Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lobitos - the story behind this mythical wave

Lobitos is a small town on the northern coast of Peru with a population of around 500. It has a very interesting story which explains the scene when Lucie and I arrived at 6am, witnessing what appeared more like a ghost town on the set of a John Wayne movie than a developing surf destination. 

It turns out that around the turn of the century or a bit later, lobitos was an affluent English port where the rich came to gamble and party. Some of the casinos are still standing and you can walk around in the remnants of beautiful colonial style houses held together today only with decaying weatherboard structures and fading paint. Some years later it was taken over by the Peruvian military and used as a base and training area. Then a few years ago it was abandoned by the military and since then it has been inhabited by Peruvian families who make by with the existing fishing industry and the developing surf scene.

The Peruvian Government has recently become aware of the potential Lobitos has as a surf destination and it is said, they want to sell it. For an insignificant 10 million US dollars you can buy Lobitos with the only obligation being you have to build a few 5 star hotels and large condominiums. The question is however whether people would want to have that kind of luxury at Lobitos. For the moment half or more of the accommodation offers cold showers and do not have flushing toilets. The crowd are not here to be pampered however or at least it seems. They are here to surf and are less concerned about pretty packaging. If you want to spend a bit more you can get an amazing room with double bed, hot water, huge breakfast and view of one of the best left-handers in South America for 60 US dollars a night with Carlos at If you play your cards right he will even drive you to other less known spots in his 4-wheel drive. Or, if like us, you don’t need the ocean view and included breakfast you can get a room at Kike’s place for a third of that price with a great atmosphere, good food and clean rooms  at 
The fight is still going on however and the government will probably not win, this time around at least. If you do want to buy Lobitos however it may not be as simple as it may seem because the oil industry has become a part of life here and unfortunately a part of the scenery as well. Lobitos is an experience that is unique due to not only its history but also the scene that has been created as a result.

For Peruvian surfers, being surrounded by oil platforms in and out of the sea is nothing new: anyone who's been to the north of the country knows this. For the foreign surfers, however, the situation is unfamiliar. While walking down the streets and surrounding of the town, one has to avoid oil wells, pipes that leak gases and even pools of toxic waste. It is all part of the experience as is the line-up. 

Peruvians it seems don’t have the same inhibitions that us gringos do regarding priority. Lobitos, or at least La Punta is the Ibiza of party waves and three taking off together is a regular occurrence. There never really seems to be any conflict however and it seems to just be part of the culture. Maybe is has something to do with the Spanish conquistador influence! As with most places though patience pays off and often reverting to the final section can save you a lot of anguish and add a lot of joy, as more often than not surfers don’t make it past the first section leaving the last half of the wave often unridden. Also there are the other 3 breaks that are often uncrowded and still loads of fun.

So who do think might own these Oil platforms? Since November of 2010, the Chinese-owned South American Petroleum Exploration Tech (SAPET) Development Perú Inc. has begun digging in search of the precious black gold. Their plan is to dig 115 wells in total in some areas of lots VI and VII (that cover altogether 15,577 hectares) granted by concession in 1993. It turns out the Chinese oil company (surprisingly enough) is giving something back to the people however but is it enough to compensate for the noise, the danger and the aesthetic mutilation it brings to the town? In 2009, the district of Lobitos alone received S/. 4 million (around 1.5 million US dollars) thanks to oil royalties. So it seems the town needs the oil industry to stay in order to survive, because with the big fishing town of Talara close-by it is unlikely they could get by with just small scale fishing and low budget tourism. 

At the end of the day Lobitos is an eerie town in the middle of a Mad-Max style waist land. The first impression is pretty grim to say the least but once you learn the history and get to know the people your impression starts to change and you begin to love it. You also start to venture and bit further and discover that even though the main beach is somewhat unattractive if you walk 10 minutes you are struck by breath-taking rock formations and deserted beaches alive with birds resembling prehistoric dinosaurs and a flourishing crab population that make rocks and beaches appear to move as they dance to their own sideways beat. 

Lobitos is a rich experience but not an experience for the rich. As the old saying goes “ You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear“. Lobitos is what it is but you will only need a few days to grow to love it for that very reason. And the wave of course is world class - let's not forget that!

 Most of the facts come from the following 2 blogs:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mundo de Ninos wish you a Happy New Year

The kids from Nuevo Futuro wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year so we decided to make an animation of the words. Each child did a letter and we took a photo as each one was added. They then helped Lucie put it all together to make a little animation. The boys are always asking us how to say this and that in French and English so we decided to do a use all three languages in the final version. The photos of the making of are below. If you would like to know more about the creative projects we are doing with the ex street children at Mundo de Ninos like our Facebook Page and you will find all the photo albums.