Surfing Chicama in Hakuna Wear on my last day of the trip. (David Zigsho)
A little surf town filled with expats, where you would never expect them. The first thing I notice when getting off the plane is the dust… is it dust? Smog? No the city isn’t big enough for smog. With the desert air, it has to be dust.
Looking for surf on the plane ride in.
You may have heard of surfing in Peru, probably because of the famous longest left in the world, Chicama, only an hour and ½ drive away from Huanchaco and about 3 hours away from Lima. When arriving in Peru however, just looking outside the window of the plane, it is evident that swell is coming in along the entire coast. In fact surfing is historic here. Their tabla (surfboard): Caballitos are stacked along the bay, ready for fishing and surfing.
Caballitos stacked along the bayshore ready for use. (Peru.com, Flickr/jedgreene)
I came to visit Groundswell Community Project’s headquarters for the next 5 months (their summer) to bring surf&service to a community of awesome women in Peru. The first night we attended one of their events, “Miercoles y Mujeres y el Mar” an event to bring together women surfing out in the water. We paddled out with two locals in tow, one amazing women who surfs despite the lack of the use of her legs, and another amazing local woman who finds peace and strength in the ocean. Our other attendees were ex-pats deciding to make a life in humble Huanchaco.
Gathering to celebrate the new Groundswell Community Project headquarters. (David Zigsho)
Out in the water we met other ex-pats but not a lot of local women. It is a situation you see often in surf spots around the world. In Bali, I only met Australian women in the water. Whether it’s culturally unacceptable for women to be athletic or it’s the weight of the responsibilities of the family and the home, or a reason beyond our understanding, you can only know from asking.
As we sat their chatting about our intentions for our surf session, a young girl came over curiously trying to sit in on our conversation and Natalie Small, Founder of Groundswell Community Project, happily welcomed her in. Throughout my stay, this happened several times. There are dreams of being a surfer in these young girls eyes. They are hungry for the adventure and the ocean, but terrified as well.
In the water for Miercoles y Mujeres y el Mar.
Groundswell wants to make a difference in these local girls lives and in all women’s lives. Their surf therapy retreats/programs bring women from all over the world to educate about plastic pollution and amazing abilities of surfing to overcome trauma. Throughout January-February, Groundswell Community Project is hosting 6 weeks of retreats to work with the women in the community. The goal is not to be its own movement but to facilitate some of the movements that have already been put in place.
Invitation to come join Groundswell Community Project in Huanchaco, Peru. (Natalie Small)
That Sunday Groundswell Community Project hosted a Beach Clean Up event including an art project, a Caballito that we were to gather plastic bottle trash “bricks” as a symbol of the harm plastic pollution is doing on the precious resources in Huanchaco. The plaque reads most poignantly: “Do you want plastic in your ceviche?” At least 40 kids were in attendance, stoked to be doing their part. Other NGOs in attendance were Hands On Peru, a clinic started by Katie Baric, Share the Wave, Huanchaco Surf Shop, the first surf shop in Huanchaco, Moshka, a surf and yoga hostel, Chicas Surfistas Surf Club, and so many others wanting to help.
Beach Clean Up in Huanchaco. (David Zigsho)
The community in Huanchaco is palpable. The ex-pats want to make a difference, somewhere, somehow, and the locals have their utmost support. The waves were a blast, Huanchaco acts as gigantic left point break where you can ride all the way to the pier and into the bay where the beginners practice. The waves were head high the entire time, and we were the first to paddle out every morning.
They are a town full of potential but without the funds to realize it, buildings that need a little extra love and care, restaurants filled with delicious smells and creative foods but with dirt roads leading up to them.
The roots of Pachamama are strong, as we sat on the rooftop eating ceviche watching the people fish in their caballitos. The people of Huanchaco need their precious resources.
So what is it about this city? It’s hope. Hope of a simpler and better life. Hope of making a difference.