Once more unto the beach, dear friends.
My plan had been to spend the last week of my time in Peru experiencing the Festival de Primavera–spring festival–of Trujillo. But I arrived the day it ended.
Instead, I’ve opted to stay in the nearby fishing village of Huanchaco. I’m spending my last few days relaxing in the sun and eating ceviche.
Ceviche is a Peruvian specialty. It’s fish served over a bed of vegetables and carbs–here, usually red onions and potatoes–with lime or lemon juice and aji peppers, served cold. With the exception of trout in Puno, I’ve stayed away from fish thus far in Peru. But now that I have access to freshly caught seafood, I’m eating it every day. Huanchaco’s beachfront is full of restaurants where a plate of ceviche comes as an appetizer for a main dish. Total cost: fifteen soles per meal, or less than five bucks. This place might be heaven.
Surfing is a popular hobby in this part of Peru. World champion surfers have come from Huanchaco. Some of them still live here. Nearby Chicama is a famous surf beach, known for having one of the longest breaks in the world.
I learned all of this during my surf lesson with Carlos.
The hardest part of surfing is everything. Paddling out to the waves is the first step. I’m woefully lacking in strength and fitness at the moment; by the time I reached the spot Carlos picked for my first attempt, my arms were aching. When I wasn’t taking a wave to the face and swallowing seawater, that is. Or simply tipping over on my board.
The next part was catching a wave. That was actually easy; Carlos pointed me toward the shore, watched the coming waves, and told me when to start paddling.
When he told me to get up, I got up. Or tried to. I spent twenty minutes practicing on dry land before going out on the water. It’s more complicated trying to stand up on a narrow board pitching on the ocean.
Carlos is a former competitive surfer. He’s been doing it his whole life. Over dinner, he showed me pictures from his younger days with the future champions of Huanchaco. When Carlos was on his board, he seemed to glide over the water, which felt in sharp contrast to my constant battle with the ocean.
“Go, go, go! Paddle, paddle, paddle! Up!”
Arms churning, I felt the board catch the wave underneath me. Moving my feet as I had practiced, I slowly raised myself on the board.
Then I fell.
Rinse, repeat. That’s how I my first surf lesson went. Sometimes I could only make it to one knee before falling off. Other times, I raised myself to a near crouch. On my final, glorious run of the day, I stood for an entire second. Maybe two. It felt like an eternity.