During the years between 2000 and 2009, Peru regained its leadership position in South America Unlike the previous decades, many countries in Latin America had embraced surfing as one of their favorite sports, making competition tougher and more intense. New, talented surfers from Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela demonstrated great skill and dexterity, landing the atop contest podiums on more than one occasion. The Brazilian contingent proved to be especially savvy. The Asociación Latinoamericana de Surf (ALAS, Latin-American Surfing Association) was created during this decade, national surfing contests were held at surf breaks outside of Lima with more frequency and the Peruvian Surfing Team posted more consistent results at ISA competitions.
Peru was back on the international surfing scene both individually and as a team. The Federación Deportiva Nacional de Tabla (FENTA, National Sport Federation of Surfing) formerly known as FEPTA, was fundamental for the organization of surfing events. FENTA also worked with the Peruvian government and the IPD negotiating the promulgation of the Peruvian surf break protection law. In 2007 and 2008, FENTA organized the Chevrolet Peru Surfing National Circuit; Roberto “Muelas” Meza served as the promoter, the circuit had eight stops and for the first time Mancora was included. At the end of the tournament the winner took home a Chevrolet Spark automobile. In 2007 Sebastián Alarcón won the title, his fourth, and in 2008, Gabriel Villarán took top honors.
A powerful light of optimism paved the way for the new millennium. The year of 2000 was a new beginning and a time for the legends of the ‘80s and ‘90s to pass the torch to the new generation. A young Sofía Mulanovich, who still was attending high school, was already the best female surfer in Peru and Latin America. She made it clear her goal was to someday win an ASP (now WSL) world title when she was done with school. On the men’s side, although Luis “Chino” Nikaido and Magoo De La Rosa still were the surfers to beat, new names such as Javier Swayne, Gabriel Aramburú, Gabriel Villarán, Sebastián Alarcón, Sebastián “Toto” De Romaña, Salvador Voysest, Benoit “Piccolo” Clemente were all part of the new generation that began reaching the finals of the competitions with more and more frequency.
In June 2000, the Peruvian National Team and the Under 18 Team travelled to Maracaipe, Brazil, to compete in the ISA World Surfing Championships. Peru’s team was small due to budget constraints, but was still the largest team that Peru had ever mustered. In the Open division Peru was represented by Magoo De La Rosa, Chino Nikaido, César Aspíllaga (who also competed in the longboard division) and Matías Mulanovich. The Under 18 surfers included Javier Swayne, Sebastián “Toto” De La Romaña, Gabriel Villarán and Percy Pardo. In the Bodyboard division Carlos “Papita” Sierra and Gabriel Galdós represented Peru. Finally, in the Women’s division, 17-year-old Sofía Mulanovich was the only female surfer representing the national team.
Outside of Peru, the championship attracted a number of big names, including Fabio Silva and Fabio Gouveia from Brazil, Michael Campbell and Jay “Bottle” Thompson from Australia, and Hawaiians Freddy Pattacchia and Dustin Barca. Sofía had to face veteran Tita Tavares from Brazil and the progressive Melanie Bartels from Hawaii, among the other female surfers.
At this important competition, with a team largely filled with untested rookies, Peru did more than a decent job securing 12th place—the second-best finish by a Latin American team. Javier Swayne finished 7th in the Under 18 division, while Sofía Mulanovich reached the finals of the Women’s division to win a bronze medal (Tita Tavares and Melanie Bartels took first and second, respectively). Sofia was thrust into the media spotlight, noting her potential to win an ASP title in the years to come.
On June 6, the same day that Peru began its participation in the ISA Championship, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori issued Law No. 27280 known as the “Law of Preservation of the Surf-breaks Suited for the Practice of Sports.” The same month Surfing Magazine in California published a number of groundbreaking photographs of Peruvian waves. Several of months later, in October, the same magazine republished them in its Collector’s Edition. The 2000 activities concluded with the organization of the third Latin American Surfing Games held in La Pampilla, Miraflores. There, Peru won the Team Gold Medal, defeating countries like Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador and Argentina.
In March 2001, the traditional José Duany Surf Cup was won by 16-year-old Gabriel Villarán. Although Villarán was well known among his peers, Magoo De La Rosa, Makki Block and Chino Nikaido were still the reigning champions. With good waves on offer, on March 11, 2001, Villarán beat Javier Swayne (second), Luis Nikaido (third), and Mark Block (fourth). He was the youngest surfer to ever win the event. All year the rookie surfers challenged the veterans, yet at the end of the year wave selection and competitive savvy helped Magoo De La Rosa win his seventh National Title. In the Women’s division, Rocío Larrañaga broke Sofía Mulanovich’s winning streak (1996-2000) by securing her sixth title. Mulanovich was just out of school and was travelling and competing on the WQS.
Sponsored by surf brands such as Roxy, Oakley and Reef, Mulanovich made the cover of Surfing Girl magazine’s April/May 2001 issue and Roxy ran a four-page ad portraying her as the next big thing. Although she did not qualify for the World Championship Tour in 2001, the experience she gained proved invaluable.
The surfing community suffered devastating loss on April 25, 2002, when five days before Gordo Barreda’s 51st birthday, a heart attack took his life while he was surfing at his beloved Cerro Azul. Barreda’s farewell was attended by his relatives and lifetime friends, among them Eduardo “Wayo” Whilar, his brother Carlos “Flaco” Barreda, his wife Eva Terry, his daughters Diana and Claudia and his mother Sonia de Barreda. They all said goodbye to Gordo in a lovely ceremony held at Costa Verde. It was a sunny day and more than 30 surfers paddled out to form a circle in the ancient Hawaiian tradition. They raised their hands in celebration of his life while Carlos Barreda, his brother, poured Gordo’s ashes into the ocean.
With new technologies, the Internet boom and the widespread growth of surfing, surfing capitalized on new media outlets to make its achievements public. Peru’s economy also dramatically improved, allowing surfers to travel abroad to explore new destinations and new possibilities. Digital cameras and video cameras became more readily available Peruvians started to make a living as surf photographers, video producers, writers and editors. Besides well-established Tablista magazine by Javier Fernández, new magazines like Outer Reef magazine by Julio Valdivia and Tubos magazine directed by Agustín Panizo joined the game. Although Tubos was not in print for long, it is remembered for its excellent quality and interesting articles. The magazine X3MAG (Extreme Magazine), directed by surfer and media communications operative Javier Castro. The new addition to the market put an emphasis on format and the quality of the photography. X3MAG set the tone for other magazines like Aqua by Herbert Mulanovich and Goster. The quality of X3MAG and Aqua was second to none. Both have been praised worldwide. X3MAG is still in print under the direction of its original creators Luiggi De Marzo and Roger Velasco, a remarkable surf video producer that also works with José Madalengoitia and Kaiquin Botto in the Film Band. Excellent short format magazines were available as well, such as Ynka Shore by Rafael Candela, North Wave (Trujillo) by Talo Castillo, Local Magazine by Clyde Villalobos and K4 Kulturas Alternativas by Manuel Navarrete and Juan Ignacio Sarmiento.
Online OlasPeru.com, the brainchild of Roberto Meza, became one of the most important surf websites in Latin America, thanks to the quality of the information, the photography and its friendly design. The site receives over a million visits per year. The late Oscar Tramontana Figallo, a very talented writer and editor, was for many years in charge of Olas Peru’s editorial section. PeruAzul.com was another pioneering website with a lot of information regarding Peruvian surf history. Lista Tablista provided a valuable service with its free email newsletter which allowed its members to reach other members via email. The service was a big success thanks to the technical support of Red Científica Peruana (RCP, the Peruvian Scientific Network). In Lista Tablista the members could find an eclectic offering of news related to surfing, including contest updates, boards for sale, wetsuits for sale, etc. Lista Tablista also voiced its political opposition to threats to the Peruvian waves.
Since 2008, Peruvian surfers have had the opportunity to enjoy a program called Peru Surf on cable TV. Directed by Chalo Espejo, it is an excellent program that every week draws thousands of viewers. Free Ride, a show created by Magoo De La Rosa, was another great surf program on TV that lasted for many years. It is worthwhile to recall pioneer shows made by surfers in the demanding media format that is TV: Zona de Impacto (Impact Zone) by Javier Meneses, Surfari Latino produced by Carlos Castro and Jorge Méndez conducted by Javier Fernández, Tabla en Ovación (Surfing in Ovation) a segment within a very popular TV sports show called Ovación, conducted by Magoo De La Rosa, and Tabla y Punto de Quiebre (Surfing and Point of No Return) by Javier Montoya.
Nowadays there is an impressive list of photographers dedicated to tirelessly documenting the Peruvian surf scene. There are too many to list, but we would like to mention the following: Luis Mori, Luis Saldívar, Pepe Romo, Luis Romero, “Kirfa Lens”, Javier Castro, José Barragán, “Susu” Nasser, Javier Larrea, Jaime Venegas, Iván Guerrero, Ronald Harrison, Rommel Gonzales, Erik Henriod, Kike Cúneo, Ernest Alemán, Beto Santillán, Piero Marotta, Daniel Balbuena, Ronald Harrison, and Ricardo Malaver. Gonzalo Barandiarán’s work deserves a special mentioning. As a photographer and a dedicated researcher of the waves in Peru, he wrote a beautiful book titled Olas Peruanas (Peruvian Waves) that has already been printed in two editions (2004 and 2011). With the gorgeous photos and an in-depth explanation of the mechanics of wave, Barandiarán’s is required reading for anybody from Peru or thinking about travelling through the country. Huellas en el Mar (Traces in the Sea), written by Magoo De La Rosa, is another splendid addition to the Peruvian surfing library. In his book Magoo narrates his brilliant surfing career while touching on a wide array of Peruvian surfing history.
Anthropologist and scholar Ricardo Leveratto Sabogal published his book, Los Antiguos y Originales Surfers de Huanchaco (The Ancient and Original Surfers From Huanchaco) in 2003. It is a very interesting academic work. José Schiaffino has published two excellent books. In 2001, he published Kon Tiki: Museo de Tablas (Kon Tiki: Surfboard Museum) and in 2012 he released Toribio Nitta, Jorge Odriozola y Los Corredores de Tabla de Barranco Entre 1920 y 1940 (Toribio Nitta, Jorge Odriozola and the Barranco Surfers Between the 1920s and the 1940s). Surfer and sports psychologist, Dante Nieri, published the helpful and guiding booklet Psicología Deportiva Aplicada al Surf (Sport Psychology Applied to Surf) in 2012. All of these media outlets and surf narratives are also part of our surfing heritage, and as such deserve to be recognized and preserved.
After the catastrophic construction project at La Herradura during the ‘80s, and later the threat to build a pier right in the middle of Cabo Blanco’s wave in 1992, as well as the building of a port at Pacasmayo’s break in 1994, the Peruvian surfers had enough and got organized in their activism, promotion of the environment and protection of the waves. In 1989, the founders of Tablista magazine, Javier Huarcaya Pro and Javier Fernández Urbina, created the Asociación para la Conservación de las Playas y Olas del Perú (ACOPLO, Association for the Conservation of the Beaches and Waves of Peru.) Later, FENTA, under the presidency of Augusto Mulanovich, decided to get involved legally in the preservation of the waves. They proposed a law that Congressman Jorge Trelles was eventually able to pass in the Peruvian Congress, preserving the surf breaks. Law No. 27280 was published on June 7, 2000, in El Peruano, the official Peruvian government’s newspaper where all laws, norms and decrees need to be published in order to receive legal recognition. Members of FENTA, Adolfo Valderrama Bielich and Fortunato Quesada Lagarrigue (former FENTA president) were the authors of the law and as a result the Registro Nacional de Rompientes (RENARO, National Register of Surf Breaks) was created. Managed by the Peruvian Navy, the office is called Dirección General de Capitanías y Guardacostas de la Marina de Guerra del Perú (DICAPI, Harbors and Coastguards General Office of the Peruvian Navy). It is at RENARO where surf breaks are registered as protected breaks for the benefit of future generations of surfers.
For any law to be applied in Peru it has to be regulated and the Comisión de Protección de Rompientes (Commission of Breaks Protection) was formed and charged with the management and approval of the regulations of the law. The first draft was written by Valderrama in 1999, and the commission was integrated by the FENTA directors (lawyers and surfers) José Miguel Monge Valle Riestra, Edgardo Del Pino Zapata, and Giancarlo Debernardi Teves-Lazo. The latter remained in the commission until the regulation was enacted in El Peruano in December 2013. Peru became the first country in the world to pass a law of this nature, setting a precedent that would be followed by the international surfing community.
FENTA’s presidents Eduardo Cáceres, Guillermo Gonzáles and Carlos Neuhaus were adamant in this task, a true crusade. Adolfo Valderrama moved to the United States in 1999 and José Vásquez Huarcaya replaced him successfully. All the involved parties logged a considerably amount of hours working together to pull this off. From the office of the Secretary of Defense, the Peruvian Sport Institution and the office of the Secretary of Education, it required a massive team effort. Through the commission of Sports and Environment in the Peruvian Congress two key congresswomen gave the necessary political support required to obtain the final goal.
During the final stage of this collective effort, the commission received the support of Bruno Monteferri (lawyer and surfer) and Manuel Soto. Finally, on December 7, 2013, an official ceremony in The Peruvian Palace of Government was held to announce the enactment of the regulation. The ceremony was broadcasted on the State Channel TV. The FENTA board members, Peruvian surfing champions and prominent Peruvian surfers stood alongside the Peruvian President Mr. Ollanta Humala Tasso, who was accompanied by his Secretary of Defense Pedro Cateriano and the head of the IPD Francisco Boza. The President and the leaders officially gave the green light to Law No. 27280.
The law became a legal tool where all Peruvian authorities who were involved one way or another with the protection of Peruvian surf breaks were compelled to legally abide by this new set of rules. Although it took thirteen years to pass, Peru now has a law that when warranted, will be enforced by the authorities to preserve the waves from any natural or human threat. Our future generations will have a protected environment to enjoy the sport we inherited from our ancestors 5,000 years ago.
During the ‘90s and the first couple of years of the new millennium, surfing in Latin America was growing at a fast pace. Once again, the need to organize a surf circuit involving Spanish-speaking countries under a regional association was evident. Aside from Brazilian surfers, most Latin American surfers were not even close to qualifying to the ASP/WSL Championships Tour. Latin surfers lacked exposure to international surfing contests where they could compete according to ASP/WSL rules and regulations. The individuals who founded such an association wanted to unify the regional surfers.
In the end of the summer of 2001, three editions of the Latin American Surfing Championship were held with eight countries participating, including Aruba, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Panama. Taking advantage of the events, 12 directors of different Latin National Surfing Federations met at the Hotel Embajadores, in Miraflores, Lima, Peru, from April 26-30, 2001. At that gathering the Asociación Latinoamericana de Surf (ALAS) was founded. This entity was charged with organizing a circuit of international events in all of Latin America. The founding countries included Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. The first board of directors was:
President: Antonio Sotillo (Venezuela)
Vice-President: Karin Sierralta (Peru)
Secretary: Edgardo Severino (Dominican Republic)
Treasurer: Manolo Lozano (Ecuador)
Vocal: Víctor Arce (Costa Rica)
Vocal: Rubén García (Panama)
Vocal: Matías López (Chile)
In 2003, Sofía Mulánovich qualified for the women’s ASP Championship Tour. At the time the tour featured five events in Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, France and the United States. Sofía’s best result came at the second event, the Roxy Pro Tavarua held from April 27 through May 3. The young rookie made it all the way to the semifinals, where her run eventually came to an end. She would settle for a very respectable 3rd place. The finalists were Hawaiian Keala Kennedy and the South African Heather Clark. On the World Qualifying Series, at the Roxy Pro on Phillip Island, Australia, Mulánovich secured a second place. She finished the season ranked 7th in the world, while Australian Layne Beachley claimed her fifth world title.
With the experience gained during her rookie year, Sofía Mulánovich competed on the WCT 2004 with a different attitude. She was hungry for glory. With seven contests on the schedule, Sofía had a lot of work to do if she as going to achiever her dream of winning the world title. She began her year with an extremely demanding training program directed by Roberto “Muelas” Meza. During the first stop of the year at Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia, Sofía was accompanied by Muelas who was coaching her and helping her improve her bottom turn and re-entry maneuvers. Brazilian Jacqueline Silva ended with winning the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, who faced Hawaiian Rochelle Ballard in the final. Sofía was able to advance to the third round where she lost to Silva.
After the Gold Coast event, Sofía flew back to Peru to join the Peruvian Surfing Team, which was invited to participate in the ISA World Surfing Competition at La FAE Beach in Ecuador. Peru had built a solid team with the goal of achieving a great result. Sofía won her first title in Ecuador, winning the ISA Women’s division. Since Felipe Pomar in 1965, no other Peruvian surfer, male or female, had obtained such an important achievement. Sofía’s victory helped the Peruvian team place fourth and win the copper medal.
Two weeks after winning in Ecuador, Sofía flew to the South Pacific to compete in the Roxy Pro Fiji. Held a Cloudbreak on the island of Tavarua, Sofía had placed second here the year before. Plus, highly motivated by her win in Ecuador, she carried a lot of momentum into the contest. Sofía ended up making the final against Rochelle Ballard and beat her to claim her first-ever Championship Tour victory. Two weeks later, Sofía and Rochelle faced off again, this time at the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Held at Teahupo’o from May 6-16, the break offered thick hollow tubular waves, the kind of conditions that favored Sofía’s surfing skills. Just like at Tavarua, Sofía was able to defeat Rochelle, and from then on she wore the yellow jersey (of the top ranked surfer) until the end of the last event of 2004.
Anglet, France, was the fourth stop of the tournament and once again Sofía found herself in the final, this time against the formidable Hawaiian surfer Keala Kennelly. The Peruvian charged Anglet’s waves relentlessly and was rewarded with her third win in as many events.
With three victories in her bag, Sofía was in control of her dream of winning the world title, but Rochelle still had the potential to be the spoiler thanks to her three appearances in the finals. After a four-month break in the schedule, the ASP had slated Malibu, California, as the next stop. To be held in October, the extended break was difficult for Sofía. She did not fare well in Malibu and would have to wait for the last two events of the year in Hawaiian to make her dream come true.
In November, if Sofía reached the semifinals of the Roxy Pro at Haleiwa, she would be crowned the new ASP Women’s World Champion. The whole Peruvian surfing community followed as the event got underway. Sofía surfed with all her strength, power, skill and talent. It worked! She made the final and captured Peru’s first world title. When her semifinal heat was over, a group of Peruvians were waiting for her to come and in a chaotic and happy crowd Sofía was hoisted up as a national hero.
She was lifted onto the shoulders of her fans while waving a Peruvian flag. Screaming with happiness, the crowd circled around Sofía, chanting her name until they reached the contest’s stage where she was crowned the new ASP Women’s World Champion. She’s the first and only Spanish speaker to win a world title, and she’s also the first and only surfer to win the ISA world title and the ASP world title in the same year.
On July 13, 2005, Sofía Mulanovich received the ESPY Award “Best Action-Sports Athlete” from ESPN, the United States-based global sports network. The ESPY award is an accolade awarded to individuals and teams for their excellent sport performances and achievements. Sofía’s was the first time a Latin American athlete won one.
In 2005, Sofía Mulánovich finished runner-up on the ASP Championship Tour. In mainstream Peru she earned the status of being a contemporary symbol of success. Here associating with the sport portrayed surfing in a very positive light. Because of her influence, sponsorships and interest towards surfing increased rapidly.
After Sofia’s world title, Spanish a multinational broadband and telecommunication giant Movistar decided to invest in the organization of a women’s five-star rated WQS contests in February 2005. The event would be held at a beach south of Lima called Asia. The idea was for Sofía Mulanovich to win a title at her home court. Unfortunately, she did not win the event, yet this failure did not diminish Sofía’s popularity during the contest. At Punta Hermosa, the beach town where Sofía grew up, people went crazy for her. In later world championships held in Peru, every single female surfer who came to this country reached the same conclusion: Sofía was Peru.
In 2005, Sofía was voted “Best Female Surfer” by the Surfer Poll Awards sponsored by Surfer Magazine. She won the award four years in a row from 2005 through 2008. In 2006, Huntington Beach, California honored Sofía’s achievements by holding a ceremony where the Peruvian stamped her handprints and footprints in wet cement on the city’s “Walk of Fame.” Two days after the ceremony Sofía won one of the most important titles of her career, the U.S. Open of Surfing. The largest surfing competition in the world, once again she was at the top of her game.
In 2007, Sofía was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame. She finished as the runner-up to the world title and won two of the events along the way; one at Santander, Spain, and the other at Sunset Beach in Hawaii. Australian surfer Stephanie Gilmore won the title.
In 2008, Sofía made the cover of Surfer Magazine along with Kelly Slater, the Irons brothers (Andy and Bruce), Mick Fanning and Dane Reynolds. “The Most Influential Surfers of the Year” read the cover. She was the second woman to appear on the cover of Surfer Magazine (the first was four-time world champion Lisa Andersen from the United States).
Sofía Mulánovich enjoyed a pro victory in Peru for the first time in 2009 when she won the WQS at San Bartolo, a beach near Punta Hermosa south from Lima. Defeating Peruvian Analí Gómez, in an emotional celebration Sofía gave Analí her prize money so Gómez could travel abroad to participate in international championships.
In July 2009, Sofía represented the Peruvian surfing team at the ISA World Surfing Games for the first time since 2004. The Peruvian team travelled to Costa Rica to compete at Playa Hermosa. She finished with a fifth place and helped Team Peru get sixth in the overall event. She also helped Peru win the bronze medal in the Aloha Cup, another division in the same ISA World Surfing Games.
In November 2009, at Lobitos in Northern Peru, with its fast and tubular waves, Peru hosted the third edition of the women’s WCT Movistar Peru Classic. For this competition Sofía went to Lobitos three weeks before the competing began with the intention of training for the contest. The wave conditions were superb during the event, and despite mounting pressure from media and fans, Sofía managed to surf very well. Every time she finished a heat there was a SUV waiting on the beach to take her to the press room. The crowd pressure also kept escalating. Sofía reached the final where she would be facing two-time ASP winner and current champion, Stephanie Gilmore. For the final the waves at Lobitos’ were spectacular. Both competitors illustrated exactly why they were there. Stephanie had been the dominant surfer since 2007 and Sofía had not been able to defeat her for quite a while. The odds were not in Sofía’s favor, yet in an electrifying exchange of waves in the very last minute of the final, the Peruvian caught the best wave of the heat. With the wave the win was hers. She’d claimed her first world tour win in her beloved Peru.
Her success broke all stereotypical barriers for surfing. The change penetrated deep into Peru’s society. Suddenly, on the coast, highland and jungles of Peru it was common to see telecommunication billboards with the face of Sofía Mulánovich. Surfing got a big boost thanks to Sofía, and as companies were investing money in support of the sport, Team Peru was able to participate with a full roster at the ISA World Surfing Games. Surf film producers were able to get financial aid and surfers traveling to Indonesia got sponsored too. One can say that Sofía single handedly provoked the new surfing fever in Peru. Sofía’s best assets were her professionalism, talent, charisma and humility. The victories only helped to expose these virtues, revealing a simple truth sometimes overshadowed by her fame: Sofía Mulánovich Aljovín is more than an excellent surfer; she is a great person.
Even in the ‘90s it was apparent Sofía had the potential to be a world champion, but alongside her Gabriel Villarán was also striving to make it on the men’s ASP World Tour. In 2000, Villarán’s career got a big push when he signed a contract with Quiksilver, one of the largest surf clothing companies in the world. In 2001, at the age of 16, Villarán won the José Duany Cup in La Pampilla, Miraflores, and in the same year he won a gold medal in the Under 18 division of the Latin American Beach Games. The following year he won the National Surfing Title in Open as well as Under 18.
By 2003 Villarán had begun to travel abroad to participate in the more important WQS events. It was a year of struggle for him. Joined on the road by countryman Javier Swayne, Villarán finished 209th on WQS. Next year, after seven events, he dropped down to 242. At the same time Villarán participated in the ISA World Games in Ecuador where he earned a seventh place. In 2005, he decided to participate in the ALAS circuit, where he won the title during his rookie year. At the end of that year, the Hawaiian magazine Free Surf published a cover of Villarán doing a frontside air reverse at Rocky Point on the North Shore of Oahu. In January 2006, he competed in the seventh Pan-American Surf Games at Punta Rocas, Lima, Peru, where he won the gold medal, defeating his countryman Gabriel Aramburú in the final. The next month, Villarán traveled to Hawaii to compete in the WQS Monster Energy Pro at Pipeline. He found a huge tube and scored a perfect 10, which ushered him into the finals. He ended up finishing in fourth place, the best result for a Peruvian male surfer on the WQS outside of Peru.
Halfway through 2006, Villarán went to Chile to shoot a surf movie with his Chilean friend, Ramón Navarro. While surfing “El Buey” in Arica, Villarán dropped into a huge right-hand wave that earned him a nomination for the Monster Paddle Category of the Billabong XXL Awards. He was the first Peruvian to have received this kind of nomination. In April, a month after his nomination, Villarán received an invitation to participate in the trials of the WCT Billabong Pro Teahupo’o in Tahiti, where he put on an impressive show during the first heat, scoring a perfect 10. He was eventually eliminated in the third round.
At the end of the year the Latin American surf magazine Olas took a survey of the best 23 Latin American surfers in eight different countries and Villarán was named the most all-round surfer, the best tube rider and the surfer with the best style.
Gabriel Villarán once again put his best effort in to win the national surfing title in 2008, accomplishing this feat by winning three out of seven events. In April 2008, he went back to Teahupo’o to participate in the trials of the Billabong Pro. This time Villarán fared a little better, reaching the fourth round, and again scored a perfect 10 during one of his heats. In June, he flew to Indonesia with the Barena beer team to film Twelve Pack. At the end of the year, Villarán made it to another WQS final, this time the three stars PMX International Vans Pro in Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Villarán showed once again his tube riding abilities, finishing second.
2009 would prove to be a seminal year for Villarán. It began when he went to Northern Peru with Californian Rob Machado, Hawaiian Clay Marzo and Peruvian Cristóbal De Col, as well as several other Peruvian surfers. They were shooting a film entitled Castles in the Sky by the renowned American surf film director, Taylor Steele. In June, Villarán went to Chile to compete in the three-star WQS Rusty Arica Pro Challenge at El Gringo, a powerful peak wave in the Chilean beach of Arica. Villarán arrived in Arica with a pack of Peruvian chargers: Alvaro Malpartida, Javier Swayne, Sebastián Alarcón, José “Jarita” Gómez and Juan Luis Paz Soldán. El Gringo pumped waves during the five days of the event. Barreling right and left-hand waves, reaching ten feet rolled in to the great the joy of the riders and crowd. Villarán reached another WQS final, this time against his friend, goofy-footer Alvaro Malpartida. The left-hand barrels were solid during the final and regular-footer Villarán was able to get barreled backside on more than one occasion. For the first time in his career he won a WQS event.
Two months later, in August, Villarán achieved a new feat, this time with the Peruvian team in the ISA World Surfing Games in Costa Rica. The Peruvians went to the competition with the goal to finish within the first ten nations and to win at least one individual medal. The Jacó wave in Playa Negra was a complex and ever-changing wave, sometimes with fast tubes and other times with short, low-quality walls. Villarán competed against the some of the best surfers in the world, including Frenchman Jeremy Flores and Australian Michael Campbell. Villarán ended up making his first appearance in an ISA final and won the bronze medal. Less than two weeks later Villarán was surfing another WQS event, now at the challenging wave of Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, where he reached the quarterfinals.
In September 2009, Villarán was invited to participate in the WCT trials of the Quiksilver Pro France in Hossegor. The majority of the riders were Europeans sponsored by Quiksilver and it was a winner-take-it-all kind format where only the winner would qualify to compete against the 43 best surfers in the world on the WCT. Villarán made it to the finals, eliminating local favorites like Marc Lacomare and Maxime Huscenot. Tahitian Alain Riou battled him in the final and five minutes before the end of the heat he caught a wave that handed him the trials win. That night while Villarán was resting in his hotel, he received a phone call from the Quiksilver Pro organizers letting him know that two of the ASP main event surfers were listed as injured, leaving two slots for the trials’ competitors. As runner-up of the trials, Villarán was given the green light to fill in for one of the open spots. It was his first opportunity to compete in a major surfing championship contest.
Gabriel Villarán was seeded to compete against Australians Joel Parkinson and Kai Otton in the first round. Parkinson, a Coolangatta native, was the current leader of the WCT and he showed a great deal of experience and ability during the heat, defeating Villarán and Otton to advance directly to the third round. The first round was a non-elimination round, giving Villarán and Otton another chance to compete in the second round. Villarán faced another Coolangatta native, Mick Fanning, the 2007 world champion. The tides changed dramatically before the heat started, adversely affecting the size and shape of the waves. Fanning, one of the savviest surfers in the world, had better wave selection than Villarán and as a result the Australian won his heat to advance to the next round. Coincidently, Fanning won the entire event, and at the end of the year he claimed his second ASP World Title.
At the end of 2009, Villarán was one of the best all-around surfers in the world. If Magoo De La Rosa Toro was the leader to follow during the ‘90s, Villarán was that in the 2000s. Villarán is such a versatile surfer that he can claim victory in small-wave venues like Costa Rica or in humongous massive waves like Todos Santos, Pico Alto or Punta Lobos. Whether he was competing in a WQS event, an ISA event, a WCT event or just free surfing, Villarán’s technique and skill have remained consistent. Besides his innate talent, his mental prowess has also served him well. Even when he lost he felt that he could have won regardless of the surfing stature of the rival or the conditions of the ocean. He understood from the very beginning of his surfing life that everybody is the same in the lineup, and so far this attitude has allowed Villarán to successfully deal with all kind of waves and fierce competitors.
Demonstrating his big wave charging abilities, Gabriel Villarán was the runner-up of the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) in 2014-2015. The BBWT is the governing body that sets the criteria and runs the big wave championships. It was founded by shaper and big wave charger Gary Linden. In order to launch a contest the waves have to meet the minimum size of 30 feet. The BWWT operates under the umbrella of the World Surf League (WSL). Due to its consistency, towering waves and power, Pico Alto, in Peru, has been part of the BWWT tournament since its inception.
Perhaps the most important step in the competitive field of Peru during the early 2000s, was the organization of surfing contests held in more challenging, stronger waves, gathering the most competitive Peruvian surfers. These events were called “Invitationals” because only surfers that were invited by the event’s sponsoring company were allowed to participate. Another characteristic of these competitions, and thanks to accurate surf forecast, was that they were launched only during the right swell conditions. Similar events were organized during the ‘90s at Pico Alto by José Rizo Patrón and Gustavo Reátegui, but by the year 2003 these events reached a new level.
The first event of 2003 kicked off at the beginning of April. The Quiksilver Augusto Villarán In-Memoriam Invitational was held at La Isla in Punta Hermosa. The most outstanding Peruvian surfers participated in this Invitational event with Gabriel Aramburú taking the win, defeating Magoo De La Rosa and José “Jarita” Gómez in the final. Two months later Punta Hermosa was once again the host of another Invitational, this time the Billabong Pico Alto Invitational. Punta Hermosa local surfer José “Jarita” Gómez was the champion. At the end of the year, and for the first time, an Invitational event was held in Northern Peru. Cabo Blanco, the picturesque fishermen’s cove and home of a superb wave, hosted the Billabong Cabo Blanco Invitational. The organization of the event was quite a bumpy road from the get go, which the brothers Magoo and Max de la Rosa had to deal with. Local surfers and fishermen sent out several letters to different naval and political authorities, seeking to prevent this event, arguing the defense of the wave against the perils of overcrowding the lineup. The De La Rosa brothers got the help of Felipe Bernales and were able to negotiate with the fishermen and local surfers, reaching an agreement that allowed the first Billabong Cabo Blanco Invitational to move forward. César Aspíllaga, “Mr. Tube,” won the event on a board he shaped.
The multinational giant Saga Falabella joined the sponsorship of the Billabong Pico Alto Invitational in 2004. Magoo De La Rosa won the event and would repeat his victory in September at the Quiksilver Saving Herradura Invitational. Cabo Blanco was once again visited by the Invitational tour crew during the month of December, and Germán Aguirre won the second edition of the Billabong Cabo Blanco Invitational. The following year, a new beach, El Paso in Punta Hermosa, was the host of the …Lost El Paso Punta Hermosa Invitational. El Paso beach is right beneath the cliffs of Punta Hermosa, where huge beach breakers pound the shore. Gabriel Aramburú won the event. Locals José “Jarita” Gómez, Roberto Del Castillo and Javier Swayne were the other finalists. Swayne got his revenge in December at the Billabong Cabo Blanco, winning the first Invitational of his career. Swayne’s tube skills allowed him to win the event three more times in the following years.
Besides holding the Invitational epic conditions, the prize money was also a huge incentive for the participation of the best contemporary surfers. The endemic media covered these events extensively and the surf fan base was driven to all these beautiful beaches, lured in by the thrill of seeing the best waves with the best surfers.
In 2009, another landmark was established in the Peruvian surfing history. For the first time ever the Billabong Pico Alto Invitational had as guests the most renowned big-wave chargers in the world. The Big Wave World Tour, under the command of surfer and entrepreneur Gary Linden, put the Peruvian mammoth wave on the BWWT’s calendar and during two days of epic surfing icons such as Peter Mel, Greg Long, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Carlos Burle and Mark Healey shared the Pico Alto lineup with the Peruvian surfers. The winner of the event was Californian Greg Long.
Magoo De la Rosa traveled to Rincon Beach in Puerto Rico at the beginning of 2007 to participate as a member of the Peruvian team in the first ISA World Surfing Masters. The seven-time Peruvian national champion took the world surfing contest very seriously and prepared for two months before the event. Since De la Rosa mental strength was as good as it gets, the training was focused on the technical and physical aspects. In the Grand Masters Category (41-45 years) in which Magoo was participating there were 22 accomplished surfers from 12 different countries, all of them hungry for glory. From the start of the event Magoo was the dominant surfer in his category, continuing advancing, always first in his heat, to the next round. It was a Sunday, the 28th of January in 2007 when Magoo reached the final of the Grand Masters. An adrenaline rush and a flood of emotions filled De la Rosa’s head, the mere possibility of winning the title made Magoo aware of his potential accomplishment; he could be the third Peruvian world surfing champion, after legendary Felipe Pomar and the iconic Peruvian hero Sofía Mulánovich. He took a big breath and regained the necessary calm. The final heat was about to start and Magoo went out in search of glory, competing against Tahitian Heinere Paez, Puerto Rican Alberto Licha and South African David Malherbe.
During a critical part of the heat the Peruvian was struggling to catch a second crucial wave to help his cause. The clock was ticking and Magoo needed a wave in the excellent range to jump into the leading position. Then, in the dying minutes, a set of waves came in which allowed the Peruvian to ride a beautiful wave, scoring 8.75 points, catapulting him into first place. The sound of the buzzer announced the end of the competition and Magoo got out of the water without knowing his last wave’s score. He grabbed his board and with his head down started to walk toward the Peruvian crowd that was waving at him, chanting his name and going ballistic. It was not until he was lifted up by his fellow countrymen and congratulated by his rivals that Magoo realized that he was the champion. He had won the event with an impressive 17.75 points score. Peruvian Javier Huarcaya placed second in the Kahunas category (46-50 years) and the Peruvian team, thanks to De la Rosa and Huarcaya’s victories, won the copper medal. A few days later, the new world surfing champion was welcomed at Lima’s international airport by the students of his surfing school and relatives, all of them wearing T-shirts with the motto, “Magoo vales un Peru!” (Loosely translated as “Magoo, you are as good as Peru!”) The memory of Magoo at La Isla del Encanto World Surfing Championship will forever be one of the fondest of his long and successful surfing career.
The new talents of the 2000-2009 decade were highly motivated, extremely skilled and many of them were second-generation surfers. For instance, Carlos Zapata and Cristóbal De Col, two surfers of this impressive junior generation, were close friends just as their parents were. They grew up together surfing in Lima and Los Organos, a world-class wave in the Piura region where Cristóbal’s father Titi had a beach house right across from the reef point. The friendship was fundamental to their professional development; they pushed each other really hard in every competition. Before they reached 10 each one already had an international surfing brand sponsoring them. They won most of the national surfing competitions, taking turns in winning the events. While the goofy-footer De Col was a smooth, innovative and graceful surfer who loved barrels, the regular-footer Zapata was a very smart competitor, with powerful backside turns. Thanks to their sponsors both De Col and Zapata were able to participate in different international surfing contests and they also travelled worldwide in search of magnificent waves, providing them with a wealth of valuable experience.
Along with De Col and Zapata, there was a group of contemporary young Lima surfers such as Miguel Tudela, Martin Jerí, Nicolás Nugent, Sebastián and Alonso Correa, Valeria Solé, Nadja De Col and Alexia Jerí that started to make names for themselves. Junior surfers from beach towns all over Peru emerged as well-rounded competitive athletes. In Punta Hermosa Joaquín Del Castillo, Ricardo Cruzado and Miluska Tello carried the torch. In Cerro Azul, it was Edson Padilla. In Huanchaco John Giancarlos and Juninho Urcia, as well as the brothers Diego and Alonso Venegas, became the standouts. And in Mancora, Lucca Messinas was the guy.
At the beginning of 2009, a rumor of a great, new wave hidden behind the hills of Chilca was spreading among the Lima surfers. The beach known as Chilca is located south of Lima on the 64th kilometer of the Pan-American Highway. It is quite a large beach, encompassing several miles of sand, but until then nobody had spotted any decent waves there. Renzo “Faraón” Zazzali and the twin brothers Alan and Eric Barclay went to Chilca to double check.
It was a warm summer day when Zazzali and the Barclay brothers arrived at the beach. They climbed to the top of the hill to get a better view and what they saw left them in awe—a huge wave breaking close to the shore, with right and left-hand barrels. For them it was other worldly of, like an alien wave (Chilca is a well-known spot for UFO sightings), so they called the beach UFO’s Point.
The wave presented interesting features. To begin with, it could break with either north or south swells. The size of the wave could easily reach 15 feet, keeping its shape and perfection to the wonder and happiness of their discoverers. Soon a small legion of surfers like Sebastián “Toto” De Romaña, Rodolfo Klima, Ricky Peschiera, and others joined Zazzali and the Barclay brothers. Surfing companies took notice of the wave and they began organize events in Chilca in 2010. Quiksilver was the first surf company to hold an invitational event here in March of that year. A couple of months later, O’Neill launched a tow-in event in Chilca, the first event of its kind in Peru.
Between the years of 2000 and 2009, Peruvian surfing springing boarded forward. It obtained important individual victories and the Peruvian surfing team climbed to the top ten surfing federations. The country regained its status as one of the most power surfing nations. Sofia Mulanovich’s professionalism and consistency in the WCT spoke to the capacity of the Peruvian surfers.
It is important to highlight the fact that surfers from other places besides Lima became key players, as did the organization of events outside Lima. They helped to solidify the sport. Local Huanchaco surfer Kane Ramos was the first surfer from outside of Lima to be part of the Peruvian national team. He participated in the ISA World Junior Games in Huntington Beach in 2005. After Ramos, other Huanchaco locals were invited to join the national team such as Juninho Urcia in Junior and Piccolo Clemente in Longboard.
Surfing took a big turn in Peru after Sofia Mulanovich won the ISA World Title and the ASP World Title in the same year. Hordes of new surfers join lineups all around Peru. Everyone was trying to be the next Sofia Mulanovich. Companies started to pour money in this sport and surfing was associated with success in Peru. Improved international events were held on local beaches. Well-renowned surfers came to Peru, especially in the women’s division, bringing more tourists to our country. All of this caught the attention of the mainstream media, which soon began to expose surfing as the new “it” sport in Peru. The discipline and professionalism was cemented by the creation and establishment of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Surf (ALAS). The prizes granted during ALAS’ events helped not only the Peruvian pro surfer but the pro surfers of the Latin American region as well.
As the surfing industry and business grew, so did the sport. Invitational events were popular among the top Peruvian surfers, who were eager to participate in challenging waves from Chilca to Cabo Blanco. The FENTA was no stranger to this new surf bounty and thanks to the good results obtained by Peru in international events, they received more funding. FENTA was then able to organize better national competitions with its newfound budget for the training of all surfers on the Peruvian national team. Finally, the Peruvian team was able to compete on an equal playing field with other powerful surfing nations, traveling to the international events with a complete team, including trainers and other staff members. FENTA’s goal was to put the Peruvian team among the top ten surfing countries. During the ISA World Games in Portugal in 2008, Peruvian Karin Sierralta was elected as one of the four vice presidents of ISA. He got 25 votes of the 35 votes of the participating countries. Sierralta pledged to organize more ISA events in Latin America and to perfect the judging criteria to make it fairer for everybody. After the worldwide leadership of Eduardo Arena during the organization of world surfing championships during the ‘60s and early ‘70s, another Peruvian was now seated in an international surfing institution.
Peruvian surfers were reoccurring players in international events: Gabriel Villarán, Gabriel Aramburú, Javier Swayne, Alvaro Malpartida, Jonathan Gubbins, Christian Guevara, Sebastián Alarcón, Sebastián De Romaña, Cristóbal De Col and Carlos Mario Zapata were the best representatives for the men. Sofía Mulánovich has become the icon of the female surfing world, and in Peru there is a dedicated group of female surfers following in her footsteps. Among them are Valeria Solé, Brissa Málaga and Analí Gómez.