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Northcore

Stormrider Guide to surfing Punta Hermosa

Peru, SOUTH AMERICA


Pico Alto, Javier Fernandez

Summary

+ Consistent swells - Lack of perfect conditions
+ Great density of spots - Cold water
+ Big wave potential - Coastal fog
+ Cheap and easy living - Barren coastline

Peru has one of the oldest surf cultures in the world with “Totora reed horses” being ridden for up to 3000 years. Surfing in Peru had it’s resurgence and redevelopment a little later than in Hawaii. Peru was host to the World Championships in 1965, and the world was re-awoken to the potential of one of the most ancient of surfing countries. Since then local guys like Felipe Pomar and Piti Block have pushed Peruvian surfing further than it’s been taken in almost every other developing country. The capital, Lima, sits on the shores of the Pacific and has become Peru’s surf city. There are good waves in the districts of both Miraflores and neighbouring Costa Verde, where the world class Herradura left point can go off. However, due to both crowds and pollution most travellers prefer to keep away from the city, and instead head 1hr drive to the south, to the Punta Hermosa area. This is a great area for a surfer to find himself in, as there are ample consistent spots within walking distance of each other. In the Southern Hemisphere winter the waves around Punta Hermosa are typically big mushy rights with a lack of shape that can be ideal for longboarding. While a lot of the headlands favour the rights, there are also hollow lefts, plus a few offshore bomboras that handle serious size and power.

When to Go

Regular 4-15ft (1.2-5m) S-SW swells come from the lows down in the southern latitudes, along with a minimum of 2-3ft (0.6-1m) swell produced by constant S winds associated with the cold Humboldt Current. Incredibly, the worst month for swell consistency is January when it drops down to 95% and for 6 months of the year average swell height hovers around 6-8ft (2-2.5m)! Like the coast to the north, the dominant swell direction is SW and the dominant wind is S, which is offshore at the NW-facing spots and southern corners. Usually, SE morning winds turn to S after noon and can mess up the beachbreaks a bit. Tides don’t matter much and tide tables can be obtained at the better surf shops in Lima.

Surf Spots

Starting in the north of this zone, you will find Pulpos, a beachbreak that usually closes-out and is rarely worth riding. El Silencio is a headland with reliable lefts and rights breaking off either side. Next to this is another headland with two spots called Señoritas and Caballeros, so named, because in the past men and women were segregated into their own beaches. Señoritas breaks left with power while Caballeros produces longer, fatter rights. This is a very popular weekend sunbathing spot. Pico Alto is the next spot, being a serious right that will require guns of at least 8ft, more if you want to ride it up to 25ft (8.3m) like some of the local chargers have! It’s a 30 minute paddle just to get in position, only rideable when the wave face is clean and smooth and is likened to Hawai’i for its challenging power. Playa Norte is another popular beach with weekend visitors from Lima, causing the rights to be busy. The next headland is the reef peak of La Isla, where crowds are guaranteed at weekends and holidays. Punta Rocas is by far the most consistent and unfortunately most crowded spot. The line-up favours rights which work from 3-12ft (1-4m); this used to be a WQS contest site. Huayco is a secluded beach with scattered rocks lining the bottom; it’s best checked on small swells. On bigger days the Santa Rosa headland produces lefts and rights – Peñascal is a long right with plenty of fun sections and Santa Rosa is a fickle left. San Bartolo has two spots that are usually quieter than most of the other breaks; this is because it is located inside private property. A trip out to Puerto Viejo for long lefts or Cerro Azul for hollow, tubey rights off the jetty is definitely worth the effort. Don’t miss the superb right on the beautiful San Gallan Island off the Paracas Peninsula.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW
swell size (ft) 3-4 4 5 6 5 3-4
consistency (%) 70 70 80 90 80 60
dominant wind SE -S SE -S SE -S SE -S SE -S SE -S
average force F3 F3 F3 F3-F4 F3-F4 F3
consistency (%) 81 87 83 85 88 85
water temp (C) 20 19 18 16 16 18
wetsuit springsuit 3/2 3/2 3/2 3/2 3/2

Travel Information

Weather
Peru’s semi-arid climate is ideal for travelling - it hardly ever rains, daily variations are minimal, temps are never too hot or too cold (except, maybe in the deepest winter), but this doesn’t mean unbroken sunshine every day. The big difference between land and sea temps brings a near constant mist, called “Garua”, which occurs regularly except from Dec-March. The Garua makes thick damp clouds that make everything look grey and depressing. The Andes often has superb visibility. A 3/2 is needed from May-Dec and a springsuit for summer. Avoid El Niño years because it never seems to stop raining.

Lodging and Food
There are places to stay nearly everywhere, with several cheap lodging possibilities in Punta Hemosa or San Bartolo (Playa Mar Hostal $18/dbl). Food is cheap; especially fast food (Bembos) and the local seafood (ceviche) and beer (Pilsen Callao) should be sampled.

Nature and Culture
It’s a cool place to hang out, with plenty of nightlife and some interesting wildlife. Take some time out from the surf and take a flight over the mysterious Nazca lines. The cemeteries in Arequipa are worth a visit, as is the stunning Macchu Picchu site high in the Andes.

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