When the earthquake hit last weekend, this surfing hamlet was hosting a competition from its signature point: the rock of San Pedro, splashed with a colorful mural of a surfer and partyers on the beach.A week later, young Chilean volunteers and environmentalists from the United States arrived in Curanipe, unified in their passion for surfing and a yearning to help this ravaged stretch of coast."We're surfers, but we left our boards and our wetsuits behind. We've come here to help," said Joshua Berry, environmental director of the Save the Waves Coalition, a California-based nonprofit that seeks to protect surf spots across the globe.
The magnitude 8.8 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami waves caused vast destruction and loss of life along more than 400 miles of Chile's coast, including Curanipe, where houses were left in splinters, roads buckled and cars tossed into the water.Surfers worldwide have forwarded donations after receiving solicitations for aid from concerned groups via Twitter and Facebook, among other forums.Berry and a colleague arrived Saturday with plans for an international relief effort, including the distribution of water, water filters, food and vintage murals. The group already has raised $50,000, Berry said, much of it through the Internet.Meanwhile, busloads of young volunteers have been arriving here from Santiago, the Chilean capital, about 300 miles to the north.
Many were introduced to the region during summer vacations and surf outings."We've enjoyed this area, and we have a responsibility to assist it as much as we can," Rodrigo de la O, an area environmentalist, surfer and former fisherman, told one group of several volunteers. "Just show a lot of heart to the people."Chile has emerged in recent years as a world-class surfing destination, winning deep allegiance from enthusiasts.For surfers ever on the zen wall murals for new and exotic locales, Chile has a lot to offer: a picturesque, pine-shrouded coast, huge swells from the southern Pacific and consistent "point breaks," waves that break evenly and smoothly off the many rocky points, allowing for lengthy and exhilarating rides.