Pomar, Felipe

Debonair regularfoot surfer from Lima, Peru; winner of the 1965 World Surfing Championships, and one of the 1960's most dependable big-wave performers. Pomar was born (1943) to a wealthy Lima family, and began surfing at age 14. He won the Peru International in 1962, 1965, and 1966 (placing second in 1963 and 1967), was a four-time finalist in the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational between 1965 and 1969, and finished second in the 1970 Smirnoff Pro. Each of these events ran in oversize surf.

The 1965 World Championships were held at Punta Rocas, just outside of Lima, in thick, gray, shifty waves. Pomar rode in his usual fashion—squat, utilitarian, and nearly mistake-free—and defeated a strong finals field that included Midget Farrelly, Nat Young, and Fred Hemmings, all of whom picked up world titles in the '60s.

Pomar was the first Latin American surfing champion. His win at Punta Rocas, while not undeserved, was a surprise, and down-played somewhat by the surfing elite. "Felipe did a better job at riding the wave the way the judges wanted," Farrelly said, in a plainly backhanded compliment. The surf press meanwhile described Pomar's riding as "unstylish," but liked the Latin angle. "On the beach," Surfer magazine wrote, "Pomar is a quiet and soft-mannered Peruvian aristocrat. But in the water, he's a fierce go-for-broke competitor who faces the big surf like a matador working a giant bull."

The strangest moment in Pomar's surfing life took place on October 3, 1974, when he and fellow big-wave rider Pitti Block rode a tsunami. The two had been getting ready to surf some three-footers off a small island near Lima, when the area was hit by a violent earthquake. An hour later, after deciding against an immediate return to Lima, the two men paddled into the surf; 15 minutes later they were suddenly transported more than a mile out to sea amid giant whorls and boils; perhaps a half-hour later, Pomar was able to catch and ride a 10-foot wave. A quarter mile from shore, Pomar lost the wave as it again backed down into an unbroken swell. "As I paddled to the beach," he later said, "the wave I'd been riding kept going, then jacked up a fishing boat and threw it above a retaining wall into a building." Pomar made land a few minutes later, with Block, having ridden a subsequent wave, joining him shortly thereafter.

In 1987, Pomar began a one-man crusade to have the fishermen of ancient Chan Chan, a pre-Inca empire located in what is now Peru's northern territory, recognized as the original surfers. Chan Chan fishermen from as far back as 3,000 B.C., Pomar said, used reed-built caballitos ("little horses") to ride waves; a 15th-century warrior, furthermore, on a seagoing mission to expand Inca territory, may have introduced the caballito—and surfing—to Polynesia. "While there is much room for speculation," Pomar said in a surf magazine article, "there seems to be a distinct possibility that the embryonic form of modern-day surfing was born off the coast of northern Peru."

Pomar appeared in a small number of surf movies, including Golden Breed (1968), and was featured in Duke Kahanamoku's World of Surfing, a 1968 CBS sports special. He was Peru's top vote-getter in the 1966 and 1967 International Surfing Magazine Hall of Fame Awards.