Guardians of the Totorales

Building Resilience of Fishing Livelihoods

Caballito means “little horse” in Spanish; “Totora” is a South American plant. Archaeological evidence suggests that this ancient watercraft is the world’s first surfboard.

A Caballito de Totora is a small, woven reed vessel with an elongated design that is used by Peruvian fishermen for more than 4,000 years.

Rock art paintings, pottery shards and other Inca artefacts reveal that wave riding is an age-old practice and that the first form of surfing derives from fishing.

The 3.5 metre, one-person watercraft weighs around 40 kg and can be built in two hours. However, the dried totora stalks begin to decompose a month and a half after excessive use in the water.

After laying the fishing nets and dropping the traps for the lobster, fishermen return to the beach and ride the waves with the Caballito de Totora in a standing, kneeling or sitting position.

Historians believe that coastal communities have always used the reed watercraft for professional and recreational purposes.

At SwimTayka, we support and organise field trips to visit the Totora and get involved in making the Caballo de Totora. We feel this tradition needs to be preserved and protected, as it is not only part of the local culture, but it is so essential to the local environment and an excellent example of how quickly things are changing in the local environment.

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