This is Huanchaco, Part 2: Surfing
There are many who would claim that the Mochica fishermen of Huanchaco were the world’s original surfers, riding the waves on their caballitos de totora (“little reed horses”). While this may be debated, the Mochica’s legacy is living on in Peru’s growing role in surfing tourism. From the little-known beaches far from civilization to the crowded waves of Mancora and Lima, surfers won’t have a hard time finding the perfect fit.
Huanchaco draws its fair share of Peru’s surf tourists. With up to 7 left-breaking and 2 right-breaking waves of various skill levels, it’s a great place for both beginner and intermediate students, and a good jumping-off point for daytrips to more advanced waves like Chicama (the world’s longest left) and Lobitos.
The lay of the ocean
Huanchaco’s malecón (boardwalk) follows the gently-curving beach, divided into north and south by the muelle (pier). Armies of surfers in gray wetsuits stomp barefoot along the sidewalk; some are old pros heading out to the more challenging southern waves, others are new students sticking to the sheltered waters of Playa la Curva just north of the muelle, grappling with their boards, leashes dangling awkwardly.
And among them all, darting through traffic with small boards tucked under their arms, bare-chested and impervious to the cold, local kids dive without hesitation into the waves of la Curva.
On the malecón you’ll find restaurant after restaurant serving delicious fresh fish during the day and parrilleras at night. Just look for the chef stoking the coals of an iron grill in the street: they’ll grill up just about anything you want, from fillet mignon to the day’s catch.
The malecón is also home to Huanchaco’s constantly shifting array of surfshops. They all run a similar rate: S/.40 ($15) for a lesson and S/.25 ($9) for a day’s gear rental. The lessons include: board, wetsuit, instructor, and full-day rental so you can go out later if you like.
Most of the surf shops have a similar carefree vibe with varying levels of attention, expertise, equipment and professionalism. Ask around and trust your gut as to whom you want to give your money and time, but there are two shops that stand out above the rest: Muchik Surf School and Indigan Surf School.
Muchik Surf School
This tiny shop is run by three of eight Huamanchumo siblings; brothers Chicho and Omar are the surf instructors and sister Margarita is the backbone of the operation. Chicho and Omar have been in Peru’s surf scene for decades, and their experience has helped them create a teaching method that gets students on their feet the first lesson, or their money back. Lessons offered in both English and Spanish.
Muchik (named after the language of the Chimu culture) sits in the elbow of the malecón, just a few blocks north of the muelle. You’ll know it by the red-brick front porch and thatched roof, and, if Chicho’s there, by the bicycle with a custom surf-board rack parked out front. Chicho and Omar have been teaching lessons and winning competitions since the 80’s, though they’ve only been in this location for about three years.
Their price per lesson is S/.40 ($15), with a volunteer discount. The price includes video and photography (make sure to request this), so that you can examine your technique once you’re done with the lesson.
The Huamanchumos are among the oldest families in Huanchaco, and if history is your thing, Chicho can talk your ear off. He also repairs and shapes boards in his rooftop shop.
Indigan Surf School
Indigan is set a bit off the main road on Av. Dean Saavedra, with a view overlooking the ocean. This comfortable surf shop is run out of the Urcia family home by two of the Urcia brothers, Jhon and Giancarlos. They’ve been open for about six years, and they have an impressive amount of experience and professionalism for their youth. Lessons offered in both Spanish and English.
Giancarlos has been surfing for 16 years, and it shows in how knowledgeable he is about equipment, and how dedicated he is to the betterment, safety, and enjoyment of his students.
Their price per lesson is the standard S/.40 ($15), with a discount for volunteers. If you’ll be around town for a while, however, Indigan also offers a monthly package of S/300 ($110) which includes five lessons, unlimited equipment rental, and backup support.
Indigan also offers homestays in the rooms behind the shop, and if surf school students get hungry in between the morning and afternoon sessions, Mama Urcia will cook up an economical menú lunch.
Surfing beyond Huanchaco
Both surf shops also offer custom trips to nearby surf spots like Pacasmayo, Puerto Chicama, and Puemape, all of which have only minimal tourism infrastructure.
For more information on the surrounding beaches, and other surf beaches in Peru, check out these links:
Curious about what it’s like to surf on a caballito de totora? Watch Omar Huamanchumo of Muchik Surf School:
Want to do some good during your time in Huanchaco? Join us next week to find out about volunteer opportunities in the area.