After centuries of evolution and experimentation, surfing finally went modern in the 1990s. In the final decade of the 20th century a new generation of surfers emerged. The children of Herbert Mulanovich (Herbert, Sofía and Matías), Augusto Villarán (Augusto and Gabriel), Oscar Malpartida (Kina and Álvaro), Guayo Gubbins (Jonathan), Tato Gubbins (Daniel and Mateo) to mention only a few, took what the foundation that the early pioneers had laid and took it to a new level. Additionally, first generation surfers such as Luis Miguel “Magoo” De La Rosa Toro, Mark “Makki” Block, Roberto “Muelas” Meza, Martín Jerí and Luis “Luiggi” Nikaido established themselves by dominating the national championships. Collectively they went on trips, explored the coastline to find new surf breaks and participated in epic surf sessions at some of the most important beaches in the world.
It was the decade when new talent began to bloom. Skillful surfers appeared in the north, including Claudio Manrique, Pablo Doig, Benoit “Piccolo” Clemente, Richard Navarrete and the brothers Omar and Henry Huamanchumo. It was also the decade of the first Peruvian surf schools and the formalization of a renewed national surfing federation. From Máncora in the north to Cerro Azul in the south, and the discovery of the left-hand waves in Piedras Negras and El Olón in Ilo offered even more opportunity for the country’s surfers.
In February 1990, Ecuador arranged the fourth edition of their international championship in Montañita. Peru was the strongest nation present and 17-year-old Mark “Makki” Block took home the trophy surfing won in the spectacular northern right-hand wave. It would be just the beginning of his fruitful surfing career. The young surfer from San Bartolo traveled to Chiba, Japan, two months later to participate in the ISA World Surf Competition. He competed in the Under 18 division and reached the final. A young Kelly Slater (currently the 11-time world champion) from Cocoa Beach Florida was also in the final, but Makki’s found a way to beat him and finished fourth in the contest. Since Felipe Pomar’s world title in 1965, no other Peruvian had managed to reach the final in an event of this magnitude. Makki’s success was a small, but important step forward for Peruvian surfing. In need of a new source of inspiration, his result managed to put Peru in 15th place amongst the competing nations and ignited a fire among the up-and-coming kids in the country.
In the 1990s Luis Miguel “Magoo” De La Rosa Toro battled against frustration, lack of money and the reality of being Peruvian and trying to compete with the great surf nations of the U.S., Hawaii, Australia and Brazil. In the ‘90s, Brazil was undoubtedly the superpower of South American surfing and their innovative design and techniques in shaping their boards, their skills when surfing small waves and the quick rise in popularity of the sport catapulted Brazilian surfers up the rankings. Despite this adversity, Magoo managed to bring surfing back to the attention to Peru. When travelling to Hawaii, Australia and California he made friends and gained the respect of some of the best surfers in the world. Mark Foo from Oahu, Hawaii, one of the top big-wave surfers of the planet, became one of Magoo’s closest friends. They would surf together whenever he visited the island. Foo came to Peru on several occasions, and competed in the preliminaries of Big Wave Balin at Punta Rocas, and in the second Sea Festival in Huanchaco, up north from Lima. Both of these competitions were easily won by Magoo, who also became the national champion of the official circuit organized by the Federación Peruana de Tabla (FEPTA, The Peruvian Surf Federation).
While Magoo kept fighting for Peruvian surfers to enter the international surf circuit organized by ASP, a surfer from Punta Hermosa named Roberto “Muelas” Meza started to win titles in South America. In 1991, Muelas was crowned both national champion and the Pacific South champion. The Pacific South was a competition for Latin surfers, most of them from South America, with two separate events in different countries; Ecuador and Chile. The competition started off in Montañita, Ecuador, in February, with the classic carnival championship. Several Peruvians travelled up to Ecuador to compete, including José “Titi” De Col and César Aspíllaga. Surfers from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru participated, but when the final was over the podium was dominated by the red and white colors of Peru. Muelas won the title, followed by Titi De Col and César Aspíllaga. To add even more Peruvian flavor to the win, the three of them all competed for the Peruvian surf brand BOZ.
At the end of ’91 it was time for the second event of the South Pacific, this one in Pichilemu, Chile. The competing surfers had arrived from the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile, and for three days they all battled it out in some very challenging conditions. On the third and final day, they moved the contest to the surf break Punta de Lobos. Muelas once again showed his great skill and ended up winning the second title of the championship as well. He closed the year winning the third and final round of the national circuit in December in Punta Rocas, thus becoming national champion. Three months later, Meza was rewarded for his achievements by the Instituto Peruano del Deporte (Peruvian Institute of Sport), as they named him the best surfer of the year. Meza also managed to surf in 11 of the total 17 international surf competitions organized by the ASP that year and finished the season ranked 61 in the world—higher than any other Latin American had ever managed to rank.
In addition to the national competitions organized by FEPTA and the championships organized across South America and the world, one company started to organize sponsored events with the collaboration of big brands, which offered prize-money for the winners of the competitions. The company was called The Video Makers and was founded by Javier Meneses, who moved back to Lima from California in the late ‘80s with the idea of creating a television show about surfing and extreme sports. The Video Makers started to organize surf competitions in the summer of 1991 and the winner would take home $1,000US. The runner-up received roundtrip airline tickets from Lima to Miami. The first of these events was called the Volvo Cup, a brand with no association whatsoever to surfing. Nonetheless, they were convinced to sponsor the tournament, alongside many other significant brands afterwards, thanks to Meneses’ contacts and sales skills.
A company, and person, that should not go without mentioning is Backus & Johnston and Alex Ljubicic Rubio, the events manager. Alex signed a sponsor agreement with the surf school Olas Perú, supporting them through the soda brand Guaraná. The economic help enabled them to buy a minivan with which they could pick up and transport young surfers between different beaches. In January 1992, Olas Perú and Guaraná organized the first Olas Perú Guaraná Backus Championship for junior surfers, which turned into a recurring tournament featuring up to ten events per year for five years in a row.
In the early ‘90s, the ASP decided to renew the format of their competitions. Prior to this change the governing body of professional surfing was running approximately 20 events per year that featured the top 32 surfers in the ratings. They were seeded for the main event and the rest of the surfers had to go through trials to qualify for the competition. The trials were exhausting and difficult to advance out of because so many surfers from all over the world were seeking a spot to compete against the cream of the crop. In 1992, the ASP decided to change this format and created the World Champion Tour (WCT) and the World Qualifying Series (WQS). The WCT was considered the “big leagues” with 10 or 11 annual events featuring the top 16 surfers in the world (pre-qualified from the year before). They were joined by the top 28 surfers from the WQS and four wildcards, making it a total of 48 surfers per event. It is a similar system to the one in place today.
On January 5, 1992, Roberto “Muelas” Meza began a project that would become a milestone in Peruvian surf history. Muelas, with the support of Herbert Mulanovich and his wife Inés Aljovín, made his first attempt as a surf instructor. The couple wanted their daughter to learn how to surf, and wanted someone to guide her technically and strategically as she progressed. During the summer of 1992, they lent Muelas their van so he could pick up and take young Sofía to beaches down south. Other children were also interested in learning how to surf and the first group of students included Sebastián “Toto” De Romaña, Antonio Pedraglio, Ignacio Bedoya, Flavio Petris, José Gómez, Eduardo Cáceres, the brothers Jerónimo and Joaquín Castagnetto, Gabriel Villarán, and a handful of others. By 1996, more than a thousand students had been trained at the surf school, some of them with elite aspirations and others merely as a hobby. That year Sofía Mulanovich won her first national title, while Gabriel Villarán became a sensation in the junior category. Villarán, only 11 years old, even reached the Open Finals (the top category) in the José Duany Championship.
“In December 1991, Sofía and her brother Matías tried surfing for their first time in Máncora with Magoo De La Rosa Toro,” recalls Muelas. “When they returned to Lima, the parents Herbert and Inés called me to look into the possibilities for their children to continue their training in Punta Hermosa, and thus began the surf lessons with Sofia, Matías and their friends.
“I worked with “Sofi” three days a week for eight years, as she participated in national competitions and her first sessions in La Isla, Punta Rocas, El Paso, Cabo Blanco and many other beaches. Magoo was a great help, since he was able to bring her with him during his sponsorship by Billabong to California and South Africa, so they could see her surf. We managed so that Lisa Anderson, the manager of the Roxy, the female line of the surf brand Quiksilver, signed an international contract with Sofía. After that, the young surfer traveled to Australia to surf the Australian ASP Circuit, meanwhile I was also in the country as an instructor for Surfing Australia, earning my certificate as a professional level 1 and 2 instructor.
“After several attempts on Sofía’s part to win the world title, I received a call in 2004 from Australia, and she asked me to fly over and help her to tune up some technical issues with her surfing. I was on a plane the very next week to see if I could help her in any way. We managed to figure out what the problem was, and we started to work on it during the Snapper Rocks event, where she reached the quarterfinals. From Australia we travelled together to the world championship in Salinas, Ecuador, where I was also the trainer of the Peruvian national team. At the event Sofía secured the ISA world title of 2004, and the Peruvian team as a whole came 4th, the best team-result we had ever gotten. The same year Sofía participated in the world tour of the ASP, and thanks to the technical corrections and her strong self-confidence, she managed to take home the professional world title ASP in Haleiwa, Hawaii, as well.”
In 2010, Olas Perú Surf School opened the doors of the first Center of High Performance Surfing in Perú. It was, and still is, located in the district of Punta Hermosa on a 750-square meter piece of land which was donated to the school in 1994 by Mayor Gerardo Castro. The center was designed by the architect Titi De Col, and thanks to sponsors Backus & Johnston, Movistar and MAPFRE. The first part of the center has been built and surfers are able to stay at the facilities while they train. There are dorms, bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a garage and the necessary facilities to carry out the training sessions. The center also has its own cook that offers nutritional recommendations for the athletes. The Olas Perú Surf School is the most important surf institution in Peru and one of the premier surfing facilities in Latin America.
In 1992 Peruvian surfers answered the call to not just ride the country’s great waves, but also protect them. When a construction project was launched to build a pier that would ruin one of the most appreciated waves in the country, Cabo Blanco, surfers rose to the occasion to preserve it. They joined forces with the Asociación para la Conservación de las Playas y Olas del Perú (ACOPLO, The Association of Preserving the Beaches and Waves of Peru) and together they managed to save the treasure that is Cabo Blanco.
Magoo De La Rosa, Titi De Col, Javier Fernández, Javier Castagnetto, Sugui Zegarra, Christian Neira, Rodolfo Bejarano, Pierre Tristant, Javier Huarcaya, Guillermo Gerberding, Hernán Peñaranda, Diómedes Arias Schereiber, Fernando Bouroncle, Steve Wagner and Nicolás Cuglievan bravely stood together against the authorities that could not see the impact such a construction project would have. The destruction of the wave of Cabo Blanco would not only have been a great loss for the surfing community, but also for the inhabitants of the creek that prospered from the many tourists that visited their little town to try their luck in the tubular waves. Spearheaded by Pedro Solano and Carlos Chirinos, thanks to the petitions from ACOPLO and legal aid from the Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA, The Peruvian Environmental Legal Society), this northern surfing paradise was saved, demonstrating how surfers can act as defenders of their beaches.
The Video Makers events were a great success and for three consecutive years it featured larger prize sum, better organization and a variety of other spectacles. It was just the beginning. In 1993, the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) decided to host their first World Qualifying Series (WQS) competitions in Chile and Ecuador, which quickly raised eyebrows in Peru.
Javier Meneses traveled with the regional marketing manager of PepsiCo Latin America, Peruvian Eduardo Chipoco, to better understand the details and preparations necessary to hold an event of such magnitude. In May 1993, they attended Chile’s first-ever WQS event, the Mormaii Iquique Pro. Magoo De La Rosa Toro was Peru’s strongest athlete in the competition and managed an impressive third place finish. In the quarterfinals, while Magoo was surfing against Robert Meza, Flavio Padaratz and Fabio Gouveia, he ruptured his eardrum. Meza, who was in the lead at the time, sacrificed his own result in order to help his countryman in the water.
In Chile, Meneses and Chipoco got to know Brazilian Roberto Perdigão, the director of ASP South America, and they expressed their interest in arranging a WQS event in Peru. Perdigão approved the initiative and gave them the go ahead to plan and market the event within the next six months. That October they announced their initiative and began to market the contest to interested companies and investors. PepsiCo’s brand 7Up stepped up as the main sponsor, contributing $50,000US to a surf contest in a country that had barely begun to recover from recession and terrorism of the ‘80s. It was not easy to obtain enough sponsorship, but Meneses surprised everyone and made it happen. The Video Makers finalized the preparations and the 2-Star rated WQS contest was slated for February 1994 at Punta Rocas.
In the end 119 surfers paid the $150 registration fee and from February 25-27, 1994, Punta Rocas was transformed into a surfing mecca. The lineup included 61 Brazilians, 42 Peruvians, nine Americans, four Argentines, one Englishman, one Hawaiian and one Australian. The prize purse was $20,000US. Thousands of people came down to witness the event. Being more experienced, and having frequented a larger number of international championships, the Brazilian surfers made the presence felt. They claimed three out of the top four positions with Guilherme Herdy from Rio de Janeiro taking home the victory, 1,000 ASP points and $4,000. The runner-up was American Chris Gallagher, followed by the Brazilians Victor Ribas and Flavio Padaratz. Roberto Meza was the highest placing Peruvian who ended up in ninth place.
For six consecutive years, the Video Makers organized a WQS event every summer at Punta Rocas. In 1999 when they moved the event to San Bartolo and the competition was combined with beach entertainment, longboard tournaments, bikini fashion shows, and one year a women’s category where young Sofía Mulanovich competed, catching a glimpse of her future as a world-famous surfer.
In 1995, the Peruvian WQS event was elevated from a 2-Star ranking to a 3-Star and increased the prize purse to $40,000US. It was enough to attract talent such as 1988 world champion Australian Barton Lynch. Two years later, the event once again doubled its budget and gained another star becoming a 4-Star contest. The future three-time champion Andy Irons came down for the contest, and in ‘98 the twin brothers from Florida, C.J. and Damien Hobgood, surprised the organizers with their attendance.
In ’99 the event changed location to Los Muelles in San Bartolo, and the D’Onofrio Pro Cup, as it was called that year, was won by Brazilian James Santos. However, the surfer who stole the show was American surfer and three-time world champion Tom Curren. He made it to the final where he lost against local Makki Block in what must have been something special the young surfer from San Bartolo to witness.
In those first six years of the WQS in Peru and number of living legends and world champions visited Peru, many for their very first time. These events were made possible by the big private companies’ economic support, and Javier Menes’s never-ending drive to push ahead and make them happen. Each year the founder of the Video Makers would personally write to and invite each foreign surfer, which is why so many great surfers decided to go to Peru and compete.
The interest in big-wave surfing diminished during the 1980s as the focus of top international surfers was more on radical, progressive maneuvers, which are typically done in smaller waves. In 1986, Perico Arévalo had plans of hosting the Aloha Invitational at Pico Alto, sponsored by Aloha and Nike, but the necessary swell never materialized for the event to take place. In ’89, there was an event at Punta Rocas just as a big swell filled in. It was more like a free surf session with an invitation list of surfers. The event was organized by Gustavo Reátegui and José Rizo Patrón; the latter served as the only judge. It was called Balin Open Big Wave Perú Surfing International and as won by Aspíllaga.
In 1990 the format of the competition changed and the competition featured two stages: First, in Punta Rocas, then and a couple of weeks later, when the next big swell came in, in Peñascal. In the opening salvo at Punta Rocas surfers from Hawaii and South Africa competed, including big-wave legend Mark Foo, who tragically drowned while surfing Maverick’s in Northern California in 1994. At Peñascal, the winner of the final was 17-year-old Makki Block, beating seasoned surfers like Magoo De La Rosa Toro and César Aspíllaga. Makki received $1,000US for his victory.
In May of 1993, the Balin Big Wave Pro took place at Pico Alto. For the first time at this legendary spot surfers came together on a very big swell to compete. The event was announced by radio channel Double Nine on May 21, 1993. The competing surfers had to travel quickly to Pico Alto where the heats were drawn up. The competition had all the elements one would expect from a big wave surf contest. The waves were over 16 feet high, there were broken boards, athletes “caught in side” by the big swell, and surfers dropping huge waves. Fernando “Wawa” Paraud was eventually crowned the winner.
The Balin Big Wave Pro returned to Pico Alto in 1995. The following year the competition continued, however with the new name, the Big Wave O’Neill Pico Alto. It was organized by Gustavo Reátegui with three judges in the panel. The event took place on May 29, 1996. By the early afternoon the waves were over 25 feet high. Fifteen surfers competed in the event: José Gomez, Paco Del Castillo, Rodolfo Bauer, Ronald Raygada, José Schiaffino, Diego Velarde, Felipe Bernales, Manuel Del Castillo, Walter Rohde, Marcos Ingunza, Carlos Velarde, Luiggi Nikaido, Wawa Paraud, Rodrigo Bonifaz and Roberto Meza. There were twelve surfers at the start, and after half of the competition three more joined in. It was a sensational session with broken boards, men stranded in the middle of the sea and giant, merciless waves crashing down on them.
Chino Nikaido broke his board in the middle of a heavy set and a police helicopter had to rescue him; pulling him to shore while dangling from a rope. The champion of the event was Ronald Raygada, who also had to be rescued by helicopter just at night was falling after his board broke. The rules of the competition were the following: three hours of non-stop surf competition, meaning all competitors were out in one big heat, with no interference calls. They were the same rules as used back in the days for the early big wave events.
Around this same period a number of surfers went on several expeditions further south in search of new beaches and surf breaks. In 1996, they explored the coast of Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna. The first to surf these new beaches was Perico Arévalo and his friends, who organized yearly vacations that combined his two passions; surf and underwater spearfishing. Later on, César Aspíllaga went to Tacna (the southernmost city of Peru) to buy a car, and on his way back to Lima he discovered and surfed a powerful, barreling wave on the coast of Ilo. This discovery inspired many surfers to organize surf trips, and Ilo soon turned into a popular destination for big-wave riders. There they enjoyed the left-hand tube of Piedras Negras, the long right at La Cruz and the gigantic wall of El Olón. Back then, there was a direct flight from Lima to Ilo, which made the trip considerably easier. Some of the participants of the first surf trips included Alejandro Cipriani, Walter Rohde, José “Jarita” Gómez, Roberto “Muelas” Meza, Luis and José Coli, Sergio Landeo and Luiggi de Marzo. Úrsula Caceres, photographer from the magazine Somos, and Javier Fernández, the editor of the magazine Tablista, recorded these first heroic sessions, eternalizing the powerful waves of Ilo.
Other seasoned surfers from Lima went further south during the ‘90s to explore and surf the waves of Northern Chile. They experienced the strength and size of El Gringo, located on a the foothills of a mountain called “El Morro” in Arica. There were also the radical waves of Iquique. What’s more, international expeditions to the surf meccas Pipeline and Sunset Beach in Hawaii became more frequent during this time. And new locations such as Puerto Escondido in Mexico offered even more opportunity for Peruvian surfers. After Martín Almenara and César Aspíllaga’s epic surf trips in the ‘80s, new brave names like Gonzalo Suito, Wawa Paraud, Rafael Navarro, Rodolfo Klima, Carlos Velarde picked up where he left off. The footage from their early trips to Puerto Escondido is outstanding, with perfect barrels and enormous size waves.
Besides the participation of large companies such as Backus and Johnston, D’Onofrio and PepsiCo supporting surfing, the 1990s saw huge growth in brands dedicated to the sport of surfing. Brothers Max and Magoo De La Rosa Toro began importing Billabong in 1989, which was an immediate success. Ola y Montaña, run by Carlos Ruiz De Luque and José Schiaffino, brought Quicksilver to Peru, while O’Neill and Reef were introduced thanks to the Reátegui family. Other brands such as Ocean Pacific (OP) were already established from the decade before, but thanks to these international brands the strength of the market grew, which helped enable to founding of local companies such as Dunkelvolk and Huntington.
To support this increased interest in surfing there was a boom in surf shops around Lima and several coastal towns. The pioneering shopkeepers included Gordo Barreda, closely followed by Bali Beach, Paradise Surf Shop, Fox, Chicama Surf Shop, Ayllu Surf Shop, Tienda Quince Surf Shop, Picante Surf Shop, Tabla Surf Shop, Vision, Boz, Waves Surf Shop, Local Surf Shop, Mali Surf Shop, Duty Free, Ala Moana, O’Neill, Avot Surf, Grajagan, Sumbawa, Pupukea, Oahu, Surf Center, Tre Piu, Big Head, Backside, Sunset and many more. In Piura there was Jerry Surf Shop, in Chiclayo Inner Vision, in Trujillo Pacific Surf, Banana Drops and Inside, and finally in Tacna there was Caleta.
The niche textile industry grew and the local shapers became more established. Eduardo “Wayo” Whilar had been shaping boards since the mid ‘60s and Gordo Barreda since the ‘70s, but the push forward was on. Brands like Klimax, by Rodolfo Klima, appeared on the market. Klima was an innovative craftsman with an international see for shaping his boards. Pedro Vasquez made a name for himself with his epoxy surfboards made out of his own material, sold under his label, Focus. Other surfboard companies and shapers entering the market during the ‘90s were: Magic Island, RKT, Milton Whilar, Sunset by Carlos Echecopar, Local Creations, Vidmar, Black Good, Renh, Panic Tubes, Swells, Yenth Ccora, Ricardo Peschiera, Martín Cabrera and Rodrigo Gamarra with his Rod’g boards. Martín Jeri was another important shaper of this era. He entered the market a bit later than the rest of the competition, but his impact has been profound.
The appearance of upper end foreign department stores that carried surf equipment heavily influenced the textile and fashion market, but also they also solidified the connection between consumers and the sport as a whole. Saga Falabella, who already existed earlier in Peru as Sears and later as Saga, was bought up by Chilean investors in ’96, turning it into the most potent and powerful department store chain in the country. Ripley was created in ’97, as competition to Saga Falabella. Their interest in the surfing genre brought the two super chains into fierce competition with one another. As this enormous commercial evolution of the sport was going on, Javier Huarcaya was providing the ACOPLO ocean report to anyone that subscribed. Thanks to this service, the subscribers, which received a weekly fax with the surf forecast, enjoyed a bounty of unforgettable surfing sessions in Northern Peru and Lima.
The opening of Olas Peru Surf School and the ever-growing surfing industry in Peru was accompanied by a new generation of talented, eager-to-learn surfers. The ‘90s was the decade when surfers like Gabriel Aramburú, Javier Swayne, Sebastián Alarcón, Sebastián “Toto” De Romaña, Gustavo Reátegui, Rodrigo Bonifaz, Gabriel Villarán, Benoit “Piccolo” Clemente, Pablo Doig, Omar Huamanchumo, Richard Navarrete, Luiggi Nikaido, “Makki” Block, Renzo Zazzali, Germán Aguirre, Guillermo León, Álvaro Malpartida, Oscar Morante, Jorge Fernández, José Gómez, Christian Guevara, Carlos Cruz, Harold Koechlin, José Luis Dupuy, Claudio Balducci, Karen Mendiguetti, Sofía Mulanovich, Jania Mulanovich, Jessica Valle, Kina Malpartida and Francesca Reátegui began to carve out a name for themselves. The challenge facing Peruvian surfing was how to sustain its robust talent and to get these confident young surfers out on the international surfing stage.
In February 1996, newspapers and magazine reported on an 11-year-old boy that made the finals of the José Duany Cup. The boy was Gabriel Villarán and he stepped up on the podium alongside surfers 13 years his senior at the most prestige surfing contest in Lima. The same year, Gabriel Aramburú was crowned champion in the Under 18 division, a title that Gustavo Reátegui would take the following two years, and Javier Swayne won in 1999.
While these young boys made the headlines, the true sensation was Sofía Mulanovich. Trained by both Muelas Meza and Magoo De La Rosa Toro, two of the best surfers of that era, by the end of the ‘90s, Sofía had turned into Peru’s poster girl. When she was 11 years old she appeared on the cover of the magazine Somos. Two years later, in 1996, she won the national title. She would continue doing so until 2000. She took her first international win in 1997 at the California Series Pro/Am in Huntington Beach, California. In the final she faced off with Melanie Bartels, who was one year older and had achieved fourth place in the junior world championships on that very beach the year before.
In 1998, Sofía once again won an international title when she took home the Pan American surf event in Brazil. The Surfer’s Journal wrote an extensive piece on the young Peruvian, detailing her amazing skills in big waves and how she had already travelled and surfed across the United States, Australia and South Africa. When Sofía was 15 years old she was granted a wildcard to compete in the Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa. Surfing in six-foot, pumping rights, she made it to the semifinals, beating the top-10 ranked in the world Rochelle Ballard in the process.
In 1999, Sofía Mulanovich participated in international events such as the World Championship Tour contest in France (ninth place), the Australian Open (quarterfinals), the U.S. Open (ninth place), and rounded off the year in December with a silver medal at the Pan American Games of Surfing in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Her goal was to finish high school then fight to qualify for the WCT and finally become a world champion.
Unfortunately, Peruvian surfing lost a few legends in the ‘90s. Oscar “Chino” Malpartida died in a parachute accident. The three-time national champion (1972, 1980 and 1981) passed away on April 1, 1994 during Easter. Chino left behind a great surfing legacy and the memories of intense competitions between himself and his friend Sergio “Gordo” Barreda. His children, Álvaro and Kina, have kept the family tradition and its contribution to the sport alive since. Another fallen surfer in this decade was Rodrigo Bonifaz Tweddle, who fell into a coma after a car accident in Hawaii. Only 20 years old at the time, he was there to train with the famous Town and Country team. Rodrigo stood out for his courage, as he started to surf the enormous wave of Pico Alto when he was only 14 years old with his teacher Magoo De La Rosa. He was in a coma for nearly 13 years before finally passing away on April 22, 2009 in Barranco, Lima.
On May 5, 1997, Carlos Dogny Larco, the first Peruvian to ever ride the waves of Miraflores on a Hawaiian surfboard and founding member of the legendary Club Waikiki, passed away. The father of Peruvian surfing requested his ashes be spread in the ocean right in front of his beloved club in a traditional Hawaiian-inspired ceremony. His passing marked the end of a life dedicated to the surfing culture, and a life that rediscovered the ancient Peruvian practice of riding waves.
On March 7, 1998, one of the first people to surf Punta Rocas died in his natural habitat. Rafael “Mota” Navarro suffered from a heart attack while surfing, leaving behind memorable sessions with Felipe Pomar, Miguel Plaza and other dear friends from the ‘60s. Mota, as he was known by his closest friends, discovered many beaches in his days, and surfed with an incomparable style.
It is impossible to mention everyone who has had an influence in the waves and on the sidelines as Peruvian surfing blossomed in the 1990s. One influential figure that needs mention is Luis Miguel De La Rosa Toro, Magoo. He was a reference point for the new generation of national surfers. In the ‘80s he fought to bring the shine back to Peruvian surfing, despite the difficult economic and political situation of the country. With an aggressive, fast, technical style, Magoo was crowned national champion seven times over a span of 20 years of surfing. He strived for a spot on the WCT and was the standard-bearer of the Peruvian national team as the country sought to return its glory days of yesteryear. Magoo was virtually unstoppable. He travelled at his own financial expense, sometimes having to borrow money to make it to the next spot only to arrive with more financial difficulties, biased judges and low scores. During his career he was accompanied by Mark “Makki” Block, Roberto “Muelas” Meza and Luiggi “Chino” Nikaido, who would travel in a group, encourage each other from the beach and wave Peruvian flags at spots like Huntington Beach, Rio de Janeiro or Ericeira.
Roberto “Muelas” Meza founded the Olas Peru Surf School and is largely responsible for educating Peru’s aspiring young surfers. He started as a surf instructor in 1992, not only giving them surf lessons, but also by organizing championships for the junior surfers and seeking economic aid from companies that lead to more sustainability and growth. Apart from the school and Muelas dedication, the surf industry also lent its support with better sponsorship deals, which in turn motivated young, new talents. Through brothers Max and Magoo De La Rosa Toro, Billabong was able to put together a powerful team with nearly all of the top surfers of the country: Makki Block, Felipe Bernales, Rodrigo Bonifaz, Sofía Mulanovich, Gabriel Villarán, Álvaro and Kina Malpartida, Gabriel Aramburú, Mateo Gubbins and Ricardo Peschiera.
Looking at it from an organizational point of view, The Video Makers and Javier Meneses managed a historic feat when they brought the WQS to Peru for the first time, and numerous legends and former world champions with it. Their events were exciting, both in and out of the water, which turned into their main marketing tool since it attracted the full spectrum of people from surf fanatics to folks just looking for some fun. Additionally, Gustavo Reátegui’s and José Rizo Patrón’s hard work and their sponsorship of the big wave event for the cream of the crop of the national surfers was very valuable and quite ahead of its time.
Last but not least, the Peruvian Surfing Federation (FEPTA) and their presidents José Whilar, Fortunato Quesada and Augusto Mulánovich filed several petitions and pushed legislation forward to get resources for the complete Peruvian national team to compete in the ISA World Championships. The presidents received a lot of support from Adolfo Valderrama, Bernardo Alva, Javier Fernández, Leslie Passalacqua, Nino Lauro, Igor Sobrevilla, Karín Sierralta and Ricardo Kaufman during this process. FEPTA also renewed their circuit, decentralizing the national competitions and the training of instructors and judges, to create a more professional practice of surfing with better results. The ‘90s was an incredible decade from which Peruvian surfing grew exponentially.