In Lima, Peru, there's a new meaning to "the waves are firing." A couple months ago, at a break known for its monster waves, Pico Alto, there was an altercation about an expensive board that got lost in the white water. After some words were exchanged the typical macho tow surfers took things too far, pulling a gun from their wave runner and shooting it off in the air.
Local big wave surfers Kodiak Gutierrez and Magoo De La Rosa are fed up. It used to be, [when you surfed big waves in Peru] you're on your toes and you have butterflies in your stomach, but you're at peace because you're a mile out and it's quiet," says Gutierrez, "Now, there's the noise and smell of the engines and the water has a rainbow colored film on it from the oil. It's a piece of shit."
This battle between the paddle surfers and the tow-in surfers has been happening in other parts of the world for years, but these guys say everything develops slower in Peru.
There are three or four crews of towing surfers [in Lima], says Gutierrez, and they are all nasty. They are Peruvian locals but they don't have the typical surfer vibe. "They're very good big wave surfers, probably some of the best, but they're sick in the head." Gutierrez insists if you paddle into one of their waves, which when they're out, is every wave, "they'll probably break your legs on the beach."
He's not exaggerating. "Three years ago I was almost drowned by one of these guys. I saw a good wave and I took off. It was this guy's 21st wave, and my first. He came from the inside and I had to eat it. When I got back from the line-up he started wrapping his 20-foot leash around my body and tried to drag me under water. These guys are 250-pound black belts; you don't want to mess with them."
"We used to have every year a big wave surf contest here at Pico Alto. But sadly, everyone has walked away," Gutierrez reminisces on the last contest in 2006, "We have to get our line-up back."
Typically cops and lifeguards regulate beach violence, but they don't have that. "So, we are trying to get the word out there; Pico Alto is NOT their beach!"
If all else fails, it will be revenge of the paddlers. "Next time there's a big swell, we're going to the ghetto to get a couple huge guys to stand on the sand while we paddle into any wave we want. If there's a problem, they'll fix it for us on the beach. I'm serious."
The Pico Alto surf community is in the process of implementing a legal manual for proper surf conduct. Damn, this is getting gangster. Stay tuned.