Surfing in Peru

Surfing in Peru

When in Peru? Do what the Peruvians do, Right? Learn to surf? Yesterday, another student and I went to Huanchaco, the most visited beach in Trujillo, to learn just that. There are several surf schools on the coast, Muchik Surf School caught our eye because it has the unique policy “If You Don’t Stand You Don’t Pay!!!’’ Before our lesson, another student and I were chatting about our past attempts of trying to learn how to surf and how unsuccessful we’d both been. I can be rather uncoordinated and have terrible balance, so I set my expectations low. Even with the school’s built in guarantee; I thought I would be one of the few customers walking away with my 70 solos in hand at the end of my lesson.

Muchik surf school is terrific because you can either reserve a class in advance or just show up. If you decide to show up you might have to wait a few hours before getting into a lesson, but you could fill your time by enjoying the many local souvenir shops, the beach, or seafood cuisine. We made a reservation and were immediately put into a surf lesson on our arrival.

The first hour was spent inside the surf shop with Omar Huamanchumo, who spoke in both English and Spanish, which was enormously helpful since my Spanish is rather basic. He taught us the 2-step technique of standing up on the board and where your body should be when you are lying on the board to ensure that you are positioned in the center as well as how your feet should be angled on the surf board to maintain balance. After teaching the technique, he demonstrated it and had us practice several times on surf boards in front of a long mirror to evaluate if our form was correct. Omar was patient, friendly, and terrific at explaining the technique in a simple way that made it easy to remember and apply in the water. He wrapped up the lesson with short surfing video clips to reinforce what had been demonstrated. I was surprised to learn that when paddling out your legs should be entirely on the surf board and shouldn’t be in the water at all.

After the introductory beginner surf lesson we put on wetsuits that felt very similar to a sport bra but made for your entire body. As we headed out to the beach with our boards, we were met by 2 friendly surf instructors. I asked my instructor what his success rate was, he said 100%, he’d been teaching for 10 years at the school and never taught a student that didn’t stand up by the end of a lesson with him. The waves along the Huanchaco beach were small and perfect for beginner surfers like us.  The instructors swam out, without their own surf boards to help position us on the waves. My instructor yelled get ready, first position, this wave is for you, and gave me a hearty push and then yelled second position as the wave took control! Nervous and a little scared, I tried to stand up and immediately fell off the board.

As I paddled back out to my instructor he coached me on the changes I needed to make. First he said, “Don’t be nervous and don’t look down at your feet when you stand up. You need to look straight ahead.”  I tried again and fell off. On my third attempt, as my instructor gave me a push towards the wave, I kept repeating his advice in my head, look straight ahead, don’t be nervous, bend your knees, use your hands to balance. Then I heard my instructor yell behind me, ‘’Second position’’ as the wave picked up momentum and I got to my feet on the board and steadied my balance. I was a bit shocked, because I was actually surfing! After the first successful ride, the rest that followed were even better. I wasn’t scared anymore and was beginning to have a lot of fun because I was feeling more and more comfortable on the surfboard. My final wave of the lesson, I rode all the way to the beach with a huge smile on my face that lasted for the rest of the day!

Sarah Nylund