swell season coincides with summer and it is sunny with less wind and warmer water temperatures, unlike central and southern Peru where most days require at least a spring suit. Just south of Cabo Blanco two currents collide producing extreme differences in water temperatures at breaks only a few kms apart. In general, the waves in the area are practically perfect with fast walls and magic barrels that rarely exceed 6-10 ft. The south swells are actually bigger and more consistent than the north swells, but north Peru’s headlands and points make for more perfect waves. The peak south swell season is from March through to November.
Ecuadorreceives plenty of small swells and has the added bonus of warmer water due to the Panama Current. It gets the tail of the Hawaiian swells and is exposed to both north and south swells. Swell is regularly in the 2 - 6ft region during the offshore November to March surf season. Ecuador really shows its stuff in a big swell, but this does not happen very often. Many of the northern surf spots only really start to get good once they are double overhead. Tradewinds blow from a southerly direction all year, but are more easterly for the Galapagos and westerly for Ecuador.
Brazil surf conditions are pretty good year round but the best time is April to October for swells. From April to October, southern Brazil catches east to south swells produced in the Antarctic. From November to March, the north of Brazil gets the northern swells.