Article Index

The Cradle of the Caballito de Totora

Huanchaco is located in Northern Peru, near Trujillo, the third largest city in Peru. Huanchaco was an important port, during Moche and Chimu empires, 100- 1400 A.D.

The art of surfing began in Huanchaco 5000 years ago with the ‘Tup’, the name given to the Caballito de Totora during the Moche Empire. Modern surfing started in Huanchaco right after Felipe Pomar won the ISF World Surfing Championship in 1965.

Huanchaqueros maintain many aspects of these ancient traditions, the most notable being the continued use of the caballito de totora.  This ancient marine culture and the quality of the waves were the key reasons Huanchaco was designated the Fifth World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition.


The Caballito de Totora

The ancient inhabitants of Northern Peru built a small vessel that allowed them to successfully face the challenge of the waves in order to go fishing. This craft was made of a reed known as “Totora” from the Quechua word “Tutura”. The scientific name for this reed is Scirpus californicus, and it grows in swamps or estuaries.In Huanchaco, the ponds where the totora grows are called “Wachaques”, “Balsares” or “Totorales.

According to Hawaiian resident Robin Mair, a regarded surfboard shaper, naval architect and marine engineer, the designers of the caballito de totora built this vessel with a pronounced rocker (curve from bow to stern along the bottom).This rocker had a specific purpose, which was to help lift the caballito de totora over an approaching wave, or when returning, to prevent the caballito de totora from burying the bow as it moved down or in front of a wave. Mair continues with his observations regarding the caballito de totora pointing out the reason of its narrow width was dictated by the surf line, and inevitably the users would end up surfing the caballitos de totora back in to shore on the waves.

There are many investigations that support Mair’s observations, among them the book from researcher,Enrique Amayo PhD, a must read in order to have a thorough understanding of this issue. Amayo, E. (2016). Mar y Olas/Rito y deporte, del Tup o Caballito de Totora a la moderna Tabla o Surf: su origen en la Costa Norte del Antiguo Perú (1500 a.C.-1532) Lima, Peru. Universidad Agraria La Molina.

Due to archeological discoveries near Huanchaco, led by Yale archeologist Gabriel Prieto, we know now for a fact that the totora surfboard is at least 3500 years old. A few years ago Prieto and his team unearthed a well preserved half of a miniature caballito de totora that has been carbon date 3500 years old.



There are six distinct waves in Huanchaco that stretch for two kilometers.

La Poza, the southernmost located wave, is a big wall that can hold waves well over three meters, especially during the austral summer.

Sun Kella, a nice right, fast and steep, one of the two right points of Huanchaco.

El Mirador-El Elio, this wave sometimes can connect giving the surfer a long and fun ride.

La Punta del Muelle is one of Huanchaco’s best waves.

La Curva, a protected small wave inside the bay, perfect for beginners.

El Boquerón, the other right of Huanchaco, a heavy wave with a thick wall that breaks far out from the shore.


Surfers and shapers

More than 10% of the population of Huanchaco surf. Around 4pm each day, children who have finished their school day, and adults who have finished work, head out for a surf with their friends. Longboarders, shortboarders, SUPers, body-boarders and even a few caballito de totora, ride waves together.  

There are many high-performance surfers among them. The most outstanding surfer from Huanchaco is Benoit “Piccolo” Clemente Rothfuss, the two times WSL Longboard World Surfing Champion.

Juninho Urcia is another amazing surfer from Huanchaco. Urcia was the youngest surfer to be crowned as the Peruvian Surfing National Champion.

Another surfer to be highlighted is Carlos “Huevito” Ucañán, a fisherman with incredible surfing abilities, having surfed waves with his caballito de totora. He recently toured Australia demonstrating the living history of this original surf-craft.

Huanchaco is the perfect surfing hub for La Libertad area, and there are several world-class waves within a 100 Km ratio including Chicama, Puemape and Pacasmayo to the North and Cerro Negro, Puerto Morín, La Ramada, Salaverry and Las Delicias to the South.



Huanchaco is interested in developing its surf industry thru programs exchange with the WSCN members, in the following areas:

  • Professional surf tourism training.
  • Developing an ongoing education program for the local shapers about cutting edge surfboard designs and blank materials.
  • Set up and develop a sustainable adaptive surfing program.
  • Surfers exchange,
  • The organization of an annual surfing festival that will include surfing competition in all divisions, surf seminars and workshops, such festival will have notorious national and international surfing legends.



Coastal erosion has taking a big toll in the totora ponds located in Northern Huanchaco, where one third of them have been destroyed by the ocean.

Save the Waves Coalition, the USA Non-Profit Organization that oversees the World Surfing Reserves program, is working together with Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve to set up a “Carbon Offset Program” that will increase significantly the amount of totora ponds.

Save the Waves Coalition will be an application that can be used by surfers around the world. Every time they purchase an air ticket for their next surf trip, they can use this app to donate money for the recovery of the Huanchaco’s totora ponds. By doing this, they will be helping to offset the carbon emission, thanks to the capability of the totora reed to absorb carbon.

This unique program will not only increase the amount of totora ponds located in Huanchaco but will also help to fence the boundaries of Chan-Chan, the former capital of the Chimu Empire, creating a natural habitat in both places.



Through the organism PROMPERU, the Peruvian government launched a tourism program several years ago called ‘Ruta Moche’, (Moche Route), with the purpose of bringing more tourists to the regions of La Libertad and Lambayeque. These regions offer a variety of points of interest for visitors, from impressive ancient Moche archaeological sites, such Huaca La Luna and Huaca Cao Viejo in La Libertad region and Huacas de Túcume in Lambayeque region, to world class museums, exquisite cuisine and beautiful beaches with incredible waves. Huanchaco has been the role model of this program, the number of tourists visiting Huanchaco has increased noticeably for the last ten years or so.

This beach community is the only World Surfing Reserve in Peru and the first in Latin America; this has made of Huanchaco a surf destination. This beach is also very close to Trujillo, the fourth most important city during the colonial time and nowadays one of the most progressive cities in Peru. Chan-Chan, the former capital city of the Chimu empire is located a few Km from Trujillo, The Huacas del Sol and La Luna in Moche is only 20Km south from Trujillo. Because of its location, Huanchaco is an ideal place to stay if one wants to visit the Trujillo area. Local authorities and business owners from Huanchaco are very excited about the admittance of their beach to the World Surf Cities Network, and they have no doubt that this new status for Huanchaco will boost the number of tourists visiting this ancient community.

Huanchaco’s hotel capacity is around 1000 beds and it has a wide variety of restaurants that offer superb Peruvian and international cuisine.

Recently the municipality of Huanchaco opened a modern security center to safeguard the well-being of the community; such center has a state of the art security cameras and TV monitors, 24/7, to quickly respond to any situation that may threaten Huanchaco’s residents. The municipality of the district of Huanchaco has the commitment to offer a safe environment to all, both visitors and residents.



The first surf school in Huanchaco was “Escuela de Tabla Muchik”, founded in 1992 by the Huamanchumo brothers.

Since then many other surf schools have been created offering a fun and safe way to learn surfing in Huanchaco.

Although board shaper aficionados were present from the very beginning of modern surfing in Huanchaco, it wasn’t until local shaper Yenth Ccora opened his workshop that surfboards were made professionally in this surf city.There are a handful of surfboard shapers; one of them is the two times WSL Longboard champ, Piccolo Clemente with his well renowned PC longboards.

Shapers, glassers, repair workshops, custom made board bags, surf shops can be found in Huanchaco, so surfers visiting from all other places can enjoy this beautiful sport with no worries for lack of gear.

Javier Huarcaya Pro, the ISA Surfing Master Kahuna 2013, is one of the three ambassadors of Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve. He has developed a reputable business in an innovative epoxy foam blank, called XTR, and this brand also offers high performance surfboards. One of Huanchaco Surf City’s projects is to host a series of surf seminars, with Javier Huarcaya as keynote speaker, with the aim of helping to improve the quality of the board making industry in our beach community.



In the last fifty years, Peruvians surfers have witnessed numerous atrocities committed against many of their beaches and surf breaks. Perhaps one of the most egregious attacks was the destruction of the emblematic beach of La Herradura, in Lima, perpetrated during the 80’s. All those abuses against our coastal environment galvanized the union of the surf community and with the help of the executive and legislative branches of the Peruvian government; the law 27280 was enacted to protect surf breaks suitable for the practice of surf related sports. Huanchaco was the second beach in Peru to be inscribed before the National Surf Register (RENARO in Spanish) in order to get the full protection of the law 27280.

The construction of Salaverry Port, south from Huanchaco, has greatly affected the sand flow carried out by the Peruvian current. As a consequence, beaches located north from Salaverry have been sand depleted due to coastal erosion caused by the wave-breakers built in Salaverry. The central government has been hard pressured by regional and local authorities and the population to correct this anomaly.   Due to the law 27280, which states that, solutions made previously, such as building several jetties to fix the problem, have been dismissed as non-viable. The population of the province of Trujillo, where Huanchaco is located, is against solutions that include physical barriers such as jetties or groins to diminish the force of the waves. They are aware that this kind of solution will eventually bring more problems, destroying not only the beauty of the beaches but the waves as well.



One of the most celebrated events during the 60’s was the “Regatas de Caballitos de Totora”. In this event, totora riders from different beach communities came to Huanchaco to participate in several different games involving the caballito de totora. There were fishing contests, surfing contests, paddle race contests, etc. Years later, similar events took place in the early 90’s, with “Festival del Mar” and “Pescadores de Olas” The former was the idea of Huanchaco’s WSR Ambassador and Protector, Felipe Pomar. Thanks to Pomar Hawaiian connections, the ‘Festival del Mar’ was attended by the most prominent surfers of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Bobby Owens, Mark Foo, Marvin Foster, and Ronnie Burns were some of the many Hawaiian and American surfers that visited Huanchaco during the festival.

Since 2010, Huanchaco has hosted the Huanchaco Repalsa Longboard Pro, the most important longboard contest in South America. Next year, for the first time, Huanchaco will be home to WSL WQS, an event that will bring the best rippers of the region seeking to join the World tour.

The ISA held the first World Longboard Surfing Championship in 2013, and regional and national events are held very often in Huanchaco, due to its wave quality and consistency.



WSCN Responsible

Huanchaco Surf City

Jr. Víctor Larco 124 Huanchaco, Trujillo, Perú

  • Contact person: Juan Carlos Ferrer
  • Mobile phone: +51 971 969 941
  • Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.