Felipe Pomar – World Champion Tsunami Rider
Felipe Pomar set the bar early for Latin American surfers by winning the 1965 World Championships in his mother land of Lima, Peru. His unorthodox yet gutsy approach to surfing the tricky peaks at Punta Rocas earned him the win over some of the world’s greatest wave riders. Mike Doyle, Fred Hemmings, Mickey Munoz, Paul Strauch, Midget Farrelly, and Nat Young were among his conquests en route to the historic win.
Some speculation swirled that Pomar may have received preferential hometown treatment from the judges and that his performance wasn’t worthy of the win. Describing the final, Midget Farrelly reportedly stated, “Felipe did a better job at riding the way the judges wanted.” But the general consensus agreed that Pomar’s local knowledge and his calculating approach enabled him to make sense of the shifting peaks and consequently make the most of the waves he rode. At the final horn, it was Felipe Pomar, fresh from 18 months of training in Hawaii, who became Latin America’s first surfing world champion
Born in 1943, Felipe Pomar possessed all indications of future success: good looks, natural charisma, and wealth. But not until the age of 14 did he find his true calling. He took up surfing and progressed quickly. Five years later, he won the Peru International. He would win this event again in 1965 and 1966. Described as a quiet, well-mannered aristocrat; Pomar’s disarming presence on land was a stark contrast to his aggressive, competitive disposition in the water. Turning his attention to Hawaii, Pomar proved his big wave chops as a four time finalist of the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational. He also earned second place at the Smirnoff Pro in 1970.
While he is forever etched into surfing history for his world championship win, it was Pomar’s unique experience on October 2, 1974 that expanded his notoriety beyond competitive surfing. Felipe Pomar is widely credited as being one of the few surfers ever to ride a tsunami. This bizarre event occurred while surfing with his longtime friend, Pitti Block, on a small island off the coast of Peru. After an earthquake rocked the area, Pomar and Pitti were sucked out to sea and subsequently caught two large swells, successfully riding them toward shore.
A decade later, Pomar embarked on a mission to re-write surfing history. His claim was that the ancient Peruvians (not the Hawaiians) were actually the first to regularly ride waves for fun using reed fishing craft and may have introduced the activity to Hawaii. While no definitive archaeological proof has been produced, Pomar’s crusade can be added to his many notable achievements.