Surfing in Peru
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For travelers from all over the world, Peru offers waves for everyone: beginners, intermediate, and advanced longboard riders alike surfers. Máncora, the largest left hand point break in the world, located in the northern coast of Peru, deserves special mention. In addition to this, the greatest left-handed wave in the world is to be found at Chicama, which is over 4 km long.
Swells are generated far south and most of the spots get consistent offshore winds. The large number of surf spots make it easy to find uncrowded waves.
Surfing is a very popular activity in Peru; it has produced world wide champions such as Sofía Mulánovich, 2004 female world champion, Luis Miguel "Magoo" De La Rosa ISA World Masters Surfing Championship 2007 leader, and Cristobal de Col, 2011 World Junior Champion. Lima, the capital of Peru, is also very attractive to surfers because of the variety of its waves. Surfers venturing into the waters in Peru are advised to use a wetsuit to protect themselves against the elements.
Although the birthplace of modern surfing is associated with the Hawaii islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the first Peruvian settlers have tried to ride the waves for fish since ancient times.
Today, surfing enjoys great acceptance within Peruvian society thanks to the worldwide success of its many national representatives. Long ago, surfing was deemed as a sport for the "elite" with a few spaces on newspaper articles, some minutes on the radio, an ever-present daily sea report on Double Nine Radio and scarce television interviews. Nowadays, surfing has found a place in the hearts all Peruvians and it currently has gained more exposure, having its own space on TV: Surf Peru, a program delivered through CMD, Magic Cable channel 3.
Every summer, the beaches of Peru fill with surfing children, youth, adults and even pets. During winter, surf academies make their appearances to new surfers preparing for next summer. Peru has become the obligatory point of passage for various surfers around the world. Peru is, after Brazil, the second more important country in the region in this sport.
The number of surf shops has increased near beaches or in big cities. Many artisan and industrial shops are making headway in a market that becomes more competitive every day. A surfboard, which had not previously cost less than $300, can now be purchased for $50. To achieve all this, however, Peruvian surfing had to go through many stages.
The mythical origin of surfing has two versions: one that indicates its beginnings in Polynesia, and one indicates the sport began on the northern Peruvian coasts. The latter is based on pottery of the pre-Inca Moche culture, which apparently shows a man on logs, trying to traverse the waves. These ceramic pieces can be found in major museums in Peru.
Although the latter is one of the most widespread versions, neither of the two versions have been confirmed. However, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl confirmed there was contact between the ancient Peruvians and people from Polynesia. Therefore, it is not uncommon that the history of surfing is connected with Peru and Polynesia.
Even today, one can appreciate the famous caballitos de totora (lit. "ponies of reed"), or small reed fishing boats, for example in Huanchaco. These 'caballitos' are small boats made of a material very similar to that used by Heyerdahl to build Kon-Tiki. The shape of the boats resemble the shape of a surfboard. Fishermen use them for easy handling.
Early days of modern surfing
The first major incursion of surfing on Peruvian beaches was in the 1930s when Carlo Dogny was invited to Hawaii for a tournament. It was in Hawaii that he met Duke Kahanamoku, the founder of modern surfing, who taught him the rudimentary techniques to master the waves.
When World War II took place, Dogny had to return to Peru. In 1942 he founded Club Waikiki 2, and though it started out as just mats facing the sea, it was the first club for the exclusive practice of surfing in Peru. Today, Waikiki is one of the most famous and exclusive clubs of Lima. The first National Surfing Championship (Spanish: Campeonatos Nacionales de Surf) in Peru took place in 1950. Since then, there have been more than 30 tournaments.
Since the championship, won by Felipe Pomar, surfing began to spread to other latitudes of Lima and Peru. In the 1970s, the resort of Ancón opened north of Lima, and in the 1980s came San Bartolo and Punta Hermosa in the south. In those two decades, surfing not only spread along the Costa Verde and the beaches around Lima but extended to other beaches in Peru, arriving in La Libertad, Lambayeque and Piura. Peruvian waves were dominated by intrepid youth as Magoo de la Rosa and other surfers of the early years; these new young people looked to the sea as a friend and not as an obstacle to overcome.
During the 1990s, surfing underwent a major takeoff in the creation of the Latin American Surfing Association (known by its acronym ALAS). This association served as an important showcase for the new batch of Peruvian surfers.
The Pan American Championships in ALAS helped Peruvian surfing definitively take off internationally. At the same time, the South American championships, largely dominated by Brazil, became a new sample to the Peruvian delegation, who were just winning some dates in both competitions.
Peru's surfboard building industry started with some wooden boards made locally. Around 1969, Dennis Choate and Leo Hetzel came and made Pacific Surfboards. Peru was the first country in Latin America to build surfboards and the main manufacturers of this craft were Aldo Fosca, Bruja Letts, Alan Sitt, Fernando Ortiz de Zevallos, Wayo Whilar, and Iván Zarda. Of these shapers, Ivan and Wayo still are on top of the world class elite designing and building surfboards. Both are still shaping state of the art surfboards.
In 2004, Sofía Mulánovich became the second Peruvian representative to reach the World Open Championship title. As had happened with Felipe Pomar in 1965, Mulanovich brought Peru back to the front page of world surfing.
But she was not the only Peruvian winner; Analí Gómez became the Latin America champion in the open category. In 2007, she won the title of world runner-up in the youth category, the first Peruvian to win in the category. This was only the beginning of a long list of Peruvian champions in South American and Pan-American tournaments including Matías Mulánovich (Sofía Mulánovich's brother), Javier Swayne, Manuel Roncalla, Gabriel Villarán, and Sebastián Alarcón.
The Peruvian Surf Team reached the 2010 Billabong ISA World Team Championship in Punta Hermosa, Peru. The final score was 14370 for Peru, Australia got second place with a 14160 points score and the third place was for South Africa with 11820 points.
Months later, Peru won the Quicksilver ISA World Junior Championship 2011, again in Punta Hermosa. Cristobal de Col became World Junior Champion. This outstanding achievements consolidated Peru as a Surfing powerhouse.
Today, surfing in Peru has begun to spread; boys and girls from different social classes practice this sport. It has the support of many sponsors and international events have been conducted on the beaches in Peru.