Caballitos de Totora

Huanchaco’s defining characteristic is that a small number of local fishers are still using the very same narrow reed boats depicted on 2000-year-old Moche pottery. The fishers paddle and surf these neatly crafted boats like seafaring gauchos, with their legs dangling on either side – which explains the nickname given to these elegantly curving steeds: caballitos de tortora (little horses). The inhabitants of Huanchaco are among the few remaining people on the coast who remember how to construct and use the boats, each one only lasting a few months before becoming waterlogged. The fishers paddle out as far as a mile, but can only bring in limited catches because of the size of their vessels (which now also integrate styrofoam for buoyancy).

The days of Huanchaco's reed-boat fishers are likely numbered. Recent reports say that erosion and other environmental factors are affecting the beds where the fishers plant and harvest the reeds, and many youngsters are opting to become surf instructors, professionals or commercial fishers rather than following in their parents' hard-paddled wakes.