Ramón Navarro

Prac­tic­ing surf­ing and con­ser­va­tion


Bold surfer, ocean am­bas­sador, and big­wave junkie par ex­cel­lence are just a few of the ti­tles that could be used to de­scribe Ramón Navarro. But with a story so in­trin­si­cally linked to the sea, one thing that is cer­tain is the in­ter­ests of the this world-class ath­lete from Pichilemu, a small coastal city in the cen­tral re­gion of Chile, go far be­yond the sport of surf­ing. The sea is his phi­los­o­phy, his world­view, and the back­bone of his life.

Born into a fam­ily whose l i veli­hood was fish­ing, his grand­mother, fa­ther and even his cousins are all linked to the sea in one way or an­other, mostly through fish­ing and div­ing. It is maybe his fam­ily’s deep-rooted con­nec­tion to this sim­ple way of life which made it dif­fi­cult for him to break away from th­ese tra­di­tions and be­come the in­ter­na­tion­ally-known surfer that he is to­day. He had to do bat­tle with his fam­ily to get them to un­der­stand that he could make a liv­ing as a surfer. But stub­born­ness, and lis­ten­ing to his heart, won out.

In 2004, Navarro con­firmed his place in the his­tory of Chilean surf­ing by tak­ing on “The Beast,” a 23- foot ( 7 me­ters) high wave in Iquique, in north­ern Chile. From then on, the Pichilemu na­tive sought ever higher goals, such as in De­cem-

“Ramón is one of the pi­o­neers of big wave surf­ing. He changed the his­tory of surf­ing in this coun­try.”

ber 2009, when he added his name to the list of all-times surf­ing greats by rid­ing a mon­ster 35-foot (11 me­ters) high wave in the Ed­die Aikua in­vi­ta­tional in Hawaii.

Navarro’s vi­sion and per­se­ver­ance un­doubt­edly ac­count for much of his suc­cess. Af­ter tak­ing up surf­ing at age 12 with a homemade board fash­ioned from spare parts, three years later he had won his first cham­pi­onship, and by age 22 he re­ceived his first spon­sor­ship deal. Since then, he has be­come a liv­ing leg­end in Chile for his surf­ing achieve­ments. To­day, de­spite be­ing in his early for­ties, Navarro is still at the top of his game, with im­pres­sive runs in places like Nazaré in Por­tu­gal and Mav­er­icks in Cal­i­for­nia in the United States. He has even had the lux­ury of surf­ing be­low zero in the South Shet­land Is­lands, in the Antarc­tic.

“Ramón was one of the pi­o­neers of big wave surf­ing. He has in­cred­i­ble pas­sion for the sport. It was also Ra­mon who demon­strated to the whole world that Chile has th­ese types of waves. He changed the his­tory of surf­ing in this coun­try,” says Cris­tian Merello, him­self a renowned Chilean surfer, who has com­peted in the Big Wave World Tour and is a good friend of Navarro.

Thanks to his pas­sion for the waves, Navarro has trav­eled the world. He could be in the wa­ters of his na­tive Punta de Lo­bos, in Fiji or any­where else on the planet for that mat­ter, but what is sure is the sea will never be far away. It com­pletes him.

Just days be­fore this is­sue of Patagon Jour­nal was pub­lished, the Chilean had to say good­bye to his grand­mother, who passed away, hon­or­ing her by rid­ing what may be the big­gest wave in the coun­try, the “Santa Marta,”, an ocean wave lo­cated some­where be­tween the is­lands of Ton­goy and Los Vi­los in north­ern Chile. “It’s an in­cred­i­ble place, just amaz­ing. A bless­ing,” he en­thu­si­as­ti­cally ex­tolled.

Us­ing his celebrity sta­tus in the coun­try, the Chilean surfer has also fought against nu­mer­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal threats to Chile’s coast, es­pe­cially the dif­fi­cul­ties posed by own­ers of coastal land who, dis­obey­ing the coun­tries’ laws, im­pede free ac­cess to the beaches and ocean.

Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal bat­tle that Navarro has led is the one that took place in his own back­yard: Punta de Lo­bos, where he ran his first big waves. Fac­ing hos­tile de­vel­op­ers that had plans to build on the coast, he or­ga­nized and led the com­mu­nity’s ef­forts to form an ac­tion com­mit­tee to pro­tect the area’s cliffs, in par­tic­u­lar the rock for­ma­tion “Los Mor­ros,” as well as its bio­di­ver­sity, which in­cludes cacti, birds and sea lions. The con­flict is pre­sented in-depth in the short film “The Fish­er­man’s Son” (2015).

Since then, Navarro has con­vinced the U.S.-based founda- tion Save The Waves to de­clare Punta de Lo­bos a World Surf Re­serve. The des­ig­na­tion has given the site a de­gree of pro­tec­tion through its in­ter­na­tional sig­nif­i­cance, but the site is still lack­ing in le­gal pro­tec­tion. The am­bi­tions of the prop­erty devel­oper’s were dealt a se­vere blow, how­ever, when Ni­cholas Davis, a lo­cal en­trepreneur, ac­quired 25 per­cent of the land, and thereby help­ing to form the Punta de Lo­bos Foun­da­tion. Navarro serves as the foun­da­tion’s di­rec­tor, whose mis­sion is to pro­tect the area and the tra­di­tional pur­suits prac­ticed there, surf­ing and fish­ing. It’s a fight that con­tin­ues via their “Lo­bos Por Siem­pre” cam­paign.

An­other of the group’s goals is the re­plant­ing of more than 14 mil­lion cacti in or­der to pre­serve an en­dan­gered species known as Cliff Quisco ( Echi

nop­sis bol­ligne­r­i­ana). “I be­lieve one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to try

to pro­tect the places you love. I wouldn’t like to know that a place might dis­ap­pear overnight with­out me hav­ing done some­thing to save it. That’s a big mo­ti­va­tor for do­ing things and I hope that more peo­ple will have the same kind of mo­ti­va­tion to try to make a dif­fer­ence,” states Navarro, who was named “En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist of the Year” by the Surf In­dus­try Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

A few months ago, Navarro joined the Par­ley for the Oceans cam­paign to as­sist their ef­forts in ad­dress­ing the mil­lions of tons of plas­tic waste that reach the ocean ev­ery years. “We want to clean 100 is­lands around the world in 2020, giv­ing work to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in the process. If they had the ca­pac­ity to re­cy­cle, they could find ways of turn­ing the plas­tic that is found on beaches into some­thing of eco­nomic value, which could then be sold to the brands that Par­ley works with,” said Navarro.

But there is more to Ramón Navarro than surf­ing and con­ser­va­tion: fish­ing and div­ing are two other pas­sions of his in the ocean. One of his fa­vorite leisure pur­suits is fish­ing, peace­fully stand­ing up­right on a Stand Up Pad­dle. He just can not go an en­tire day with­out get­ting into the wa­ter. It is there where he re­ju­ve­nates and re­stores him­self. For him, the sea is a syn­onym of free­dom and life. And that’s why his call­ing of guardian of the ocean is in­grained into his be­ing, skin tanned by the sun and the cold wa­ters of the Pa­cific Ocean.

“I be­lieve one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to try to pro­tect the places you love. I wouldn’t like to know that a place might dis­s­ap­pear overnight with­out me hav­ing done some­thing to save it.”





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