Nikita surf team rider Rafaële Deguehegny has been hunting the globe in search of the world's most beautiful beaches and pumping surf. Raf, from Anglet in France, started surfing at eighteen and now spends every winter heading to destinations like Australia, Hawaii, Morocco, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Equador and Peru with her surfboard to pursue her passion. Each trip delivers fresh experiences, waves, people, culture, treks and adventures.
Raf first went to Equador and Peru on a 4-month trip last year and loved it so much she went back to Peru for just over two months this winter. Fresh back from Latin-American soil, we find out what it is about the South American lifestyle that keeps Raf inspired...
"What I love is the fact that South America is mostly Spanish speaking, which makes it easy for me to communicate with people - that's always a good start when you want to fully understand a culture.
"I went back to Peru for three particular reasons: Firstly, the country has so many different things to offer that it might take years to explore it fully; mountains, Amazonian forest, beaches, people, ruins… so much to see! Secondly, they have amazing wave quality. And lastly, the Peruvian coast is psrticularly ugly and poor and - in my opinion - one of the countries where I felt the atmosphere to be most hostile to tourists, especially as a girl... So, of course, at first that doesn't sound like a good reason to go back there, but actually it is...
"It doesn’t seem that people are very interested in developing tourism along the coast. Peru is one of the few places left where you can surf and the landscape is virtually untouched and not wasted by people. People who have travelled there have not tried to change the place by buying land and putting in bars, hotels and clubs, which only destroy the culture and the landscape. Peru remains authentic and even if it can be rough, the people are amazing. You get to experience their real rhythm of life; waiting hours for a car to go into the city to access internet, phone and other facilities. Having days without water, electricity and not being able to reach the city if it rains too much.
"All of this makes you realize that having everything the moment you want it is very unique to our western culture. This is what I love about traveling: getting closer to what other people’s everyday life is like, getting more down to earth, and valuing what we have at home.
"Not always, but most of the time, I travel on my own. This time I went back to the village I was staying in last year so I was reacquainted with everyone I knew. The village is pretty ugly looking; a military zone with fishermen in a very deserted area, but it is a place where I feel at home. People are laid back, simple and spontaneous. It can be rough sometimes, but that's normal; poverty is a complete reality there. However, the people are so full of life; you have a feeling that everything is possible. Latin America in general is a heart-warming area of the world.
"I had a pretty mellow time there. I stayed in a house with a local couple and their children, surfing a good part of the day then going to buy fish on the jetty as soon as the fisherman came back from their fishing trips. I continued to study and hang around with the local women of the village, listening to all their funny gossip. Then I travelled for two weeks in the mountains, trekking and getting some fresh air and good quality of food, happy days!
"It was just perfect. Usually it isn’t a good time of the year to go and the water is quite cold all year round, but this time around we had the ‘La Niña’ phenomenon - it brought us a lot of rain and too many mosquitoes, but perfect waves and warm water."