Skunked but Stoked in the Land of Left Point Breaks | By Marina Chang
It was my first real vacation since the start of the magazine seven years ago. Although I was going to bring the computer, I swore that I would not work and would actually enjoy a kite destination for once just like any kiter, soaking up the sun, wind, and culture.
I chose Peru for this holiday in October as my partner on the trip, Holt Alden, an aspiring kiter, was a surfer who is as stoked getting tubed now as he was 30 years ago as a teenager. I am goofy foot so the thought of experiencing the endless left point breaks that I have heard so much about had me excited to try out my recently conquered strapless board riding skills.
The fact that the swell had been pumping for weeks leading up to our departure concerned us both that it would die just in time for our trip but forecasts and swell models looked good for the first part of the journey. As luck would have it, we basically got skunked on any type of epic swell that Peru is so well known for, but the trip was still one of my most memorable ever – so much so that I felt compelled to write about it.
Through mutual kitesurfing and paragliding friends, I connected with Jose Rosas of Peru Kite (www.perukite.com) who helped us plot our journey. The plan was for us to arrive in Lima and enjoy a nice dinner and relaxing evening before heading 2.5 hours south to Paracas, Peru Kite’s main base.
Upon arrival, Jose took us to a plush restaurant on the water where we experienced Peruvian cuisine and Pisco Sours for the first time. All I can say is this – the food alone is a reason to visit Peru and one should be very careful when drinking Peru’s national cocktail! In the words of Jose, one drink makes you happy, two make you silly, and three puts you under the table.
We then retired to the DoubleTree in Miraflores. Starting from just $160 per night, you can be in the heart of the best district in Lima complete with a full killer breakfast and within walking distance to the best shopping, restaurants, and parks in the city.
We woke the next morning and checked the forecast. The swell was only supposed to last for the next three or four days and we were traveling to a flat water spot for at least two of them. Jose, the quintessential host, hooked Holt up with a local surfer friend of his who took him to La Herradura, just minutes from our hotel. Holt got to enjoy 8-10 foot conditions with clean faces at this break before we headed on our journey to the south.
Think about the distance between California or Florida and Texas, or driving 25 hours straight at 60 miles per hour and this will give you an idea of the sheer vastness of Peru’s 1,500 mile coastline. Peru’s geography is dominated by one of the world’s driest deserts, despite lying so close to the sea.
It was a trip to see nothing but sand and desert for miles with not one tree in sight, followed by fertile verdant agricultural areas fed by underground streams and man made irrigation systems funneling water from the upper Amazon region.
We arrived in Paracas and checked into the DoubleTree, located on the beach and in front of the main launching and landing area. As Paracas Bay is the gateway to a vast nature reserve, there are only a few higher-end hotels and private homes here. There is also one property that caters to kiters run by Jorge Ibanez called Villa Kite (www.villakite.com) which is nice as Jorge also organizes kite/SUP tours deeper into the reserve.
Paracas is sunny almost all year long and is where many locals escape to get away from the fog which dominates Lima’s weather. Its season from November through April is the opposite of the north, whose season typically runs April through November for the best waves and wind.
The bay has no waves so it is ideal for beginners and those wanting to perfect their freestyle moves. The water is around 65° F year round and air temperate range between 75°F from May to November and 85°F from December to April. The wind blows on average between 15-25 knots in season and 15 knots off season. Paracas is also home to Isla San Gallan, Peru’s best right-breaking wave that offers tube rides on good days.
Unfortunately we could not find a boat to take us out to it but this just gives us a reason to go back someday!After kiting on our first day, we ate an amazing dinner at the hotel and tried local Peruvian dishes including lomo salatado (Chinese-Peruvian version of chow mein) and tacu tacu (Afro-Peruvian dish consisting of a rice and beans pancake, a thin sheet of steak, and a side of fried plantain, all topped off with a fried egg).
The next day, we decided to head into the nature reserve. Jose first took us into us into town for an early lunch a five minute drive from the hotel and main riding area. The town is a small but growing fishing village offering a variety of accommodations and restaurants to suit any budget (hostels start at $7/night) peppered with a few bars and nightclubs for evening entertainment.
We ate the freshest and most delicious ceviche I have ever tasted at a little stand located just off the main waterfront. A huge plate that more than filled our stomachs was a mere $3.00 each. Besides outstanding food, Peru has equally amazing prices when eating out. Many of our meals would’ve been at least double the cost in the states and we fully took advantage of the culinary delights of the country.