South America and Surfing Chicama, Peru

El Hombre, Pioneer of Chicama Surfing, pictured between Kevin (left) and Russell (right) at El Hombre Surf Hostel.

El Hombre, Pioneer of Chicama Surfing, pictured between Kevin (left) and Russell (right) at El Hombre Surf Hostel.

“Why don’t you come down for two weeks?”

“I think one is all I can do man.”

“Ok, well still think about it. One week isn’t much time.”

This was a conversation I had with Kevin back in March of 2016. I was trying to plan a vacation to go visit him in South America, to hike or surf or to just be a tourist and see the sights of Chile. I didn’t really care what the activity was. All I knew is that I wanted to head South and Kevin’s wine job wrapping up in early June was the perfect excuse.

That night on a run I pondered the prospect of going for a little longer than my previously self-allotted one week, when I started asking myself why not go for two weeks? Or four? Or six for that matter? I had been pondering leaving the engineering field for a few months, as the notion of starting Roam Oatmeal became more realistic as the product blends and business plan started to come together.

A couple days later, I called Kevin back.

“I’m going to quit my job and come for 6 weeks.”

“Awesome, glad I could make you see the light.”

With that, the decision was made. A few weeks later I boarded a plane to Santiago with way too much gear stuffed into my backpack and accompanying duffel bag; Running clothes, backpacking gear, wetsuits, climbing harness, all fighting for space in those two bags.

The trip itself was magical. I spent a week exploring the sighs of Chile. The majority of the trip was spent surfing, a week and a half at Punto de Lobos and another week and a half in Chicama. We scored some of the best swell we could have hoped for within a one-month window.

When I went down, I was a very mediocre surfer (at best). “Kook” would have been a very applicable term. My surfing improved at Punto de Lobos, slowly. I came back several nights stoked on “the best wave of my life”.

The lower section of Chicama, Peru. A beautiful and very long left hand point break.

The lower section of Chicama, Peru. A beautiful and very long left hand point break.

The real transformation occurred at Chicama. The first session we hiked up to the second point (El Cape) looking at waves that looked like they had come out of Kelly Slater’s wave pool. I missed my first couple of attempts by being way too far off the shoulder, and Kevin got into a nice wave that took him about halfway down the section. His wave gave me some confidence, and I was more aggressive in my next attempt, getting right in next to the break on my take off.

It was a dream. I made the drop, held onto my toe side rail as I made the bottom turn and shot off to the left. The wave reeled behind, giving a nice shapely shoulder. I accidentally picked a line that slowly moved me back up the face, and when I had almost ejected myself from the wave, I pointed back down getting a nice fast drop before bottom turning again. The wave then closed out, after what felt like a small eternity of riding (in reality, probably 15-20 seconds).

Surfing Chicama, Peru.

Surfing Chicama, Peru.

More or less the entire time I was on the wave I was yelling and screaming with joy. Kevin gave a shout and a laugh as I rode by. Surfing is a sport defined by ‘cool’, underplaying the difficulty of riding waves with stylish riding. Good riders pop out of barrels and cut backs and just coast right along, hardly changing posture or facial expression to indicate that anything spectacular just happened. In that moment I was incredibly un-cool, and I didn’t care. The joy I was experiencing was too intense, the satisfaction too great from finally ‘surfing’, making the step from simply letting the wave push me where it wanted to harnessing it’s power in such a way that I could decide where I would go next. That moment was bliss.

A week and a half later, we boarded our respective flights back to the U.S., Kevin with my board on his way to California and me with a new surfing addiction on my way to Colorado. We reconvened in Portland to dive back into Roam Oatmeal. The first order of business? Checking the surf report to decide which day that week we would skip work to go catch a few waves.