If Darren Ledinngham were at home in his beloved North County San Diego, his smile would’ve stretched from like Cardiff Reef all the way up to Swami’s. He would’ve started shouting beers for all his bros, past, present and future, and thanking everyone from the coffee girls at Pipes to his shaper Donald Takayama. The stylish and outgoing goofyfoot just won the second annual BiC One Design Challenge in Pacasmayo, Peru — not to mention a few grand for his troubles — and was understandably frothing. “Hey!” he shouted out to the assorted international crew of surfers and judges assembled in the dining room. “He-e-e-y!” Pause. “Is everyone having fun?”

And despite the wide array of passports and ages represented in this dusty little holiday town, everyone was, in fact, having fun. Holed up in a lovely three-star hotel fronting a mini reverse {{{Malibu}}}, fed three damn fine meals a day, shuttled around to various local ruins and suchlike, “it’s more like Summer Camp than a surf trip,” summed up judge David Kahanamoku. Indeed, Pacasmayo (about 400 miles north of Lima) had internet access and cable TV for the oldsters like Nat Young, Mike Doyle and Peter Pan, plenty of vacationing girls and late night discos for the competitors who lost out early, and perfect little longboard waves for the contest. Couple all that with the fact that the kind folks at BiC Sport were picking up the whole tab (well, competitors did have to win local qualifiers to make it here) and well — what’s not fun about that?

The only problem was that the waves were…too perfect. Well, maybe not perfect in a six-foot G-Land kinda sense, but as far as showcasing longboard surfing (as Nat says), the sand-bottomed lefts out the front of La Estacion Hotel looked almost exactly like a wave pool, if the designer was a goofyfoot noserider. “The wave’s so predictable it’s almost limiting,” remarked young Australian (and eventual second place finisher) Craig Harvey.

Head judge Nat Young agreed. “Would you go out there and tell someone to screw up!” he yelled during the second round, only half joking. “It’s impossible to judge this.” Indeed, four-wave sets would casually roll in; four riders would happily noseride for days through the exact same sections, ad infinitum. Heat scores were frequently within .2 or even .1, prompting much discussion amongst both the judges and competitors. “It’s really subtle,” Nat continued. “You have to see if the guy stepped cleanly to the nose or just shuffled up there; how they made the transitions — style is really important.”

Rhode Island’s Peter Pan, fresh from a blustery Northeast winter, couldn’t have been happier. “If this was back east, there’d be {{{200}}} people out!” he exclaimed when confronted with the fact that he was logging over eight hours of water time per day. “And if this was an ESA contest, I’d be sitting on a soggy chair drinking cold coffee.”

Lounging on the third floor terrace of the hotel, the judges were definitely not groveling. Waiters delivered fresh coffee and nibbles throughout the day, slow jams pumped through the hotel’s sound system — heck, David Kahanamoku had put his bed out on the lanai the first night and just judged from there. “Well, it is nice to be able to go to the bathroom between sets,” remarked Mike Doyle.

The whole trip was a bit of a homecoming for Doyle and Nat, who last visited Peru more than 30 years back, during the 1965 World Contest. (Nat won the four-mile paddle race and Doyle and partner Linda Merrill won the tandem contest). “I kept looking for an excuse to come back here,” explained Nat over pisco sours at the venerable Club Waikiki in Lima after the contest. “And this One Design contest is perfect.”

Non-contest highlights include: most of the young pros, along with Nat and Doyle, switching off equipment with the local reed boat fishermen in Huanchaco, who’ve been riding waves for over 2000 years in their heavily-rockered caballitos de totora; an impromptu little kid tandem contest in front of the hotel on the BiC 10-footers; the oldsters strolling around Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas; a couple deep-fried guinea pigs (!) courtesy of the hotel’s chef (“It’s an aphrodisiac,” claimed the locals. “It’ll turn you into a vegetarian,” argued Nat.); and the last night at Club Waikiki, where Nat and Doyle and the rest of the team hobnobbed with some of Peru’s oldest and most distinguished surfers, including pro surfing grandfather Eduardo Arenas and TV personality Magoo de la Rosa.

As Nat says, “you can bet it won’t be 30 years till my next visit.” — Victor Haddad

Final Results for the 2003 BiC Challenge Final:

Individual: 1st ($USD2000) Darren Ledingham (US) 2nd ($USD1500) Craig Harvey (AU) 3rd ($USD12000) Dane Wilson (AU) 4th ($USD1000) Josh Constable (AU) 5th ($USD800) Taylor Jensen (US) 6th ($USD600) John Larcher (FR) 7th ($USD400) Antoine Cardonnet (FR) 8th ($USD200) Chris Griffiths (UK)

Teams Challenge:

1st ($USD1000) Australia 53 (points) 2nd ($USD800) Europe 48 3rd USA 38 4th Peru 17 5th Japan 8

Best Noserider: 1st ($USD500) Taylor Jensen (US)