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Day one is a trip to Lobitos, a good all- round ‘warm up’ beach some 40km north of Mancora heading towards the large coastal city of Piura. Boasting an impressive sand reef break with long lefts, these year-round waves can reach 3m (10ft), so a good technique and strong paddle is essential. I’ve got the latter, not the former, so Marco pairs me with one of his ‘personal surf trainers’ to help me better master my board. Having surfed since the tender age of 12, Carlos, a sunbeaten 28-year-old local, is the ripped by-product of somebody who regularly spends nine hours a day in the water. “One big mistake is catching the first wave,” Carlos advises, as we paddle over to 10 bronzed bodies who are floating in the ocean like a silent tribe. “If you keep patient, the right wave will appear with your name on it.” I quickly grasp that it’s impossible to learn how to ‘read the ocean’ overnight, but gradually, as the sets form, I notice the shift in power from the first wave to the fifth, and observe how fellow board-straddlers hold back from the earlier, deceptively strong waves until the one really worth fighting for presents itself.

Keeping a watchful eye over my posture, I’m told to tuck my tailbone in and go really low, like a snowboarder. It feels awkward (and great for my thighs). Like skiing, though, the closer to the ground and the further forward I lean, the better I own the board. A steady afternoon wind yields white horses from the south and indicates the arrival of some impressively high waves. Carlos feels my fear, breathes “muy tranquilo” in my ear and tells me to sit on my board and absorb the ocean’s energy instead. 

Heading back to Mancora town that night, we drop into the charming La Sirena (Spanish for ‘The Mermaid’). It’s the perfect spot to satisfy the kind of gnawing hunger that comes from battling waves for six hours. Run by local surfer and gourmet chef Juan Chi, the menu is a voyage into Peru’s renowned gastronomy with plenty of atmosphere to boot. 
I order a potent mango sour, then recline my aching biceps on to a retro red sofa in the cosy bar. 


Big Trip: Surfing and shamans - a guide to travelling in Northern Peru
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