When you think of the Falklands, where does your mind drift? Does it immediately bow out to conflict and war? To sovereignty and strife of a beleaguered archipelago? A land made infamous by a fight over colonisation – and many other complex factors? But have you ever considered that those islands may be ripe to explore, to seek setups unsurfed, a land thick with potential that has been tucked behind negative connotations?
Argentineans Julian and Joqauin Azulay aka the Gauchos del Mar, spent 50 days seeking waves in the 700 islands that make up the archipelago, travelling by foot, van, plane and boat in a bid to better understand the complex political nature of the area and “build bridges through surfing and the ocean”.
Pocket surf guide: Argentina
What they found was a diverse landscape, sparse of civilisation, that held beachbreaks, reefs and a fickle slab. Plus, when you spend a few days surfing with penguins (Shiverpool, anyone?) it certainly adds to the novelty of the area.
Upon their travels, they found two local surfing brothers who born after the conflict. They may be the only two people who put foam under foot out of the 2,800 inhabitants of the Falklands and showed them some of the ropes and a few neatly hidden setups. Now, the Gaucho's findings has been documented in soon to drop movie Transcending Waves, focussing on connections in the ocean and how it can tie people together regardless of circumstance.
We caught up with Joaquin to talk about the movie, what the waves are like in the Falklands and the conflict's deep-rooted impact on the people who live there.
The Gauchos del Mar have been to many places, what did you think of the Falklands?
Joaquin Azulay: When we looked at a map, we saw two main islands, but surprisingly it is an archipelago of more than 700 of them. It is a beautiful and wild place on this planet. Full of different marine species; five species of penguin, albatross, elephant seals, sea lions, orcas, dolphins and whales. With beautiful landscapes and harsh climate conditions, where the cold and wind are constant factors, which we had to get used to.
All that history and war, conflict. It’s impossible to escape, what’s the vibe on the ground like?
The islands are known worldwide due to the war or conflict of 1982 where Argentina and Great Britain waged disputed over the territory. Being so recent there are still many remains of clothing, bullets, kitchens, shoes, parts of airplanes and helicopters at the battle fields and, of course, the cemeteries.
Also many of the tourism goes to visit these sites so the recent conflict is quite present.
The people in the island are very respectful and they live daily with many of the war consequences such as the mine fields that are still blocking them from going on to many of the beaches that before the war were part of their every day life.
Is there a surf community there?
The surf community is very small on the islands. There are some people working at the military base who surf and kite surf, but they don´t actually live there. So basically the local surf community is made up of two brothers.
How were the waves?
The waves were pretty good. We surfed some reefs, beachbreaks, and one slab. We also found a long left pointbreak but were not able to surf it since we were on a sailboat at the time and it was too late to disembark.
How difficult is it to score waves out there?
Very difficult, we stayed for 50 days in the islands in order to get good waves and film the documentary. The swells are pretty inconsistent, the strong winds, the difficult access and logistic... permits to get to many of the beaches makes it a challenge every time you want to even try and surf. To score on the islands you need time, lots of planning and resources.
Why choose the Falklands for a surf trip?
Being Argentineans, the Islas Malvinas or Falklands Islands is a present subject in our society, but we always only head about the war conflict and about the sovereignty issues.
So them being physically so close and at the same time so far apart, we wanted to go and see what there really was in the islands, how people live there, what were they like, explore them the most we could and one of our goals was to go and surf with two local brothers, (who such as us were born after the war) and try to communicate a message of peace and union through surfing and nature.
What surprised you about visiting there?
There are many many things that surprised us in our stay; How vast it is and the amount of wildlife that inhabits the islands. That only 2,800 people live on the islands and from more than 50 different nationalities. That there are still lots of remains from the 1982 conflict, we even found a backpack full of rusted bullets without being used.
That most of the land is privately owned and you need permits to enter every different farm. That people are welcoming and respectful. The possibility of finding new waves is unlimited.
Was it what you expected?
We went with few expectations, so it was much better than we had ever imagined, although at times we spent more than two weeks searching and exploring the islands, not surfing even one wave, nor getting into the sea… it is cold, windy, but the prize is rewarding when conditions align.
And even more rewarding was to break down mental barriers on our end and our new surfing local friends, to show that we are all humans and why we cannot have things in common and surf waves together, even if the territory is still being claimed by our home countries.
The film will drop in the next few months, keep your eyes HERE for more details on where to watch.