Thursday, January 7, 2010

Surfing Centinela

To reach Centinela you will need to travel on the Pan America Norte. This is the coastal highway and is the best road in Peru, the norte means its north of Lima. Each kilometre is marked by a baton on the side of the road stating how far you are north of Lima. The major town where you turn off is called Huacho (Kilometre 148 to 152) and then follow signs to Huaura. You will soon realise that directions need to be negotiated with people not maps. The tarmac disappears and the track simply gets smaller and bumpier until it appears to be a foot path. The track is in dire condition but it has been done in a 1984 Oldsmobile just go slow and steady, but a 4WD is definately recommended here.

After Huaura is a village that is desperately poor and bleak, everything is filthy and I couldn’t help but feel very gluttonous for embarking on such a journey with nothing but hedonism in mind. Still this is reality. Many of the people here have come down from the mountains and struggle to feed themselves and their families. Pedro supplies the babies with milk supplements.

Eventually the track passes a big hard wood door which sticks out like a sore thumb and then you will arrive at the car park on the beach. It is unusual to have company. If there is a swell of medium size from the south or better still the south west you will see long lefts peeling down the point in three sections. The top section will need enough size to break out clear of the rocks but is hollow and racy. The second section which does connect to the top is a racy wall or mush burger depending on the sand and finally the third section is smaller and could be good for beginners though depending on the tide, the current may be strong.

It is best not to paddle out in front of the rocks rather to prone out behind them, in an L shape, waiting for a gap in the sets.

The wave is surfed by a hand full of regulars and the chances are if you stay with Pedro you will score the place by yourself for several hours every day, so much so it got rather hard to take pictures of the wave as I couldn’t be in two places at one time.

If you’ve been surfing La Isla in Punta Hermosa and are about to explode with crowd frustration then here or even more isolated Bermejo may be what you are looking for.

For me one of the true wonders of Centinela was staying with Pedro. Behind Centinela is a surf camp that has fallen on hard times. It was obviously designed with large numbers in mind and has a real idealism behind it. There are hammock areas overlooking the surf, water slides down to the garden that have long since dried up and dusty photos of “The Day” I got the impression I was the first visitor in some time and calling ahead will guarantee they can feed you (998 809 572). Bring all chocolate etc with you all they have is food they buy and prepare, what comes off the trees and water. There is no mains electricity but Pedro will give you a car battery that you rig up to produce light. If you’re looking for beer and company this is not the place for you.

The place has something which is rare in coastal Peru and that is water in the form of a spring. There are lush gardens, beautiful flowers and a paddock for the horses. I spent a few days rising to the sun, doing yoga on grass, surfing by myself and dining with Pedro who is a lovely chap and has many stories about his estate in the jungle under the Sendero Luminoso years (Shining Path). The place even has a surf viewing tower which is the only building conspicuous from the surf. The premises are large and run down and is a curious place that rewards the sense of adventure it took to find it. If this doesn’t appeal then you would need to go back to Huacho for a very different accommodation experience or move on to Lima or Barranca.

Centinela wasn’t pumping when I was there but it was everything I needed. I wonder whether you should write this information to share but I know of a good man who could use the money and a wave that I’d be surprised if it ever got crowded.

 I do have some much better photos I will add at a later date when I sort out the editing process...although the Peruvian coastline is often a very grey affair.


  1. Hi Ed, Great write up! I'm thinking of beginning our Peru adventure here (me and my girlfriend) as it looks like the first good break north of lima. Although it sounds a bit rundown (thats fine -we've stayed in some pretty feral places in remote parts of indonesia before) - is it safe? Particularly as if the swell is big, my girlfriend wont be surfing. So just want to check she will be safe on shore without me? Are there any robberies...? Thanks, Adam

  2. Hey Adam,

    The wave and walkable area around it are pretty safe I would think. Certainly your close to Pedro and the camp (providing its still there) and a long way from the village. I wouldn't lose any sleep over it really.
    There are some good secrets to the North but you'll need a good bit of help.
    Anythin I can do to help let me know....

    Peru has great waves, buena suerte