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Surfing Chicamera Peru with the friendiest locals


Everyone’s surfed with enough unsavory characters to know the value of some positive lineup mates. Apparently, Chicameros – locals at Peru’s famed wave of Chicama – could be the world’s friendliest. While it certainly depends who you ask, and probably how crowded their local lineup is, these guys maintain the locals at Peru’s longest wave are among the world’s friendliest. And that goes a long way when scratching for what could be the wave of your life as well as hitching a boat ride back out to the peak of the leg-burning left. Locals will actually pick you up and deliver you to the top of the point. That’s worth some points right there.

 

More About Chicamera:

 

HOW LONG IS LONG?
Nobody has made an exact measure of Chicama's length, but think about this for a second: the wave peels perfectly for more than a mile. That's 1.6 kilometers, for you metric-inclined folks, and super long for those who don't like numbers. If you use your watch's chronometer when the wave begins to break at the point and you start counting, by the time the wave reaches the pier and the ride ends, three minutes have passed. Three minutes. Whether you prefer to ride one wave at Chicama from the point to the pier or to spend three hours to get thirty 6-second rides at your local beachbreak -- both having the same net surfing time -- is not really the topic of this article.

Chicama is one of the very few places where your legs are more important than your arms. This is a typical comment made by surfers that have surfed Chicama on a good swell. When you finish riding your first wave and your legs are about to collapse, you have to walk back to the point against the strong offshore winds for about 15 minutes -- don't think about paddling one mile against the current.

Another option is to hire a motorcycle cab (check the photo) to get you back to the point. These cabs wait for you at the pier and for a couple of soles (about 60 cents of a dollar) your legs can rest enough for the next long ride. If you're both a surfer and a marathon runner, you'll be in heaven.

UH, CROWDS?
Chicama is a dusty little forgotten town and it seems that surfers also forgot how good this wave is. On a good swell you will be surfing with about a dozen guys (usually about 8 on the water and about 4 walking to the point at any given time). Considering the size of the surfing zone at Chicama, 8 guys in the water means one guy every 150 yards. On a good day, once you start paddling you will not see your surfing pals until the end of the session. When you are at the point, some of them are just tiny spots at the half of the bay and the rest of them are walking back to the point.

ORIGINS
Chicama was discovered back in 1967, when a group of surfers made a trip to search for a very long wave that a Hawaiian surfer named Chuck Shipman saw through the window of a plane when he was returning home from a trip to Peru. Chuck asked the pilot about the place and got some clues about its location. Back in Hawaii he wrote a letter to his Peruvian friends about this extremely long wave and its possible location. Carlos "Flaco" Barreda (brother of the famous Peruvian surfer "Gordo", who died last April) and a small group of surfers were the first ones to ride this endless left with permanent offshore winds. Definitely a longboarder's paradise.

It sounds to good to be true, but the fact is that Chicama has some weaknesses, such as size -- it needs good swells to break and it is rare to see it breaking above 6-foot faces; and water temperature -- it is relatively cold, so bring your fullsuit and booties for walking long distances over sand and rocks.

Oddly, though, Chicama has avoided the fate of many other good wave destinations in the word (J-Bay, Kuta, Puerto Escondido, etc). It's still just a dusty little town, not changed a bit since its discovery 35 years ago. -- Gonzalo Barandiaran