Run by a Swiss-Peruvian couple, Eco Surf Station brings much needed attention to the issue of sustainability in the lifestyle and surf culture of Huanchaco.
Some five years ago, Roxane Borruat started her adventure in Peru. Before beginning her Master’s in Marine Biology, the Swiss student traveled to Peru to partake in an internship based in Tumbes. It was the surf opportunities in Huanchaco (and boyfriend and business partner, Mateo Valderrama) that would eventually cause her to set some roots in Peru two and a half years later.
“The waves are so consistent here that I was really able to improve my surfing skills those initial years of being here,” tells Roxane. It’s a sunny afternoon and she sits outside of her shop, Eco Surf Station. “And I understand it’s a bit weird that I studied Marine Biology and love surfing even though I’m from a country that doesn’t have an ocean. I just always loved water, and had practiced board sports my whole life—snowboarding, skateboarding. The action of gliding over a surface has always attracted me.”
As the entrepreneur describes it, surfers can always find waves to ride in Huanchaco. Winter time has spikes of international visitors while summer sees more national tourists, often drawn by the iconic reed watercrafts (caballitos de totora) and fresh ceviche. In other words, this surf shop operates all year round.
A friendly alternative
Open since April of 2019, Eco Surf Station offers surf equipment for rent and purchase as well as surf classes for all levels. In the same space, Roxane and Mateo have made available sustainable goods that offer consumers plastic-free and environmentally friendly options. These include day to day essentials such as solid shampoos and conditioners as well as bamboo straws, reusable shopping bags and more.
“A lot of our boards are actually made in Huanchaco, so we do try to stay as local as possible as well as be zero-waste. Unfortunately, it is difficult to be completely plastic-free in the sport of surfing, but we always keep our eyes out for new, innovative brands with a sustainable component,” explains Roxane, before quickly switching to Spanish to greet local shoppers.
The shop also counts with a recycling center and (a favorite detail of Roxane’s) a small book corner available to the public. More than just a shop, Eco Surf Station appears to be developing into a community center for those looking for smarter and safer surf and lifestyle options. In fact, prior to opening the shop, Roxane and Mateo began an NGO, Share The Wave. The program aims to empower local youth, raise environmental awareness, and promote the local culture of the caballito de totora.
“Opening Eco Surf Station was actually a response to the need for a headquarters for our social and environmental project,” Roxane points out.
Changing the current
Since the store’s opening, Roxane and Mateo have organized weekly beach cleanups to try and diminish the high levels of contamination in local waters. For them, these admirable efforts are seen as a simple correlation: you opt for a lifestyle that tries not to damage the environment and, when you enter the water, you do what you can to keep them as clean as possible.
In 2019, Roxane, who studied the effects plastic has on human and environmental health, had posted post-cleanup videos that showed startling amounts of plastic and trash that had been recovered from Huanchaco’s waves—in just one day.
“I posted that video soon after the law banning single-use plastics was approved here in Peru, and I remember hearing complaints and negative commentary about having to pay for plastic bags at stores. It was my way to remind people of the real issue at hand.”
And the consequences have already been felt. Large swells bring remnants from construction sites that are dumped on the shore just outside of the town’s main area; surfers and paddle boarders have had to disentangle plastic bags from their fins or even arms after an attempt for a smooth ride.
Despite the issue of contamination, Huanchaco still remains one of the top spots for surfers in Peru. Experienced surfers from abroad can feel welcome to pick out some gear from the Eco Surf Station or to simply ask for recommendations of top surfing spots.
Best times to go
In March and April, when national schools pick up again, the beaches prove for a relaxing getaway for international travelers. Not to mention, big city dwellers in Lima are sure to find warmer temperatures up north as the summer season dies out and the capital begins to fill with fog.
“In summer, the bottom of the ocean is sandier and we get swells from the north (Ecuador). This results in smaller and hollower waves. Then, in winter, the ocean floor is rocky and we’ll get some bigger waves from the south.”
For a day trip from Huanchaco, Roxane recommends driving an hour and a half to Chicama, where the longest left-breaking wave in the world can be found. Also known as Puerto Malabrigo, Roxane describes the Chicama beach as looking like Mars: rugged, wild(er), but beautiful. As well, there are plenty of architectural sites within less than an hour distance, such as Chan Chan and El Brujo.
And even for those who don’t surf, Huanchaco is still a great getaway destination.
“You can do yoga, eat healthy, go to the local market, walk everywhere,” lists Roxane, before adding a word of caution. “Just be careful: Most people who come to Huanchaco end up staying longer than they had planned!”
How to get there
From Lima, a direct flight to Trujillo is just under 1.5 hours. A 20-minute bus or taxi ride from Trujillo’s airport (Captain FAP Carlos Martínez de Pinillos International Airport) can take you to Huanchaco. Direct flights from Cusco to Trujillo are also available (with a flight time of 2 hours).
As well, Trujillo is commonly reached by budget travelers via bus. The ride will take about 8 hours. Once again, having arrived in Trujillo, travelers will need to catch a public bus (20 minutes) to get to the final destination of Huanchaco.
Eco Surf Station
Calle Atahualpa 159, Huanchaco (La Libertad, Peru)
Cover photo: Adeux_mains