It’s 6 a.m. and Carlos Cabanillas’ day has already begun. With his surfboard under his arm, he picks his way along the rocky beach, his students following closely behind.
Carlos, 27, is a surf instructor and the owner of Eternal Wave Peru, a surf school based out of Barranco. He started the school two years ago, after finishing his degree in Hotel Management and Tourism at the Universidad de San Martin de Porres. He has been surfing since he was 12 years old.
“I always lived really close to the sea, and I always saw my friends and other people going to the water with their surfboards. Little by little, I found myself more interested. Like, why are they using a surfboard and not just swimming.”
As he gained experience, he began competing in tournaments and became a licensed instructor, teaching classes as he went through his studies. Today, Eternal Wave Peru offers classes at all levels to all ages, as well as tournament training for advanced surfers. The school is based in Barranco and classes take place at the nearby beaches like Playa Barranquito, Punta Roquitas, and Playa Yuyos. He also takes students on longer surf trips to the beaches south of Lima.
The location of the classes depends on experience. Playa Barranquito, for example, is very calm and there’s enough time to teach every detail. It’s also the beach where Carlos first learned to surf. Here, he takes students through the correct way to handle the board, the right movements for catching a wave, standing up, and balancing. He goes through all of the explanations at the beach before taking students to the water. Then, once in the water, he or one of his other instructors will hold the board so first-timers can get the feeling of catching a wave. He assures me that all of his students manage to stand at some point during their first class.
Shane Callahan, an expat teacher from the United States, was one of Carlos’ students and now works at Eternal Wave Peru, doing website maintenance and translation in exchange for surfing lessons. He says he likes the local surf shop vibe that Eternal Wave offers, as well as the accessibility of surfing in Lima.
“It’s a good place to learn to surf,” he said. “For example, in California it’s much more cut-throat. If you’re new to surfing, they might kick you out of the beach. But here, I’ve never seen any aggression in the water.”
Like Shane, much of the clientèle at Eternal Wave Peru are foreign tourists, but there are several classes and programs that cater to local people.
For example, a popular choice for classes is the “Before Office,” program, starting at 6 a.m. and catering to professionals who want to exercise before going to work. “They call me afterwards from the office and say that they have so much energy,” said Carlos.
“Here [in the surf community], there’s a popular saying: The worst day in the water is still better than any day at work,” he said.