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.”