Peruvian Surf Legend Gordo Barreda: 1952 – 2002

Gordo Barreda, a surfer, who without exception, was loved and admired by every surfer who ever knew him, died at the age of 50 at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 25, 2002 in Miraflores, Perú, after a post operative heart attack. The first attack came days before when Gordo was surfing a wave at Cerro Azul, which required his absolute rest in preparation for forthcoming surgery.

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Before entering the hospital he gave a television interview to Mark Lund for a Brazilian TV station, part of a documentary on surfing in Perú. Gordo was wearing his favorite blue Hawaiian print shirt and Mark asked him if he would donate it to the Meresías Surfing Museum in Sao Paulo. Gordo took off the shirt, gave it to Mark and it now is proudly on display in the Meresías museum. Just prior to this, while resting up for his forthcoming surgery, Gordo declined a lunch at Club Waikiki in honor of Fred Hemmings, who had returned to Perú after 30 years. Fred went to see Gordo and he talked for a long time to his old friend and rival, remembering among other things how Gordo had beaten him at The Punta Roca International in 1966 and how Fred was ahead of him at the Duke Kahanamoku in huge surf at Sunset, Hawaii in 1969.

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Sergio Barreda was the best Peruvian surfer of all times. Born on April 30, 1951, at the age of 12 Gordo surfed in the International Championship at Kon-Tiki, Perú, and when he was 14 he became a member of the Peruvian team that surfed in the First World Surfing Federation Championship. Four times Gordo won the Peruvian National Surfing Championship in 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1974. Gordo won the Punta Rocas International Surfing Championship, in 1971 and 1973 and he was runner up in 1966, 1968, and 1970 competing against the best surfers from Hawaii, Australia and California.

It is important to mention that Gordo competed with the best of various generations of world surfers: Joey, Doyle, Nuhiwa, Midget, Nat, Jock, Rusty, Corky, Peck, Dora, the Aikau brothers, Ben, Butch, Barry, Blears, Jeff, Reno, Lopez, Hamilton, Jones, among others. All of them knew well that Gordo was capable of winning any surfing championship final, which granted him the respect and admiration of his fellow surfing competitors.

Gordo was big, friendly, gracious, spontaneous and disorderly and he surfed spontaneously without any preparation, thanks to his competitive spirit. Gordo had values that many people envy: he was good, he didn’t know bad, nor envy, nor avarice and he had a heart bigger than the world. He simply saw life with another perspective. I think, without a doubt, that he had two great friends, his surfboard and the sea. This bond of surfing good waves on the sea he loved gives insight into understanding Gordo=s character. Sergio had no complexes, he was a simple man.

Throughout his splendid sporting career, he had a strong alliance with his mother Sonia who introduced Gordo to surfing. Miguel Plaza remembers when he picked up Gordo at the age of 13 from the Champagnat school one day to go surfing together. At the end of the day, the school director called Sonia, while Miguel was in the room, and said that Miguel was the boy who distracted her son and that either Sergio had to study or surf, not both, to which Sonia replied, “Sergio will surf.?

Sergio led a generation that revolutionized surfing style in Perú. The best known members of this group were: Oscar Malpartida, Ivo and Rafael Hanza, Fernando Ortiz de Zevallos, Ricardo Bouroncle, Fernando Awapara and many others. Most were present at the spreading of Gordo’s ashes in the sea and some are already with him such as Joaquin Miro Quesada and Oscar Malpartida.

Being around sports organized his life. His marriage to Eva produced two beautiful daughters. After the inevitable distancing from surfing championships, he dedicated his time to shaping boards, identified with the logo GB. He formed a team of young surfers who surfed under thhe GB emblem and they learned the in and outs of competitive surfing from the Master. Many of these became Peruvian National Champions, Brad Waller, Magoo de La Rosa, Luis Francisco Gomez de La Torre, Chalo Espejo, Titi de Col, Roberto Meza and Martin Jeri. Complementing these activities, Gordo opened the first surf shop in Lima in the garage of his home. The shop was run with Eva and operated for years with a strong clientele of friends and admirers. Gordo also became a sports reporter who wrote with ethics and objectivity in his regular articles about surfing in the Expresso newspaper.

The evening of the velorio, I spoke with Felipe Becerra, Gordo?s good friend who lives in La Jolla, CA, and I told him of the sadness of the surfing community, the pain that we all felt, to see the passing of Gordo, a great surfer and a great person. Tears flowed. Felipe replied that Gordo is in Heaven, he is in the ocean that will guard his ashes that were thrown to the waves in Miraflores, in front of the club he loved, Club Makaha, where he learned to surf and where he became an idol. Sergio has joined the Olympia of the Immortal Surfers.

By: Jose A. Schiaffino, Curator of the Kon-Tiki Surfboards Museum.

Translation by Hal Waller