surfing the centuries old way

  • having a lesson
  • ready for it
  • paddling out
  • need a break
  • this is how you do it
  • trying to lift it
  • almost getting squashed by the caballito
  • painting on side of wall
  • hostel painting
  • fish sculpture
  • bird sculpture

After days of frustratingly looking out at the sea and hearing other surfers coming back from a session, knowing that I couldn't go in because of my cut foot, I finally said screw it, and went in today. Not to surf my new board, but to try out the Caballito de Totora - a reed fishing "boat" that's been used here by fisherman for centuries.

My main reason for coming to Huanchaco was to get myself ready to surf Puerto Chicama, supposedly the world's longest left, and the second reason, to have a go at surfing the caballitos (little horses). When that stupid, stupid girl (being nice here) cut my foot open I figured I'd have to give both a skip. But today, I bandaged my foot up real tight, rented a pair of booties from a surf shop and headed down to the beach to chat with the fishermen. I persuaded one to let me rent his caballito, for 15 soles for an hour (about 5 dollars - pretty steep considering I'm paying 7 dollars for my accommodation). It was worth every cent. It was a bit like using a giant paddle ski. These things are about 4m long and must weigh about 80kg, so not exactly the modern day stuff people use in the surf. The locals have supposedly been fishing on these for centuries and surfing them for as long - so some of them lay claim to being the origin of surfing.

The "paddle" is a thick bamboo stem cut in half, with no handles, so after a few minutes of paddling your hands pretty much turn to rubber. After paddling out for a while, I spotted my first wave and went for it. It was beginner's luck and I was away. Rode it for a few seconds, sitting down, but these things are a lot more difficult to balance than they appear. Still it was a cool ride. After that I paddled around some more and had a go at a few more waves, but none of the rides compared to the first. I even gave standing up a shot, and made it to me knees before I lost control of the colossal raft and tumbled over almost getting smacked in the face.

I also asked the dude I rented the wetsuit and booties off to take some pictures of me and he was more than happy to do so. Well, when I say more than happy, he said he would and then tried scamming 5 soles off me. I was tempted to get my own back by peeing in his wetsuit, but I figured I'd be the better man.

Naturally the whole experience wasn't great for the foot, and the cut opened up again slightly, but it was definitely worth it. Now that I've done that I figured it's time to head off to Puerto Chicama where I can chill for a day and hopefully by Friday I'll be able to surf....