Long before the Inca empire, along the Peruvian coast existed many amazing cultures whose lives where surrounded by the powerful oceans. Their people where merchandisers and fishermen who struggled to survive in harmony with nature. For years however, their fishing was limited to the lakes around the coast despite the ocean’s proximity and the goods these could bare, for as of then, they had not yet discovered a way of dominating its tempestuous nature.
In order to achieve this, it was indispensable to create some kind of craft that would allow them to reach behind the waves. With this idea leading their minds, they returned to their lakes to fish the tiny fishes that hid in between the totora’s canes. It was hence here, amongst the Totora reed where a fisherman first conceived the idea of using the ditch reeds of the totora plant to build their first craft; the TUP the little Totora horse as we today know it. Lets imagine then that magical moment in which this fisherman dared to go into the sea aboard of his primitive craft, after fighting with the waves, he manags to move away from the shore and throw his nets and fishhooks into the ocean, achieving copious fishing. But on his way back however, he is hit by the waves and looses all of the day’s caught prey. Consecuently, he is forced to study the waves and improve his craft until creating the first real little horse of totora, crowned with a firm and proud prow that tolerates the dashing of the waves, hence changing their lives forever. This unbeatable craft is still used as an alternative boat by today´s fishermen.
These ancient fishermen however must have gone through a period of training to get familiar with the waves in order to surpass them and arrive safe and sound to the beach with the day´s fishing outcome intact. Everything seems to suggest that it was at this point when the ancient Peruvians started surfing for pleasure. Think about it. These fishermen where entering the sea throughout a whole period of time with the only purpose of getting to know the waves. The first thing they had to learn was to confront them in order to arrive to the fishing area usually located behind the breaking of the waves, thus consequently, and here comes the beauty of the story, they had to learn how to fight the rush of the waves so, when returning to the coast, their fragile crafts wouldn’t be overturned. Day after day, they paddled to reach the breaking of the waves, so that once there, they could practice the act of returning to the beach taking advantage of the wave's motive power.
Don’t you think these fishermen, after beating the endless rush of waves from a beach such as Huanchaco, didn’t experience an indescribable pleasure when, finally, they pointed the prow of their little Totara horses towards the coast and allowed themselves to be carried ashore by a wave at an extraordinary speed, can you imagine the expression in their faces, the sensation of pride and virility that they must of felt when verifying that each time they were more dexterous at each stage of their apprenticesship? Don’t you think they must of thought of entering the sea for the pure pleasure of just surfing some good waves? Can a man, of any time or culture, desist from surfing once he has experienced the enormous pleasure that this practice brings?
Traditionally, the roots of the art of surfing are attributed directly to the ancient members of the Hawaiian royalty. However, advances In the field of pre-Columbian archaeology have revolutionized these theories due to evidence suggesting that the ancient inhabitants of the Peruvian coast surfed amazing waves three thousands years ago.
Remains of both the Chimu and Mochica cultures have revealed that these were greatly influenced by the sea in a manner much superior to that of any other ancient civilization. In their iconography, as we can observe from the relics found in the Huacas del Brujo, del Sol and of La Luna in the Moche valley, there is an abundance of images showing endless sequences of waves that represent the movement, the force and power of the sea as a source of life. Generally, the developmentS of a society are measured by their advances in agriculture, but in the case of Mochica and Chimú however, their development was linked directly to fishing: they transformed the pacific Ocean into one of the biggest fisheries in the world. Everywhere around the artistic creation of these cultures, waves appear as a symbol of power: the infinite and incomparable power that controlled their universe. In several pieces of art representling Gods or supernatural circumstances, a frame of waves appears around each drawing. We just have to imagine the infinite series of waves of the Chicama beach and remember that this wave, one of the longest in the world, is only twenty kilometers away from the Lambayeque excavations- where the richest tomb of America, that of the Mochican Master of Sipán, was recently discovered.
Nowhere else in America has there been proof of a social development so connected to the sea like the one of the peoples from Chan Chan city. Practically in no other culture did there exist a population so numerous that cohabited so intimately with an ocean so powerful, which moreover, is almost always at swell all year round. bearing this in mind, this is another of the reasons why many of the remaining walls of Chan Chan are covered with drawings and friezes in high relief representing fishing scenes, including not only series of waves, but sea birds, sea deities and spirits. The Chan Chan Festival of the Sea in Huanchaco, a beach located 560 kilometer to the north of Lima, is a unique event in the surfing world, an opportunity to discover an ancient tradition of surfing still alive today. Huanchaco is the biggest coastal town where you can still see the fishermen entering the sea aboard of the legendary little Totora Horses. To the date, they continue to practice with success these same fishing and raft construction techniques as those employed by their ancestors. As put by archeologists this tradition can be traced back to 1000BC for it this is all eventually depicted an archeological ceremonila vessel of the Viru Culture, an antiquity of 3000 years, where you can clearly see a man being presented aboard of a little totora craft.
If 3000 years ago, the little Totora boats were an indispensable element in the lives of the Ancient peruvian fishermen, surfing must of been too, a part of the habitual tasks of these people who discovered and enjoyed this enormous pleasure 3000 years ago, long before it was improved and taken to its highest level of artistic perfection by the members of the Hawaiian royalty.