The Revival: Chicama

The Revival: Chicama

As a musician, almost every time I revisit certain works, my pre-supposed understanding of their meaning and value change. Often, it is also this renewed understanding that fuels a passion for the ‘bigger picture’. For example, I have revisited the album Black on Both Sides by Mos Def (Yassin Bey) multiple times. With each visit my appreciation and general understanding concepts in music such as lyricality, rhythm and flow change. In a way, it is my interaction with this one medium that revives my understanding and love for the bigger picture—music. Unsurprisingly, surfing holds this same metamorphic and transformative power. Our constant re-engagement with certain phenomena revive our passion and desire of worldly pursuits. The active pursuit of these phenomena redefine and mold our understanding of the ‘broader picture’, leaving us in a state of continual wonder— questioning and learning.

Surf the Greats Surf Camp Chicama Peru

I came alive, I could fly

I can vividly recall how I felt when i laid my eyes on my first wave as a grom and not just as a passerby. I remember being confused, amazed and somewhat dumbfounded. I found myself questioning “how do I even approach catching this?”. I also remember beginning scared out of my mind paddling into the one-foot rollers for the first time. Nearly a decade later, this feeling doesn’t revisit me too often anymore. I now approach new waves with a mature, methodical, and overall more considerate eye. Nonetheless, there are some waves that still spark this same wonder and fear—these too me are revival waves.

Nothing in my opinion speaks to the ideal of a revival wave better than waves like Teahupoo and the ferocity of its truck sized lip and the fear it induces; or Cloud Break with its contradictory beauty of alluring seductive barrels that break over sharp, unforgiving reef. This revival ideal also applies to Chicama—a hypnagogic wave nestled in the Peruvian dessert. As Aaron Black—head coach at Surf the Greats—puts it “I still vividly remember turning the corner after the 45-minute drive and 3-legged flight frothing to get out there. Seeing a wave like Chicama makes you question if it’s a mirage or actually real. Surfing a wave like this is a feeling like no other, be it longboard, fish or shortboard you’ll fall deeply, deeply in love.” Chicama is not just an impossibly long wave but it also wavers through different manifestations of a ‘wave’.

Chicama Surf Camp Surf the Greats Peru

Check the rhyme

There are multiple ways to approach Chicama’s multifaceted nature. While Chicama as a wave retains its own majesty, its juxtaposing environment sets the stage for its revival nature. The wave is surrounded by a barren, remarkably hot desert landscape. The air is hot and envelops the individual brave enough to embrace it. In the early morning, the raw pacific power is at times blanketed, retained and calmed in a thick morning fog. At the brink of the desert, the hot sand is abated by the cool water and crashing waves of long travelled Pacific swell, amalgamating in Chicama as the waves wrap around the cliff-lined coast scattered with protruding dark rocks.

I prefer to understand Chicama by comparing its 4 well defined sections and 3-5 waves through the frame of a piece by Leonard Bernstein called Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra I. Allegro. This piece, like Chicama, has many distinct sections and parts. The first section of the wave El Cape retains the most size. El Cape starts the surfer’s journey down the coast with a bang. The next spot within the wave is named Keys. Keys offers a fast wall, often times holding the potential to barrel. Keys will then open the door to El point which formulates once again into a quick, punchy spot that later gives into the picturesque wave we all know that belongs in dreams. Last but not least El Hombre presents itself as the cherry on top of the wave, offering a barrel section over rocks and groomed sandbanks. Like the Leonard Bernstein piece it is up to the listener to not get too entranced with one section. If they do, they may never appreciate or find the right mindset to adapt to the wave.

Surf the Greats Surf Camp Chicama Peru

I feel that it is engagement with stimulation like this, whether it be incredibly complex and wonderful pieces of music, or aggressive yet forgiving waves, that humbles us. It metaphorically shakes us up and teaches us of a new way to approach and perceive experiences that grow dull as we age with them. What I find so incredible about Chicama is that it invites us to experience the same excitement we may have felt riding our first wave. In a sense, Chicama retains a welcoming allure shaped by a sense of home, all the while we are physically in a completely foreign space. This foreign space is molded by the new fear intrinsic to a revival wave, yet it still retains a quality of home, and familiarity amongst that fear. It is in this space where now we can explore a fear that brings wonder and progression into our lives. I feel that it is in this abstract and foreign place that we push our boundaries and mature. Here we grow, remold and revive our understanding of the bigger picture.

Surf the Greats Surf Camp Chicama

Call me Ishmael

The importance to retreat to the water or find time to disconnect from the concrete jungle and its intrusive nature is expressed vividly through the words of Herman Melville and the monologue of Ishmael in Moby Dick. As the dreary November begins to weigh on him he describes a haze that grows about his eyes. When he feels this weight on his shoulder, he retreats to the sea. He does not retreat with the titles he acquires on land, but approaches the water as a grain of salt and uses this time to reset. It is this time away from screens, surrounded by supportive people, and the raw power of nature embodied in the Pacific that also revives, and revitalizes our energy and mental health. Again, it is not just the wave that revives us, but the environment that can often console us, organically, unobtrusively and naturally reminding us what we sometimes are stripped of in the urban jungle.

It's important to remember that we can also find this revival in most wonderful things. It is up to us though to rediscover the curiosity that reveal enchanting ideals that are often subtle and blanketed. Just like the thick and delicate early morning fog that covers the wonder of Chicama, we have to push ourselves to stay grounded until the fog passes. And once it passes, it reveals the small things that have the power to revitalize our hazy eyes and revive enchantment and wonder. 

Words by Zane Elias.

Zane Elias Bio

Zane is a Brooklyn, New York born Palestinian. He is currently pursuing a major in Environment, Resource and Sustainability with a focus on the Cognitive sciences at the University of Waterloo. Surfing found its way into his life while living in Fiji. Since then, he has found a home with a small crew of Black Sea surfers, won the Light Up the Lighthouse youth division contest in Suva Fiji, and made a home with unorthodox waves and their communities all over the world—no matter the salinity content, or lack thereof. Zane was also the youth representative for the Fiji Surf Association, is a surf coach and was a featured writer in SBC Surf Magazine. Whether on a log, twin or performance board, in boardshorts or 6 mm rubber, Zane is always down for a session. Find him on Instagram.