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Gringo X

An anonymous ex-pat on Chile’s Atacama coast.

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Gringo X was not going to go quietly. He piled furniture against the front door of the two-story house and barricaded the other entrances. Within the rooms, he paced frantically while he dialed his lawyer on a cell phone. Out front, the Chilean police, now numbering almost a dozen, were quickly losing their patience. A helicopter hovered overhead in the blazing sun, scanning the exits.

Gringo X had come to the property to claim what he felt was rightfully his: a home overlooking several slabbing reef breaks, which he had purchased and furnished with eclectic antique artifacts over the prior decade. Now the GOPE—the Chilean equivalent of a SWAT team—arrived in a heavily armored car, and he realized things were getting serious. Officers in full body armor scrambled out of the vehicle and took up positions.

It was the halcyon days of Chilean surf exploration and he was at the frontier.

It wasn’t always like this for Gringo X. As a young Southern California surfer, he had come to Chile in the early 90s to chase empty, left-hand pointbreaks and wide-open spaces. The country and culture were worlds away from the crowds and materialism of his hometown of Dana Point in Orange County, California. It was inexpensive, the women were pretty, and he and a handful of traveling surfers were stumbling upon empty lineup after empty lineup. Perhaps best of all, he was far away from the shadow of his strict family upbringing, and his conservative parents who longed to see their son become an attorney—not a vagabond surfer.

It was the halcyon days of Chilean surf exploration and he was at the frontier. Stories of his early discoveries trickled back to California as he spent months upon months scouring the coast for new waves. Eventually, however, even the pristine pointbreaks of central Chile felt too mainstream for his liking. He had always been drawn to unusual places—areas others didn’t want to go to. That led him to venture further north, deep into the Atacama Desert, to a city called Iquique…

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