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Chicama Spot Guide

Stormrider Guide

Chicama is to be found halfway between Lima and the border of Ecuador. The landscape around Chicama is extremely arid, the water is unusually cold and sea fog often shrouds the extensive line-up. Ask any surf traveller where the longest wave in the world is and the answer is invariably Chicama. The actual distance between the furthest take-off point and the fishing jetty where the wave ends is 4km (2.5 mi), although to be fair no one has actually ridden it for that distance. On good days most people end up catching 3-5 different waves on a journey down the point, surfing through 4 defined breaks and using the constant current to drift down to the next take-off point. Furthest out on the tip is El Cape aka Malpaso, which is always the biggest, but not necessarily the best. It draws off a cluster of rocks and starts fast and sucky before hitting the sandier shallows inside the point and backing off into what will become a familiar scene - long sections of slightly tapered, lip-feathering walls that demand a repetitive approach of drive, lip bash, float and snap until a temporary shoulder gives respite for a roundhouse or two. It's the place to go in small conditions, as it picks up W swell better, but cops more wind, plus it is rockier and breaks all tides. It's a neat but unmakeable kilometre to the next spot on El Cape called Keys, where a crop of black rocks signals a defined launch spot into what can be a racy wall with barrel potential, provided the swell is moderate to strong, when it can transport you up to three-quarters of the way towards the main point, 800m away. Keys provides the best protection from any S wind and the proximity of the cliffs help also. It's soft when small and prefers mid to high tide to help hold up the sections. Chicama's main break is El Point and is easy to identify as the biggest protrusion from the long line of the cape. This is where most surfers try to start their sessions, making the 20+min walk from town. The exposed rocks make a good marker in this faceless line-up and the wave starts off fast with some hollower, close-out sections to keep everyone on their toes, but quickly settles into an ideal tempo that peels like it was designed in a laboratory. Foam-climb re-entries are a useful weapon to keep up if caught behind and will help negotiate the longest makeable stretch of Chicama that spins for 1.1kms before reaching the last El Hombre section. Located in front of a swathe of beachfront hotels (including the famous El Hombre), this is the place where you are most likely to get barrelled as the swell hits a clump of rocks and sandbanks, then speeds up on its way to the pier. It also means it can be greatly affected by sand flow and swell direction, often only working for short, but intense sections. If on a big swell it is all aligned then there is another 800m sprint to play for, if your jelly-legs will allow. It's a good idea to kick out well before the pier as the sweep can take you into the danger zone of pylons and swirling currents. Lower tides favour the 2 end sections and they are better oriented for E-SE or even rare NE winds, but such is the angle of refraction and the scale of the headland that even SW winds are doable closer to the cliffs in a cross-shore sense and SE-S will be fine. Sometimes the wind is so strong it will blow the waves to shreds and you over the back, if you can see through the sand storm. Wave height rarely reaches double overhead with a 12ft swell barely producing overhead conditions at El Point. The 15ft face height upper limit is rarely , if ever reached and the current of Rio Chicama would be so strong, jet ski assist would probably be needed.

The north sweeping current is so strong, it is far easier to keep surfing waves down the length of the point, get out and then walk back up to the take-off zone. The Point could happily handle a crowd of 100 surfers, because most of the time at least half will be either out of the water or out of position, but the recent development of zodiac assist for surfers willing to pay a fairly hefty price and get ferried back to the peak has changed the dynamics for the paddlers who are often snaked by a boatload of fresh arms after paddling constantly for 10mins to try and maintain position near the peak. The locals are skilled and strong paddlers, often picking off the peaches, while drop-ins are common by those speculating that the guy on the inside wont make it. Being so long, it does give the option of sitting anywhere down the line and waiting for someone to fall or get tired/bored/cramp! The whole Chicama show is consistent if you dont mind surfing small broken up soft shouldered sections and the days of real quality S-SW heaving swell are much rarer, but when they come, so do the crowds from all the other points in the region, hoping for a slice of the legend.
Proper name for the place is Puerto Malabrigo, as signposted and there are now every type of surfer accommodation from budget to luxurious.

  • All Tides
  • Left-hand Pointbreak
  • Sand
  • S - W
  • South Easterly
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