Land of 10,000 Kitesurfing Turns
The Toyota Hilux 4WD is being driven on the edge of control, almost hovering above the dusty access road used by the Petrotech oil company. As we had crest the final hill we see that the hour-long car ride is well worth it. Lines taper down the point as the wind sculpts waves into ruler-perfect lefts. My pulse quickens as I see only two surfers in the lineup and a six-wave set pushing down the sand point. These are the kind of setups I drew in my high-school notebook. It is literally flawless. Welcome to Northern Peru; it is every bit as good as it looks. After three-plus weeks of being here you’d think I’d be used to what lies in front of me—but I’m not.
As a surfer and kitesurfer, and a photographer of both, I had found myself on many trips to the far reaches of the globe, watching other people having fun doing the things I love. Most trips I go on are a quick strike; get in and get the shots; get out, come home and write a story. Peru was different. I had been talking about going to Peru for the past six months, and I will admit that this was one trip I was fired up about doing. I am a goofy footer, so I was intrigued by the idea of getting to surf and kite perfect waves frontside.
I had just returned from a surf trip to Bali, Indonesia, when I switched on my cell phone after a lengthy flight. I was greeted by 47 new voice mails—one was a long-distance message from Gary Siskar in Peru. He had been a marketing director for some of the biggest companies in action sports. He had a great job and a house in San Clemente, California, minutes from world-class surf—living the dream, right? He now lives in Northern Peru, where he runs an amazing retreat hotel called Samana Chakra in Mancora. World-class kiteboarding lay a mere 27 metres from his hotel.
“Wolly, I’ve conjured up a crew! They’re heading to Peru in 10 days with or without you, are you in?” The next three messages are from pro surfers Josh Mulcoy, Reo Stevens and a combo message from the two Liquid Force boys: Mauricio Abreu and Davey Blair. They were all calling about the trip to Peru and freaking out about getting tickets. I’m not even through customs and am already leaving the country again. Without effort, the crew was set. Four of the world’s premier waveriders and a wind-and-wave-addicted photographer were en route to Peru, home of some of the world’s longest waves.
During the entire trip, the five of us were so excited we could hardly stop talking. Gary had told me about Peru when I worked with him in Hawaii. I knew it would be good but I didn’t realize I was about to have the best month of my surfing and kitesurfing life.
Mancora is a sleepy fishing village blessed with one of the best climates in the world. This region of Northern Peru has been one of South America’s closest-kept secrets for ages. The beaches are pristine, untouched and caressed with the warm ocean water. Sitting just south of the equator, Mancora is boarded by the currents of the Pacific Ocean, with the Andes to the east, creating a perfect microclimate. This arid terrain, combined with the cool-and-steady ocean breeze creates an average temperature of 26°C—the perfect climate to enjoy what the area has to offer.
The dry coast is made up of a series of sand points and open beach breaks, which are open to wind and swell. There are a few main points that are popular with kiteboarders, such as Lobitos, Mancora and El Gulf; and plenty of spots waiting to be discovered. The downwind potential is beyond words, with the locals doing 20-kilometre downwinders.
It doesn’t take long for Stevens, Abreu, Mulcoy, and Blair to hit the water. It was like watching an endless rotation of 15-turn waves. You could tell when a set was coming by the four kites lined up out on the horizon. The boys all showed respect for the few surfers that stuck around despite the building winds. One particular day, I was out surfing with Mulcoy when he decided to go in and throw up his kite. He thought it would be fun to keep count while he kited and I surfed. He would catch a wave and tack back upwind just in time to carve a turn in front of me and say, “That’s one, bud. How many you got?” This went on until the score was six waves for Mulcoy to my one wave. Of course I headed in, pumped up, and headed back out for a few hundred turns of my own.
There are few places I’ve been in my travels with a friendlier group of local kitesurfers and surfers. I get to meet a lot of people, but it’s very rare that I leave a place and am able to say I have made great friends. Gustavo and Paulo, who run Mancora Kite Club, a kite school located on the tip of the point in Mancora, and Tony (a.k.a. Gringo), an ex-commercial fisherman who now owns a hotel in town, are all so wind-stoked. They live for kiteboarding. It was a pleasure to ride and hang out with these guys, and see how kiteboarding is a life-changing sport. They were more than willing to pile a few of us in their trucks and head south to the surf break known as Lobitos.
The most memorable part of the trip was getting to see the different styles of kitesurfing that separate the crew. Mulcoy had never gone left or backside on a kite before, but you would have never known it. He did three straight-up backside turns and two long floaters on his first wave. It was fun to watch the way Mulcoy surfs and kites. He approached the waves the same way—straight up, with power and style. He rides unstrapped and hooked in.
Many people would never guess that Stevens is a goofy foot. I had always seen photos of him killing rights on Oahu going frontside. He was the only one flying 5th-line C-kites, which suits his aggressive, unhooked, strapped style.
I had never shot with Abreu before this trip. I had seen him killing it wakestyle with power and creativity. I also knew he was a pioneer in the sport, so I was looking forward to watching him ride. I was not aware that Abreu was a pro surfer before he got into kiteboarding. The way he kites is as if he’s not connected to the kite; linking turn after turn, unstrapped and unhooked. After watching him and Mulcoy surf perfect waves together, you can really see why they excel at waveriding with a kite. Mulcoy and Abreu both kite like they surf, doing the same turns, tailslides and airs.
Blair is a regular footer who likes to ride strapped most of the time. He was always riding unhooked and has a good, powerful style. Blair is a true double-threat who is able to ride waves and pull lots of wakestyle tricks. It was great to watch the four of them and put some of their influence into my own kiting.
Peru is perfect for kiters of all skill levels. There are world-class, advanced waveriding spots, perfect flatwater and great beaches for learning. We didn’t even explore the downwinder potential, which I hear is amazing. Northern Peru is going to become a very popular kite destination in the near future.
What the riders said…
“I didn’t know any of these guys until I showed up in Mancora. Everyone was super stoked to surf and kite. It was good to be on a trip with people that did both.
Reo is a good guy who likes to bronze [tan] and go left. He is always looking at his shots and studying his riding to progress. He really knows his equipment and is good at fixing my dings.
Davey always keeps you laughing, and his riding is also very good. He was hacking it up really well on his backside, but unfortunately had to leave before the swell hit.
Morris is knowledgeable about everything—he’s another super-good guy to travel with. He surfs and kites well with super-surf style.
The photographer, Jason Wolcott, had some incredible kiting sessions. He won the award for the longest wave. We decided to have an event named after him, The Wolcott Here to the Pier Classic (there was a pier at the end of the wave, probably a mile away, and he would always end up there).
Gary Siskar took us around. He was another super-cool guy to hang out with, and he took amazing care of us. His place is incredible and he is so stoked on surfing and kiting.
The main jewel I saw was down the coast. It is a super-long left sand point with side-offshore winds, but the water is colder than in Mancora. The waves there are amazing—super smooth and rippable.” —Josh Mulcoy
Peru was the best left hand I ever kited. It doesn’t get more fun than Lobitos—five-to-15 turns every wave, so sick. All the main surf locals there are kiteboarders too, and they are the coolest guys ever. I can’t wait to go back. It helps to stay at Samana Shakra because they have the best rooms and food around. —Mauricio Abreu
Need to Know: Mancora, Peru
From May until December, reliable wind can be expected almost daily. Wind blows from 13 to 30 knots, with an average between 18 to 25 knots. For more detailed weather information visit vivamancora.com.
What to bring
Be sute to bring 7-12 m2 kites. I used a 9 m2 the whole time. Strapped or unstrapped surfboard shapes work best for the wave spots. If you plan to surf, you will want a normal short board for the average days and something for double-overhead days as well. There are also good flatwater spots, so bring a twin tip. The water temperature can vary, so bring trunks as well as a warm fullsuit for road trips to the colder southern beaches. Don’t forget sunblock. It’s an expensive thing to buy in Peru.
You can fly to Lima from most international airports. The two nearest airports to Mancora are Tumbes and Piura. There are daily flights between Lima and Tumbes with TANS. From Tumbes airport, the taxi ride to Mancora is around an hour and a half (U.S. $30-35) and from Piura it is two hours and 30 minutes (U.S. $40-50).
I suggest renting a 4WD since the roads are rough and there are spots where you’ll drive on the beach to the launch. There is van transport available to bring you to Mancora, and also several guide services you can use to get to the many spots in the area.
Where to eat
Geko’s is no only kiter-owned but also has good pizza, cold beer, and a friendly atmosphere. Buy the owner Paulo a beer for me. Chan Chan has good Italian food. Samana Chakra is a gourmet place that has some of the best food I have had anywhere in the world.
If you are into nightlife you can find plenty of fun bars and dance clubs in Mancora. Many tourists from Europe and South America flock to its beautiful beach.