Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Peruvian Trip Nets World Championship, Reed Boat Project for Grossmans
Jim Grossman, USA, defends his world champ title at the 2019 Surf Kayak World Championships in Huanchaco, Peru. PHOTO: Mark Boyd
Friday, August 2, 2019


While the water’s coming down in the Wood River Valley, the surf’s up in Haunchaco, Peru.

That’s where Sun Valley resident Jim Grossman successfully defended his title as World Champion in the Grandmaster’s (over 50) division of the Long Boat Class for three-meter kayaks at the 2019 Surf Kayaking World Championships.

Grossman, who is 53, captured the world championship earlier at Portrush, Northern Ireland. He has competed in surf kayak competitions internationally for more than 15 years and has previous world titles from events in Costa Rica and Portugal.

Johannes Liaboe, Jim Grossman and Buey Grossman march in the Opening Ceremonies Parade of the 2019 Surf Kayak World Championships. PHOTO: Mark Boyd

His song Buey, 17 placed third in the junior division of the Long Boat Class and tied for fifth in the Junior Short Boat Class for boats under nine feet. And he was the top scoring junior in the Open Division in the Short Boat Class.

Meanwhile, Johannes Liaboe, who has trained on the Big Wood River and other rivers with the Grossmans, tied for fifth place in both the junior long and short boat classifications in what is only his second surf kayak competition.

“I’m enjoying the trip so far, aside from being a little sick,” said Buey Grossman of his sojourn to the popular vacation beach town known for its surf breaks and its ceviche.

These World Championships were especially significant because the small Peruvian fishing town is the ancestral home to all surf riding sports and activities.

Buey Grossman built an ancient surf craft with the guidance of a traditional Peruvian fisherman. PHOTO: Johannes Liaboe

Fisherman in Haunchaco still build their caballitos de totoras the same way their ancestors did more than 5,000 years ago.

The boats are named “little reed horses” for the way they are ridden and straddled, and fishermen use them even today, transporting nets and collecting fish in their inner belly. That makes the boat building one of the oldest prehistoric cultural traditions still being practiced.

And that didn’t go unnoticed by Buey Grossman. In between training and competition, he spent a week working with a local fisherman to collect reeds with which to build one of the boats. Then he learned to paddle and surf it much as the wave riders of that village.

“Learning about the caballitos has been a very cool experience. I’ve learned a lot about the construction of the caballito and the culture surrounding it. It took the fisherman that I was working with two to three hours to build one and we went out on it the next day,” he said.

Buey Grossman competes in the junior long Boat finals. PHOTO: Mark Boyd

Buey Grossman said he is preparing a research project for Sun Valley Community School to evaluate the theory that surfing in Peru not only pre-dates activity on the Polynesian islands but may have directly influenced the development of all surfing.

Towards that end he visited with a local activist who is preserving and protecting the living history resource. He also visited active archeological digs with Haunchaco-born and Yale-trained archaeology professor Gabriel Pietra, who discovered physical relics of the caballitos. On his return Buey plans to present his findings as an independent project for the Sun Valley Community School.

He also wants to recreate a caballito Idaho style, using reeds found along the Snake River. When finished he will attempt to paddle it down the whitewater rapids of local Idaho Rivers.

The two Grossmans and Liaboe competed as part of the seven-person U.S. team July 19 through 26. They headed south of the equator following the Extreme Kayak World Championship held on Idaho’s North Fork of the Payette River in June.

The U.S. contingent tied for fifth place in the team component of the competition, which is held biannually at a top surfing destination around the world. The competition attracts the world’s best surf kayakers from more than 20 countries in North and south America, Europe and Asia

The first-place team ought to make a few Idahoans happy. It was the government-sponsored team from the Basque Country, which has continued its domination of the sport, winning the team competition for the sixth time and placing first in six of the 10 individual titles.


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