Gary, prior to taking over at Ride Engine, lived, operated a business, and kited regularly in the northern Peruvian deserts. He always talked fondly about his time there, and often recounted stories of epic windy and wavy sessions with no one else around. Sounds dreamy no doubt, however currently Peru has the highest death rate vs. population from the Covid virus. It has been one of the worst hit countries in South America, if not the world. The area we were planning on visiting won’t be expected to see their first doses of the vaccine for another year or so, and the country was under strict restrictions to try and contain and control the spread of the Covid virus. Not exactly what you want to hear about the place you are resting all your shooting hopes and dreams on. All these restrictions made it challenging, if not impossible, for most people from visiting countries to be allowed to travel into Peru. As bad as all this was, it ended up being a blessing in disguise for the success of our trip. While it made getting us into the country a little trickier, it also limited others from coming, leaving the normally semi-crowded lineups empty.
Ride Engine was founded on the idea that a purpose-built quality product will deliver reliable performance day in and day out, no matter the conditions. While we all love to believe this product forward mantra when designing the products on the computer in the comforts of the air-conditioned office, when they were put to the test in the harsh desert environment of Northern Peru, they delivered, often exceeding our expectations. The Sechura desert in Northern Peru is one of the most desolate and harsh environments I have had the pleasure of exploring in quite some time. Hours of blistering hot sun exposure, stout offshore winds, salt laden air, and powerful and dense waves ready to pound you and your gear into submission. Every day, like clockwork, the gear got haphazardly stuffed into bags, toted down long dusty roads in the back of the Hi-Lux, only to be quickly ripped out of the bags into the harsh UV and salt water for hours on end. Needless to say, we were really putting the gear to the test, in a place where getting things repaired or replaced was out of the question. Whether this was the luggage stuffed to the breaking point, wetsuits worn for hours barely dry from the last session, outer wear pulled from its wadded up hiding place deep in the truck, or all manner of leashes, rash guards, impact vests, foot straps, and harnesses… the gear performed in every situation no matter what was thrown at it. This is a testament to the hard work that goes into designing these products, and it’s something we took for granted while there. Our gear worked flawlessly with little thought needed and it let us focus on the important tasks at hand, like shredding until we couldn’t stand anymore.
Northern Peru is known for one thing when it comes to wind and water sports – long clean roping left-hand pointbreaks. Additionally, thanks to its desert landscape and topography, there is reliable trade style wind almost every sunny day. Like clockwork, with the heating of the surrounding desert, the morning's howling offshore winds would slowly rotate to perfect side/side-offshore conditions. This not only made for amazing riding almost every day of the trip, it also kept the wave faces clean and extremely rippable. One of the best things about the area we were in was the sheer variety of points, bays, and waves we could tap into. In just one hour’s drive from our house in El Nuro, we could ride over twenty different spots. Some were amazing world class waves, very much on the map, while some others were never ridden waves so far off the beaten path that they often don’t even get checked regularly. This made making the day’s call on shooting location all the harder. Do we go to the known spots, deal with the crowd, and ride a world class wave? Or do we risk wasting a shooting day driving into the unknown with hopes of finding the next “go to” spot? We had all the traditional gear necessary (surfboards, foils, kites and kiteboards) to make the most of every spot no matter the conditions. Thankfully we also brought a bag of new toys, our prized wingfoiling gear. Because the sport of wingfoiling is so new, it had hardly been seen in the area. When the wingfoiling gear got pulled out, all the local surfers and kitesurfers dropped what they were doing and pointed their gaze to the horizon. They could not believe how many waves we were able to catch, how long we were riding them, how the offshore direction didn’t faze our wave flow, and how much fun we were all having. Several surfers made a point to paddle in and come see what these “future machines” were and how they could learn to wing. It was obvious that the foils made the most of the downtime between sections and pushed the already long waves into the realms of fantasy. We’re talking ten-minute rides, seemingly never-ending sets, and not another wind powered soul in sight. Except for our ten strong group of frothers, of course. I’m not one to make bold claims, but thanks to the skills of our seasoned crew of wingfoilers, we were able to put the “first to wing” flag up on several of the more prominent points in the area, our adventures finally culminating in the discovery and first rides at a wave we dubbed “Wingvana”, a perfect three-mile-long point often overlooked by kitesurfers and surfers alike. More on that shortly.
Thanks to the experienced foresight from Gary, we were on the ground in Peru for two weeks. This gracious shooting period allowed us ample time to line up swells and dial in the intricacies of each individual spot. The famed Sechura desert points work mostly in the summer months with the onset of long period southern hemisphere ground swell. However, several of the spots also work in the winter months thanks to the same large NW swells that light up the Hawaiian Islands. This makes the area one of the most consistent spots for swell in all of South America. Thankfully, Mother Nature played her part and provided us with two large south swell events while we were there, the first hitting right out of the gate on the first three days. This did a few key things. It helped satiate the built-up excitement and froth. It helped set the pace and tone for the trip. Finally, as we had a lot of products and sports to shoot, it took some of the initial pressure off the media team. Those first few days were a great way for the riders to get their feet in the wax, wrap their head around the setups, and start to work on the timing for attacking the lip. Turns out it’s really easy, when looking down the line of a perfectly groomed long wall, to become entranced and race the sections, rather than linger deeper in the pocket. Everyone needed some time to adjust their techniques and take feedback from the media team. Thankfully, that first big swell was followed by another big blip towards the end of the trip, allowing us to revisit some of the more promising spots again, this time with more swell, better light, and a few pairs of fresh legs. Both swells lined up amazingly for one of the famed points, Lobitos, and we took full advantage. This small surf town, literally in the middle of nowhere, was one of the easiest and most consistent spots we rode the whole trip. Normally quite crowded with surfers, Lobitos offers several sections for both traditional surfing and kitesurfing. Luckily for us the strong winds and mellow crowds allowed us full access to the point for several wingfoiling or winging sessions. We were able to pick off almost every set wave, and not have to worry about frustrating the surf lineup.
Luckily, thanks to the large expanse of empty coastline, we were also easily able to escape the crowds. Just a short drive off the beaten path opened a whole new world of adventure. There was seemingly nowhere our Hi-Lux equipped crew couldn’t get to. This granted us a ton of adventuring confidence, and after studying the coastline via Google Earth we took off with a few promising points of interest to investigate. One of these turned out to be the pinnacle wingfoiling wave setup we had the pleasure of riding the whole trip, the aforementioned “Wingvana”, jokingly dubbed as such after the initial session as the quality and consistency of the spot was unparalleled to any other in the surrounding area. The long sand bottom point provided effortless rides for over three miles, and the wave face remained immaculate thanks to the howling offshore winds. The wave featured three big racy pitching sections, linked together with a series of big crumbly walls. You couldn’t really ask for a better setup to push yourself and the limits of the foils. However, as perfect as this spot was, there was still the small issue of exposure. One, we were riding at a desolate point in the middle of nowhere. Two, riding in almost straight offshore winds makes any small gear issue steamroll out of control quickly. Inevitably, when people put it on the line damage happens and, in our case, we snapped a few leashes and popped a few wings, resulting in some harrowing wing rescues and some long, lonely paddles of shame. Nothing like being stuck miles offshore, not being able to get back in… fun times! Even with all the personal exposure and the adventurous trek to the point, the crew just couldn’t get enough of Wingvana. After that first eye-opening day, none of us could stop thinking about the wave, and most conversations steered their way back to the question of the trip… “When are we going back to Wingvana?”. Luckily for us, the answer most days was a resounding “today” and the crew was able to get their fill of never-ending rides down the long green wall.
In classic bittersweet fashion, the last days of our trip dawned upon us quickly. The long days ticked by in a blur of sessions, laughs, new friends, amazing food, and even more amazing memories. As with anything, the trip had its ups and downs, but I for one wouldn’t have changed a thing. I would gladly endure another 36 hours of traveling while having one hell of a case of food poisoning if it meant I got to spend one more day with my new friends exploring the dusty roads of Northern Peru…
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Joining Gary Siskar and myself on our “work” trip was a well-rounded cast of characters. Our diverse crew of riders consisted of: Kylie “Shredzilla” Zermati, one of two shred sisters who easily logged the most on-water time of the trip; Kaden “The Tongue” Sponhauer, goofy footer, trip grom, lord of the froth, and deadly precise on his front hand; the dangerous duo of Matt and Moriah, hailing from the cold waters of Santa Cruz and well accustomed to big exposed conditions; Jesse Faen, long time surf frother, easily our best composed under a heaving lip; Coleman Buckley, the spark that started the Ride Engine fire; Bryan “Bry-Guy” Metcalf-Perez, video extraordinaire, pro windsurfer, and wing enthusiast; and finally, Eric Duran, the man with the iron quads and tack sharp focus. With the team selected, all we needed now was a good swell forecast and a promising spot on the map. There was a lot of places thrown around, but at the end of the day we needed somewhere beautiful, untouched, uncrowded, and most of all, with pumping conditions. Drawing on years of travel experience, and one hell of a pros and cons list, Gary finally decided that we would roll the dice and head off into the land of long groomed left-hand point breaks, Northern Peru.