One of surfing’s most enduring functional boards down the millennia – the Peruvian Caballito de Totora – has become the central attraction at the Surf World Museum on the Gold Coast.
The large exhibition at Currumbin has succeeded in getting the famed South American item – named the world’s oldest surfboard, to spearhead a major collection of memorabilia. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Caballito de Totora board which translates as the ‘Little Reed Horse’ has been part of Peruvian culture for over 5000 years. Traditionally, it was used as a boat by fisherman to navigate past the tidal breaks to where the fish were congregated. The curve of the board was then used to get them past the breakers on their return towards the shore.
Andrew McKinnon, the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve chairman, came into contact with the board when he visited the South American country last year. Amazed at how it is revered in Peruvian culture, he began working to get it over to Australia so that the ancient watercraft could be exhibited. “It’s like what the kangaroo is to Australia,” he explained.
Unable to get a freight company to ferry the 14ft reed board across, surfboard bags were filled up with reeds and the board was constructed in Australia. Huevito Ucanan, a 43-year-old Peruvian fisherman came over from the town of Huanchaco, to Australia. Remarkably, he was able to build the board from scratch in less than two hours at a Sydney beach. Mr McKinnon said it was incredible to watch the handcraft of the man, whose only implements were a small cutting knife and a few pieces of string. The fisherman is the 500th descendant from the pre-Inca Moche civilization. He began, as a 12-year-old, learning how to make Caballito de Totora boards.