Adventures of Katie McAnena: Peru Edition

A few weeks ago Katie McAnena shared the story of his first adventure, from Tenerife to South America. Now, Katie follows up with more tales from the road, heading further into South America and discovering more unbelievable waves.

And so from the land of Tacos and Cervezas and long, long rights I headed off on my merry little Irish way to the land of Ceviche and Piscos and long, long lefts.

Yes amigos the time had come for me to hop from the dusty Mexican badlands down to the heart of the South American western coast and set up camp in the Peruvian paradise of Pacasmayo…… with only a few minor detours along the way. And by minor I mean quite substantially major, for as you all know I apparently have a predeliction for very awkward, roundabout ways of reaching my next windsurfing destinations. All in the name of affordable travel, naturally, and of course racking up as many airmiles as possible, I managed to ensure no 24 hour journey would be any less than 72 hours of pure road trip joy……. or at least that’s what I tried to reassure myself of as I backtracked from Baja, to Ensenada, to San Diego, to Houston Texas, to Lima and finally Pacasmayo, Peru. Splendid really.

I may not yet have mastered a pimping backloop or a monster aerial or even a nice laydown bottom-turn on my adventures so far, but I have managed to conquer all forms of motion sickness and attained an uncanny ability to sleep whenever, wherever and on whatever mode of transport or hard airport floor surface I happen to find myself in. So, if all else fails from this year of windsurfing training and competing, and I don’t manage to win contests or push my level on the water, I can at least sleep soundly in the knowledge that I am a darn good traveller. Move over career as a doctor or professional windsurfer, I have found my vocation in surviving life on the road!

So, having reached Lima, the capital of Peru (about a week later than intended), I found myself yet again in a country where I couldn’t speak the language, (I’ll conquer you one day Spanish, one day!) and was, as usual, travelling muchos solo. Thankfully I had been in touch with the beautiful Carolina Butrich (see Carolina Boardseeker Babe ), a Lima local and ripper windsurfer who had organised all accommodation and transfers for the competitors and had booked me onto my over night bus from the capital to Pacasmayo. The bus was a pretty unique experience to be honest. Twelve hours on a completely full double-decker packed with all native Peruvians and not a single tourist in sight…….well except for yours truly, the journey involved a blaring DVD Spanish version of the Three Stouges, a meal of fried pollo and rice, sub zero temperatures and the loudest snoring man I’ve ever met sat beside me called Pepe. Loved that guy.

We finally pulled into Pacasmayo station at 8am, having survived the trip by keeping myself warm with my Mexican Poncho wrapped around me and keeping myself sane by jamming some industrial ear plugs in my ears. I was welcomed by the local sounds and smells, and bundled onto my taxi to take me to El Faro resort. Now by taxi I don’t mean one of the four-wheeled, four-doored, engine equipped variety of taxi, no no, I mean a Moto-Taxi. Ah the old Moto-Taxi. HAHAHA! 3 wheels, no doors and 150cc’s of pure mechanical magic, these bad boys will make you feel like Evil Kenevil on steroids….not for the faint hearted! Not to mention my double board bag was strapped to the canvas roof of the thing with a less than trustworthy surfing leash….. all I could do was embrace the madness and pray to the big massive Jesus statue that overlooks the entire town from his perch on a hill nearby and hope I made it to El Faro in one piece.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I arrived at the resort. Literally, and I mean no exaggerating, I looked as far left as I could to the point and followed the most incredible wave I have ever seen in my life as it peeled the entire way across the bay until it reached the pier in the centre of town…… genuinely well over a kilometer of a long, smooth, peely, glorious, heavenly left. I nearly keeled over when I saw it…… although in hindsight the mototaxi trip may have had something to do with that!

The event was another stop on the American Windsurfing Tour (AWT) for 2012 and was organised in conjunction with the Pacasmayo Classic which is a long-standing event consisting of Kitesurf, SUP, Longboard and Windsurfing competitions. Sam Bittner, el head honcho at the AWT had partnered up with the local Peruvian windsurfers who were super keen to bring an AWT event to their home spot and show off the wave that Kauli Seadi made infamous in a video he made from there a while back. There was an incredible deal offered to the female competitors from the El Faro resort owners Jamie and his wife which included free accommodation and free meals for the entire extent of the contest. It was so incredibly generous of them and meant that way more women entered than probably would have had it not been for their support. A massive Gracias to El Faro resort and all the sponsors of the event for making that all possible!

I arrived a week before the contest started and the place was fairly deserted for the first few days with just myself, Fabrice Beaux, Miho Tanaka, Camille Juban and his father Jean Paul and brother Tom Juban there. Those first few days were magical, with epic SUP sessions in the morning on glassy, perfect lefts follwed by the best windsurfing sessions of my life to date in the afternoons. Tom Juban showed us his GoPro footage from one of his waves during the day and no word of a lie, he was on it for 3 and a half minutes…… honestly and genuinely 3 and a half minutes. Insanity! I can’t even describe how incredible it is to sail there, again like Baja, the wave can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it. There are sections for big aerials and takas and goiters, that the likes of Camille were making, but similarly there were plenty of mellower sections to the wave that the likes of me could sail and would leave you feeling like a total hero. I’ll never forget my first day there and my 3rd wave of the session I caught one that took me from the point by the lighthouse all the way to the middle of the bay and after 12 turns on the one wave I had to jump off because I physically couldn’t sail any longer……… absolutely epic, but note to self; eat less tacos, drink less cerveza and work on being just a wee bit fitter, hahaha! Gym membership for one please.

After a couple of days spent slogging on my 4.8m for twenty minutes a time to bob to the point to catch a wave (float and ride is awesome but after two weeks there comes a point when you just want to plane again!), the AWT crew landed. And that’s when the real fun started! Sam Bittner, Kevin Pritchard, Tatiana Howard and Francisco Goya all made the trek from Maui, with the rest of the entry list contingent being made up of sailors from Chile, Peru, Colombia, Guadalupe, Brazil, Japan, Argentina and most importantly Ireland, yew!! There were ten days to run the event, so while the Pacasmayo Classic squeezed in heats for lonboard and SUP in the mornings, the windsurfers and kitesurfers fought for the water time in the evenings as the wind filled in. It was incredible to see competitors from all over the world entering multiple disciplines and showing what it is to maximise your water time by dabbling in all surf/wind sports. I entered both the SUP and winsurf but for sure the real outstanding water woman of the event was the stunning Tatiana Howard who entered SUP, Kite, Longboard and Windsurf and came away with wins in three divisions and a third place in kite. I’m pretty sure we all came away with huge respect (and for the boys a big crush) on a girl who can rip on any water modality she choses, kudos to Tati!!

And sure what would any trip with a bunch of girls be without the usual banter, craic and funtimes off the water thrown in too. Every day the girls, Sam, Miho, Tatiana, Carolina, Alexandra, Fernanda, Margarita, Claudia and I would turn the banter up to 11. Dancing and hanging by the pool and making crazy MotoTaxi trips into town to hussle the market stalls all fuelled by healthy portions of ceviche and Pisco Sours. Agh the food and booze, never too far from my mind! And this time I dabbled in the Peruvian delicacies of fresh, raw fish marinated in lime juice (Ceviche) and distilled grape brandy with a dash of lemon cordial (Pisco Sours)……. hoowee those things were tasty! Naturally I also partook in my fair share of local Peruvian Cervezas too, just for research purposes naturally, and I can say from personal taste that Pilsen is far superior to Cusquena, unless of course you’re drinking Cusquena Negra which is the Peruvian cousin of Guinness and a welcome taste of home when you’re so far away……. aghh but I digress…… where was I?! Oh yes, the windsurfing……

But before I get back to that a quick word about the Pacasmayo Plague, aka the Gut Rot, aka the Peru Pain in-the-you-know-what. Everyone had warned me about the inevitable “illness” I would succumbe to when going to Peru but I ignored them, until one night…… well lets just say no-one should ever get that well aquainted with the ceramic of a loo. And after a night spent on the tiles of a bathroom floor, as luck would have it, the wind filled in and Francisco called for the ladies’ fleet to rig up and sail a heat. I cried. I cried before, during and after my heat having not eaten or drunk anything in 24 hours and having to try sail a heat with the energy levels of a sloth on hunger strike. I was gutted (literally haha!), because I’d come early to train and really felt like I knew the spot well and was hoping to sail strongly. But that’s just how it goes and I managed to hold a 3rd place from the heat and then collapse into bed to shiver and sweat out the fever for another few hours. And in typical fashion the bug spread like wildfire throughout the resort and struck down the lovely Sam Bittner and a few others in it’s path……. missing a few others too though however….. like the ultimate germaphobe Kevin Pritchard who through a policy of Wikipedia research and a no breathing, no touching anything within a 2 mile radius of us afflicted with the plague, he managed to completly avoid getting ill. He may never look at me again but honestly Kevin I got it from Camille, who got it from Miho…… so basically it all came from Japan……!! Only kidding Miho.

And with that the event came to an end. The men’s fleet ran a single elimination with Camille Juban winning, Fabrix Beaux 2nd and young awesome ripper and one to watch for the future Tom Juban stealing 3rd place. The men’s double didn’t quite finish but ended up with Camille 1st, Fabrixe 2nd and young super smiley, shredder Alex Vargas taking 3rd from Chile. In the women’s it was Tatiana in 1st, Miho Tanaka 2nd and me in 3rd, with Sam Bittner 4th and Carolina Butrich 5th. I also managed to come in 2nd place for the ladies’ SUP behind Tatiana in 1st and Margarita from Chile came 3rd.

As usual an absolutely huge thank you to everyone who made the event/trip possible and to all the new South American amigos I have made. Special thanks to the AWT, Sam Bittner, Head Judge Fransisco Giya, Jaimie and all the El Faro Resort Crew, Carolina and all the Peru crew who made the event possible! And thanks to my sponsors Moo Custom Boards, Simmer Sails, Huku Balance Boards.




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