Save the Waves Coalition Visits Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve and Chicama

By Carlos Antonio Ferrer, World Surfing Reserve Vision Council Member

Photos by STW Artist Ambassador Nikki Brooks

En español

Planning the trip to Peru

The members of STW had been toying with the idea to visit Huanchaco, the fifth World Surfing Reserve, since last December and, unlike the previous visits to other World Surfing Reserves, this time they wanted to include surfing as part of their agenda. They decided to go to Peru in August, to take advantage of the big southern swells reaching the shores of Peru during the Southern Hemisphere winter, favoring beaches like Chicama, arguably the longest wave, located forty miles north from Huanchaco.  Eight enthusiasts members/surfers were able to travel to Peru: Nik Strong-Cvetich, Executive Direct Nick Mucha, Programs Director, Gregory Jones, President of Board of Directors, Nicole Brooks, Artistic Ambassador and Photographer, Al Ramadan, Board Director, Jim Freeman, Volunteer and Donor and Jeremy Ertl, Vision Council Member, they were joined by Luis Felipe Rodriguez, from “Fundacion Rompientes from Chile” a STW key partner and Peruvians Carolina Butrich and Bruno Monteferri from “Conservamos por Naturaleza”, she is also the head of “Hazla por tu Ola” a NGO dedicated to preserve waves in Peru. She and Monteferri along with others committed to defend Peruvian waves, were fundamental for the enacting of the Law 27280, a law intended to protect all Peruvian waves suitable for surfing. Please see the following interview of Butrich and Monteferri regarding the Law 27280.

La Maquina (The Machine)

As previously written, the members of STW wanted to surf and they wanted to include Chicama, known as La Maquina, into their surf agenda too.  They were hoping to catch good waves during their visit to Peru, dreaming of the famous endless and perfect corduroy lines of Chicama. As good luck will have it, all the surf forecast websites were announcing an amazing swell to hit Chicama by August 14th and August 15th, the first two days of their scheduled visit to Peru. Tuesday the 14th   arrived and the waves as they were forecasted were on fire.  I went with Carlos Bracamonte and Alfredo Gamero, to Huanchaco’s airport to pick up part of the members of the delegation. Unfortunately, and unlike Mother Nature, the airline in charge of getting most of the people from California to Peru, did not meet its end and they arrived into Huanchaco´s airport a day later, on Wednesday the 15th.

The fortunate surfers that went first to La Maquina were Greg Jones, Carolina Butrich and Felipe Rodriguez where they would meet Bruno Monteferri. Once there, and without wasting any time, they went straight to The Point (the first section of Chicama) to enjoy the waves and La Maquina did not disappoint them. Waves were so long that their legs began to shake during the ride. On Wednesday 15th, a tired but happy group from California finally arrived  in Huanchaco´s airport and we went to Chicama again right after breakfast to join the rest of the team. Luckily, La Maquina still was pumping long and fun waves and they decided to stay an extra day in Chicama.

Bruno Monteferri showed his documentary film about Law 27280 to the Chicama surfers and Save The Waves about the Law 27280, the Peruvian law that protects the surf breaks. The response of the local surfers was very positive and many of them got the chance to understand the intricacy of dealing with all parties in order to preserve a specific wave like Cabo Blanco.

Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve

In October 2013, Huanchaco was dedicated as the Fifth World Surfing Reserve, the first in Latin America, not only because of its good and consistent waves but because it is the cradle of the caballito de totora, the first surf-vessel used by mankind to ride the waves. 

Huanchaco Threats

We have has two big threats. The first is the potential anthropogenic destruction of our waves, and the second is the illegal landfill located in Buenos Aires Beach, south from Huanchaco, and the culprit for trash in our beaches and ocean every time a big swell hits Northern Peru. Big waves created from such swells scoops out the trash from the landfill and take it the ocean, where it is carried to the northern beaches from Buenos Aires  (due to the Peruvian ocean current that runs from south to north). 

The Law 272780

After Chicama, Huanchaco was the second beach to register with the National Surfing Break Registration Office (RENARO), the central government office overseeing what beach is allowed to be protected by the Law 27280. With the financial support from STW, Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve was able to achieve such feat.  Huanchaco and Chicama paved the way for an easier registration with RENARO, for the next Peruvian beaches seeking protection for their waves. Thanks to this law, Huanchaco now has the legal tool to fight back against any project that may affect or destroy our waves.

Dealing with the Beach Trash

As I wrote before, there is an illegal landfill south from Huanchaco, in Buenos Aires beach, which is the main source of the plastic pollution in our beaches and ocean. Several Huanchaco organizations, among them Huanchaco WSR, have made different efforts to tackle this environmental problem with little success, due to the lack of cooperation of the local authorities. We need to hold them accountable for this problem and demand that they get their act together and put an end to the plastic pollution in our beaches and ocean.

STW Key Partners

So far, Peru is the only country in the world to have a national law to protect its surf breaks, leading Save The Waves to create an alliance with the Peruvian agency Conservamos por Naturaleza and Chilean organization Fundacion Rompientes in an attempt to replicate the Peruvian experience in other beaches around the world. Bruno Monteferri and Carolina Butrich from Conservamos por Naturaleza had some strategic meetings with Save The Waves in Chicama, and Felipe Rodriguez from Fundacion Rompientes also had some meetings with STW members not only in Chicama but in Huanchaco too.

Nikki BrooksOn the line-up with the Champions

The Peruvian Surfing Federation (FENTA) held a National longboard and SUP contest during Save The Waves’ visit to Huanchaco, giving the visitors the opportunity not only to watch the best Peruvian longboarders surfing Huanchaco but to share waves with them. Extraordinary surfers such Piccolo Clemente, two times WSL World Longboard Champion and Maria Fernanda Reyes, Peruvian Longboard Champion, were present in Huanchaco and they were the most outstanding longboarders among the elite group of surfers competing in Huanchaco, both winning their own division.

Riding Waves with the TUP

From south of Lima to northern Peru, ancient Peruvians used a totora reed surf-vessel for their daily fishing activities and this surf-vessel was used also for ludic purposes, for riding waves.  Thousands of years later, this surfcraft still is used by indigenous people from Huanchaco. This small craft built out of totora reeds was known as “Tup” during pre-Columbian time and when the Spaniards arrived to Peru they coined the word “Caballito de Totora” to describe what them because they thought that the fishermen were riders on top of their small horses, challenging the waves. Nowadays in Huanchaco, the tradition of riding waves with the caballito still is practiced by many of the fishermen. Among them are the Ucañan brothers, led by Huevito “The King of the Caballito.” Huevito and his brothers, David and Victor, offered Save The Waves a caballito session, where they taught them how to make a caballito, how put the caballito on their shoulder, how to paddle the caballito and finally how to catch a wave like their ancestors, the Moche and Chimu people. Then the fun began!

History of the Totora Ponds Protected Area

Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve member Bernardo Alva, delivered a great presentation about the history of the totora ponds to save The Waves. Alva talked about making this area into a protected area in 1992, where a young Felipe Pomar along with Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, were supporting Huanchaco fishermen to protect the totora ponds. Alva also mentioned the dangers and threats to this area, how to preserve it, and how to make it a better and safer place for fisherman to conduct different economic activities related to their ancient marine culture and have a supplemental income.

Visiting the totora ponds

The next day, after Alva´s presentation, Save The Waves paid visit to the totora ponds located in the north side of the outskirt of Huanchaco, a protected area since 1992. There they met with Lorenzo Ucañan, President of the Ancestral Huanchaco Fishermen Association, and the mayor of Huanchaco was also present. Ucañan expressed his concern about protected area’s future, and Save The Waves was able to learn, first hand, about the problems and possible solutions of the totora ponds.

Huanchaco Surf City Board of Directors Installation

After visiting the totora ponds we went to have lunch at “El Mococho” (Quechua word for seaweed), perhaps the best restaurant in Huanchaco. Then we went to watch the National Longboard Competition, where Nick Mucha talked to the audience about the World Surfing Reserves program and he asked local surfers to support the Huanchaco WSR. After dinner we went to the Municipal auditorium to attend the ceremony of the installation of the Board of Directors of Huanchaco’s Surf City. Chilean Felipe Rodriguez was in charge of giving the oath to the new members of this surfing organization. STW Executive Director Nik Strong-Cvetich was invited to the stage, where he was asked to talk about his thoughts about Huanchaco’s living culture and the meaning of Huanchaco as World Surfing Reserve.

There are only three beach communities in the world that have the honor to be a World Surfing Reserve and a Surf City: Ericeira in Portugal, Gold Coast in Australia and Huanchaco in Peru. This honor is a tremendous responsibility for Huanchaco’s surfing community as it will continue to grow its surfing industry in a sustainable way while protecting its wave and ancient marine culture.

Huanchaco’s Ancient History

Quite often, unexpected events from a great trip turn it into a memorable one. This trip had several unexpected episodes to make it an incredible one, but perhaps the visit to the oldest archeological site of Huanchaco was the most amazing thing ever experienced by the members of STW during their journey in Peru. After surfing Chicama until Thursday, the group went to Huanchaco and during dinner time of the same Thursday they were approached by Kristin Romey, an America archeologist and editor for National Geographic.

Romey told them about the exciting archeological site just a few yards away from our hotel, where Peruvian archeologist Gabriel Prieto was working with his team to excavate a place called “Pampa La Cruz.” She invited us to visit Pampa La Cruz the following morning. As many of you may know, Prieto was the archeologist that recently discovered the biggest children sacrifice in Peruvian history and he also unearthed the remaining miniature caballito de totora (carbon dated 3500 years old) in Pampas Gramalote, a site located two miles south from Huanchaco.

Prieto welcomed our delegation to Pampa La Cruz with a charming smile and gave us a master class about Huanchaco´s history and their ancient inhabitants. A couple days later we were invited to visit Prieto’s archeological laboratory in National University of Trujillo (UNT). Upon our arrival to the lab, Prieto began to unpack several bins containing many archeological objects of his most recent discoveries in Pampa La Cruz, including a ceremonial knife, several well preserved garments (one of them printed with beautiful waves) a headdress made of brilliant and colorful parrot feathers, and many other ancient artifacts. The fact that STW visitors were able to experience, in-situ, the millenary history of the ancient people from Huanchaco, was really unique lifetime event. I’m pretty confident that from now each one of this distinguished visitors are Ambassadors for our ancient culture.

After visiting Prieto’s laboratory we headed to “Huaca La Luna” (The Moon Temple), one of the most impressive monuments built by the Moche people, where they ruled Northern Peru from the first century to approximately 850.  Huaca La Luna is a truncate pyramid, located a few miles south from Huanchaco, near the Moche River. Close to Huaca La Luna is a larger monumental pyramid called “Huaca El Sol”, believed to serve as an administrative building. Before entering to Huaca La Luna, we first visited the museum where Ricardo Morales and the late Santiago Uceda, directors of this archeological site, had done a superb job setting up a beautiful display of all objects excavated from this archeological site. Morales made sure that we had the opportunity to admire all the spaces in La Luna, and, again, STW visitors were able to learn more about the ancient people from Northern Peru.

Results of STW Visit

Nik Strong-Cvetich, Executive Director of STW, set the goals for this visit as follows:

  • To familiarize STW supporters with Huanchaco WSR.
  • Check in on progress and needs.
  • Take some time for strategic thinking and planning
  • Surf Huanchaco and Chicama

I think all members of STW fulfilled their expectations and their goals were achieved satisfactorily.

All members of Huanchaco World Surfing were very pleased with this visit that enabled us not only to bond but to show our STW friends our place, our waves, our ancient culture and it also allowed us to let them know about our problems, our challenges and our positive results.  We still have a long journey ahead of us, yet we are confident to tackle every single challenge one by one, due to our knowledge and love for our place; we are confident to continue working successfully for our beach community with the support of STW.

On behalf of the Local Stewardship Council Members of Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve, I want to thank Save the Waves Coalition visiting members, I want also to thank Bruno Monteferri and Carolina Butrich from Conservamos por Naturaleza and Hazla por tu Ola, and also our gratitude to Felipe Rodriguez from Fundacion Rompientes de Chile, with their visit to our beach community they had written an important chapter in our World Surfing Reserve history. Let’s keep paddling forward!

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