The Last of the Moche Wave Riders

An eroding shoreline and oblivious tourists threaten a beloved local tradition that pre-dates the Incas.

Omar runs the Surf School Muchik with his brother in Huanchaco—a colorful beach town with a population of about 15,000 along northern Peru’s desert coast. Before the Incas came to dominance, this land was home to the Moche people from A.D. 100-800, then the Chimú until A.D. 1470. Huanchaco fishermen and surfers can trace their ancestral lines back to these cultures, and Omar is proud of his ancient surname, Huamanchumo.

In his classroom, he introduces new students, both foreign and Peruvian, to the principles of surfing—as well as the story of his family and the school. He explains that Huamanchumo was the name of a Chimú ruler and that Muchik is another name for Moche. (Though some academics suggest that the groups are distinct, locals consider the terms to be interchangeable.) And he delights in telling them that here in Huanchaco, they are in the birthplace of wave riding.

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