While the mythical nation of Peru is most famed for the ruins of Machu Picchu and it's rich Inca heritage yet many an adventurous surfer is drawn here for something entirely different altogether. When the fleets of the ruthless Spanish Conquistadors first arrived in Peru in 1528 in search of golden riches and the lost city of El Darado little did they know of the other treasures hidden there. For decades now nomadic surfers have been making the pilgrimage to the famed coastline of Peru in search of gold, gold in liquid form, in the form of some of the most perfect and longest left hand waves on the face of the earth today. Discover why you should make Peru your next surfing travel destination. [Continued below]
Peru: A Goofy Footers Dream
Mention the name of Peru to any serious surfer and instantly the thought of Peru's famed and incredibly long left-hand point breaks will flood their feeble salt encrusted little minds. Here in Peru is where some of the longest if not the longest waves in the world are ever so quietly housed. To put it simply Peru is a goofy-foot surfers paradise and just the thought of well over minute long leg burning left-handers is more than enough to make any surfer froth heavily at the bit. The quality and sheer quantity of world class waves in Peru is absolutely mind blowing and one needs to only briefly browse along the Pacific coast of Peru on google earth to gain an insight into the true surf potential housed here. Between May to October of every year the beautifully rugged and raw coastline of Peru experiences a constant onslaught of large perfect and extremely powerful swells that march their way up the Pacific coast of South America all the way from the freezing waters of Antarctica.
The entire Peruvian coast is absolutely bursting at the seams with left hand point break after left-hand point break. Commencing in the deep South of Peru all the way to the far northern reaches of Lobitos and Mancora. This blessed country is home to a multitude of waves that all break in different swell sizes and styles. From fully exposed breaks to much more sheltered spots that will only break on large swells a handful of times a year. From top to bottom barrels to much more mellow rolling beginners waves and everything else in between. In Peru there is definitely a wave here to suit all styles, tastes and surfing levels... there is something for everyone here. Unfortunately I am sorry to break it to the natural footers out there.... don't expect to have much joy when in search of perfect right-handers as they tend to be rarer than gold dust on the coast of Peru. [Continued below]
Lobitos: Perfect Waves in the Peruvian Desert
I spent the majority of my time in the Northern realms of Peru, six weeks to be precise and I can tell you that I was not disappointed in the slightest having scored some of the best waves of my life there. The waves I stumbled apon in the formerly bustling oil but now ghost town of Lobitos were, not to mince my words here, absolutely epic. I shit you not, Lobitos is absolutely epic. With around eight different point breaks all within a short 5-6km stretch what's not to love? The majority of spots are all within walking distance of each other. Fast, down the line high performance waves with the odd cheeky barrel section thrown in for good measure, whats not to love?
The actual town of Lobitos is absolutely fascinating. It was founded in the 1960's by English and American expats working in the Oil industry but they were later driven out by the Peruvian Government when they Nationalised the Peruvian oil industry. The town of Lobitos lay abandoned and in ruin for decades, that is until adventurous surfers begun to frequent the town in search of the perfect wave and perfect left hand point breaks that had stayed virtually undiscovered here and as they say the rest is now history. If you are in search of epic waves in an truly epic and unique location then look no further than Lobitos. Did I mention it was epic? [Continued below]
The World's Longest Wave? Chicama.
If you were to venture just a few hours south of Lobitos you will soon find the famed wave of Chicama which is commonly dubbed as the longest wave on the planet. The wave of Chicama is housed in the small sleepy coastal fishing village of Puerto Malabrigo/Chicama and this legendary wave will well and truly comes to life when extra large South swells begin to march their way up the Pacific coast of South America. When the swell really kicks in here the circus comes to town as people will travel from all over Peru and the world arrive to claim their slice of this mythical wave.
Rumour has it that when the conditions are all time it is possible to ride a wave all the way from the outside peak, through the inside beach section and to finally kick out at the pier over 2.2km's away. However, these legendary conditions can prove to be very rare indeed and may only occur a handful of times each year. I scored Chicama in the overhead to 1.5 times overhead range and while the waves did not break anywhere close to the lengths previously mentioned it was possible to get waves close to 600-800 meters long, still true leg burning material. While at times Chicama can be more of a fuller wave I did luck into a few sessions with very racey down the line sections and even lucked into the very odd barrel section. It was great to finally tick Chicama off the must surf bucket-list. I scored some amazing waves there and thoroughly enjoyed my time in this unique and interesting little surf town. [Continued below]
The Ancient Surfers of Huanchaco
A couple of hours South of Chicama lies the ancient fishing village of Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a slightly larger and more vibrant backpacker town and can act a nice break from the sleepier surf towns lurking further north. Unfortunately the waves I encountered here during my stay in Huanchaco where probably the worst I had encountered during my time in Peru as here the waves tends to be more full, mushy and often section. Saying that it is probably the perfect location for the beginner surfer. Despite the distinctly average wave quality the town of Huanchaco itself is more than worth a visit due to it's rich surfing history and close proximity to the ancient ruins of Chan Chan and the imposingly gigantic temples of the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and the Moon). These ruins are the most important yet least known pre Inca ruins in Peru and their scale is mind blowing and definitely worth taking the time to explore.
In regards to Huanchaco rich surfing history, while most commonly attribute the origins of surfing to the ancient Hawaiins yet in fact wave riding in Peru predates this. In the Northern reaches of Peru the Moche people have been riding the surf for well over 5000 years. What many people do not realise is that the Caballito de Totora was actually the first known surf-craft in human history and well predates surfing in Hawaii. For thousands of years the Moche fishermen of Huanchaco in Northern Peru would often be seen returning from a days fishing by ridding the Caballito de Totora to shore in a standing stance very similar to the stand-up paddle boarders of the modern area. This is your history lesson for the day, you can thank me later. [Continued below]
Under the Radar
While I may have only briefly touched on some of the more well known surf spots in the North of Peru there are limitless numbers of epic uncrowded spots along the entire Pacific Coast of Peru just out there waiting for you. However, I will leave it up to you to do the research to score these waves as they say loose ships sinks ships but let me just say that Chicama was the second longest wave I surfed in Peru. Although the majority of spots these days are in fact no secret I'll let you do the hard yards to find these on your own. Never stop searching. Get out there and explore and you will be justly rewarded for your efforts. [Continued below]
Culture, Heritage and Food
From a cultural perspective Peru is a truly, truly amazing country to visit. While the majority of the coastline is dry rugged desert once you are greeted by the bases of the Andes mountain ranges the cultural factor soars through the roof as you are now deep in Inca territory. The Cusco region while obviously very touristy is still more than worth leaving the coast to visit. Like they say...when in Rome...so any visit to Peru would not be complete without a visit to the jaw dropping beautiful mystic Machu Picchu. Quite frankly it would be rude not to right? But there is much, much more to the Cusco region than just one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world. While Machu Picchu itself is truly spell binding but for me it is only just the tip of the ice berg.
The Cusco region alone is absolutely overflowing with the rich history and heritage of the ancient Inca civilisation. If you come to this region and solely visit Machu Picchu then you are really missing out on the true cultural richness of which this region has to offer. It would be akin to visiting a world renown 5-star restaurant and only partaking in the dessert. The scale of the rich Inca heritage and the natural beauty that is overflowing here is truly a sight to behold and your plane ticket here will be more than worth its weight in gold. From the ancient Inca ruins that dominate the Sacred Valley to the Spanish colonial heritage abundant in Cusco itself, to the countless Spanish and Inca traditions and festivals evident here, to the abundant beauty of the Andes mountains, Salt flats and Rainbow mountian, the list goes on, there is absolutely no shortage of amazing things to see and do around Cusco. You could literally spend weeks in the Cusco region and never become remotely bored. Further a field you have the beautiful white city of Arequipa, the sprawling metropolis of Lima and the wonders of the Nazca lines just to name a few further places of note. Quite possibly your biggest challenge when visiting Peru will be trying to fit everything you wish to see and do into such a short time-frame.
"And what about the food?" I hear you ask. Well Peruvian cuisine is quickly becoming famous the world over and not without due reason. This new found fame is largely attributed to it's unique blend of Inca, Spanish, Basque, and Asian influences. While in Peru you cannot miss out on culinary luxuries such as incredible ceviches, rich fish stews, Tamales, Lomo Saltado, Humitas and for the brave out there you will even find roast guinea pig and alpaca gracing the menus of the nation. Finally to top it all off Peru is dirt cheap when compared to many South American countries. In this regard Peru is a thrifty backpackers dream as you will definitely get more bang for your buck here! [Continued below]
The Peruvian People
On a whole I found the Peruvian people to be extremely friendly, welcoming, helpful and kind although at times you still need to be on your guard as foreigner they may look to take advantage of you in order to make a quick buck. However this type of person is common place in tourist capitals the world over, once you look past the annoying hustlers you will find Peruvians to be among some of the friendliest and warmest people in the Latin Americas. What I really admire about Peru is despite it not being one of the wealthiest of countries in Latin America the people as still very happy. One big lesson my travels have taught me is more often than not the people with the least are the happiest. The same came be said about the Peruvian people as Peruvians are happy with what they have and are not overly focused on what they do not have, they seem to focus on the positives and what is truly important in life. For the people of Peru the glass of Pisco sour is half full not half empty.
Safety in Peru
But is Peru safe? In regards to safety in Peru, not at one point in my time in this amazing country did I feel remotely in danger or threatened and unlike many other Latin American nations Peru did not seem to overly suffer from many of the negative crime related aspects associated with poverty. Having said that I did not not spend anytime in Lima and with many Capital cities in Latin America I believe the situation there to be very different in this sense. I believe that if you have the right attitude and take basic safety travel precautions you will most likely have no troubles while traveling in Peru. [Continued below]
Why Peru? Well why the hell not? What more can I say? I had an unbelievably amazing time during my time spent in Peru. This beautifully unique nation completely blew me away and Peru has easily become one of the major highlights of my Latin American adventures. Whats not to love about Peru? I scored some of the best waves of my life here and I also experienced one of what I believe is the most fascinating and unique countries in the world largely thanks to its spell binding Inca heritage, breathtaking natural beauty and the open, friendly and happy Peruvian people. You have to visit Peru at least once in your life be it to experience the world class waves or unique culture on offer there. Now try giving me one good reason why not to make Peru your next surf travel destination?