Thursday, September 12, 2013

Surfing(?) in Panama

Chasing surf is a significant element of our travels. If it were up to Scott, it's all we would do. As any surfer knows, just because you want to surf, doesn't mean you can. Are there waves?  What about tide, wind, crowds, access, currents, and water quality? All of these variables lead to our love-hate relationship with surfing.

Surfing in Panama has been no different than anywhere else. The potential is there, but we just can't seem to hit it right. We were hoping to catch some waves at Pavones in southern Costa Rica, but the 10-day forecast showed nothing. We bailed across the border to Panama, and ended up waiting another couple weeks before the next swell event.

We tried Santa Catalina, a very popular surf destination. We caught the tail-end of a really big swell. We thought it would be perfect, but after our first day surfing, we realized things weren't going to work out. There were lots of surfers, some who were quite good... with unwelcoming attitudes. Other than not having waves, this is the biggest no-go for us at a surfing spot. Additionally, the wave was pretty heavy in the take-off zone, so I was intimidated, to say the least. Pictured below is the wave at Santa Catalina. It was a long paddle out - you can hardly see the surfers in the picture.

Santa Catalina

Next, we tried Playa Venao. The waves petered out before we could realize the potential of this place. We hung out at Playa Venao for almost a week and as the waves got smaller and smaller, we found other things to do. Luckily we had reasonable internet access, so much of the time was spent hanging out under the awning, researching and arranging the shipment of El Tigre to Columbia.

With no swell in the forecast, we packed up our boards and headed to the highlands of El Valle. We didn't expect to surf again until Ecuador. However, El Tigre's boat got delayed for 9 days, and a new swell was due to arrive, so we made a 180-mile detour back to Playa Venao to try again. Once more, there are no waves, as we write this from under our awning at Playa Venao.

We don't get it. In the past 60 days, there have only been ~7 days with surf-worthy waves. And honestly, we're not that picky. The rainy season is supposed to be the south swell season. We expected to see consistent waves originating from the winter storms coming from New Zealand.  Unfortunately, for us, New Zealand must be experiencing a mild winter.

Our office at Playa Venao (notice the calm waveless ocean)

Scott paddleboarding during a storm at Playa Venao

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