Film says fishing villages threatened by oil development
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 June, 2014 - Surfing, travel and ecology go hand in hand in hand. Just as surfers yearn for new, uncrowned waves in distant and exotic lands, so too do they recognise man’s detrimental impact on the environment in which they immerse themselves.
Colder water and extensive, and expensive, travel have relegated Peru to the latter half of the perfect surfing destinations list, but the wealth of empty, barreling, left-hand point breaks tells a different tale. Two months ago, local Byron filmmaker Angie Takanami discovered this lost story for herself – and the tragic environmental threat that lays upon it.
As a travel writer, Angie was invited to Peru to showcase all that the country has to offer, especially the myriad surf breaks peppering the coastline.
"I've always wanted to go to Peru," says Angie of her initial attraction to the country. "My parents were in a bus accident in Peru when they were traveling through South America. The driver died and they nearly did as well, so Peru has always been in my mind as this wild and crazy place that has ridiculously good surf.
"I received a phone call at the end of last year from one of my clients asking me to go on my first ever trip in Peru. How could I say no?"
Her trip was designed to encapsulate the country, to experience the surfing, the culture and to sample the local cuisine, tradition and warm hospitality. A rich and vibrant experience, the journey created in Angie what is sure to be a life-long love. But it was during this exciting expedition that Angie discovered Peru's darker side, a side blackened by oil.
Her escort for the trip was Harold Koechlin, a Peruvian surf guide and big wave enthusiast. This meeting of chance blossomed into much more, inspiring Angie to create a film about all she discovered.
Peru, Harold told Angie, was suffering at the hands of the oil barons. A swathe of rigs hugged the coastline like jetsam after a storm, dozens could be seen from a single beach, a sight reflected further along the north coast. But more heartbreaking than this blight on the horizon, an otherwise unscathed panorama, and its potential for disaster was the devastating effects the industry was having upon the local fishing communities. Although the correlation is yet to be validated, since the influx of oil rigs, fishing villages the length of the coast have been withering in their shadow, turning to dust in the wake of the corporations.
“Harold and I spent a couple of days in Lima (Peru’s capital) before flying up north. He’s an eco surf guide with a degree in eco tourism. During that two weeks, he shared his dream of creating a sustainable, eco surf community as we visited places that I felt appeared very hindered by the oil industry, pollution and probably a lack of education as well. We travelled from Chicama north to Pacasmayo and as we got onto the beach they were laying pipes.
That’s really where the start of the oil industry’s impact begins. Once we got to Lobitos, we arrived at our lodge at night and there was an oil drill right next to it, drilling twenty-four-seven. We woke up and saw the sunrise and saw these perfect waves in front of our lodge with all these oil rigs on the horizon. It’s golden sands, pristine weather, sunny all year round up there, and yet there’s oil everywhere and a crumbling town that’s clearly not getting any of that oil money.”
Peru’s coastline lies on the Ring of Fire, the circumference of a tectonic plate, one of the earth’s major, interconnected jigsaw pieces. This causes oil to bubble up to within reach, but also makes it prone to earthquakes, the subsequent tidal waves and environmental disaster.
Seeing this ticking time bomb struck close to home for Angie. Growing up immersed in the surfing community of South Australia, she moved to Japan as a writer for the surf industry. Meeting her husband, surf photographer Kuni Takanami, and beginning a family, Angie was forced to return to Australia when the Fukushima disaster occurred. “If there’s an earthquake and subsequent tsunami [in Peru] the whole of the north coast will get wiped out and it will be a catastrophic environmental disaster,” says Angie.
With a working lifetime spent in the media, Angie was immediately compelled to share this story, to bring Harold’s vision of a sustainable surf retreat into reality and to shine a light on the corrupt abuse of the Peruvian coastline and its people by the oil giants. Launching the ‘Double Barrel’ film project, she aims to bring greater awareness of the country’s plight and potential; on the one hand an exquisite surf destination of endless, empty, barreling waves, but on the other, a run-down ramshackle economy, fallen prey to the greed for oil and one that is facing potentially devastating environmental catastrophe.
“It is said that Lobitos was once the richest town in Peru,” Angie proffers. “In the early 20th century, BP built new houses, there was a lot of foreign money, and it was assumed the oil boom would continue forever. But when governmental power shifted in the 1960s all foreign companies were kicked out and in the ‘80s the Communist Party launched civil war against the government and Lobitos was pretty much left in ruins. Except for the surf…”
Although the town, like numerous others along the Peru coast, is crumbling in disrepair, neglect and poverty, there is hope, and Harold’s vision of surf eco-tourism is already coming to light.
“Surf tourism is starting to help bring the town back to life,” reflects Angie, “but it has a long way to go. Our film will address many of the untold issues of why Lobitos was never restored after the civil war, how much oil is produced now, how long it has left, where that money is going and what will happen to the rigs after the oil runs out.”
‘Double Barrel’ is one chapter of a global story. In places like Bali, Fiji, South Africa, even around our own coast, we are seeing the destructive force of development and greed. But, in just the same way, the project and the sustainable redevelopment of Lobitos will pave the way for similar projects around the world.
Harold envisages an eco surf community, bringing income back to the struggling town. The Lobitos Project will set the benchmark, bringing acute environmental awareness to the community, including waste management systems, solar energy and, most importantly, an education in sustainability to the local area. Harold has teamed up with Waves for Development to help the community benefit from surf tourism, teaching the kids how to surf and make timber handplanes and to educate the residents on how to look after their land and ocean.
With ‘Double Barrel’, Angie brings this message to the world, not only so that Lobitos may be saved but to showcase the threats so many beautiful places around the world face and what can be done to protect them.
For a message to be heard it must first gain a voice. Angie is seeking financial support for her endeavour, a crowd funding campaign established to draw together like-minded people who feel that both this message and ocean conservation are vital to the environment from which we, as surfers, gain so much.
To help Angie and her team reach their very achievable goal of $13,000, visit the ‘Double Barrel’ kick-starter page today and pledge as little as one dollar to help make Harold’s dream and the future of Lobitos come true: