Peru’s Wave Runners
How adrenaline seekers are pushing urban boundaries
Surfing has an easy-rolling reputation that signifies a certain way of life from Canggu to Puerto Escondido, but as South American local Sorrel Moseley-Williams says, it’s the unexpected corners that surprise the scene the most.
One theory behind the birth of surfing suggests that Peruvians have been hanging 10 for some three millennia, yet it’s only in recent years that success on the world stage has begun to shine a spotlight on Lima’s swells.
While indigenous fishermen would surf over rollers with their day’s spoils atop their elegant caballitos de totora (a horn-shaped reed watercraft), today’s riders are hauling home medals rather than grouper. Leading this elite pack is former triple world champion Sofia Mulanovich and national stars Gabriel Villarán and Pilar Irigoyen. Meanwhile, 20-year-old Daniella Rosas and 27-year-old Miguel Tudela, who were the first Peruvian short boarders to represent their country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, are inspiring the next generation. Both Mulanovich and Tudela were born in Punta Hermosa, a small beach town 45-minutes south of the capital that’s known for raising prizewinners as well as point breaks.
“My parents surf and I’ve always had a close relationship with the sea, the waves and a board,” says Tudela who finished ninth in Tokyo. “It was 100 per cent obvious that I’d become a surfer.” The exhilarating rush of being on the dawn patrol might be one of Lima’s greatest secrets, but you don’t need to be a pro to jump on a board. Rookies should head to Costa Verde, a lengthy beach at the foot of the San Isidro and Miraflores districts, just along the coast from the Miraflores Park Hotel. “It’s a great place for beginners because there are plenty of long-running waves, which are quite gentle and not too big.
Plus, there are lots of schools for lessons,” says Mulanovich, who is also an advocate of TSA – Total Surf Academy – at Playa Makaha. Elsewhere, Tudela recommends novices sign up for classes at Tubos Surf School, run by Pablo Doig, whose 10-strong coaching team runs private, group and high-performance sessions in front of the San Isidro cliffs.
For an idyllic palm tree-backed crescent of golden sand, there’s also northern boho beach town Mancora, where Irigoyen runs Laguna Surf Camp. Here, the long, easy runners will have even the clumsiest of beginners standing up on a board and surfing. Closer to Lima, experienced riders make a beeline for Mulanovich’s hometown for larger rollers. “Punta Hermosa has better quality waves than Costa Verde, as they are more dangerous, let’s say, and stronger,” she says. Here, the social scene is starting to move away from the beach and you often find Tudela sipping a brew in his own grocery store, Charcutería Lucaffé, which he runs with model girlfriend Alessandra Bonelli. He’s also a fan of nearby Honos. “A gym and co-working space by day, it turns into a bar at night, which is pretty fun.”
To look like a local, he suggests picking up a board by Sefon, Klimax, Milano or Wayo Whilar, while Mulánovich recommends Boz for a handmade custom wetsuit. Once kitted up, those with serious carving skills can play the waiting game for one special wave that sweeps into Cabo Blanco in northern Peru several times a year: a fast left-hand barrel known as the Peruvian Pipeline.
It’s the ultimate surfing rite of passage – and one of the best places in the country to spot the next top talent in action.