From Where You’d Rather Be: The World’s Best Beachbreaks – Bocas Del Toro
Words by Tom Freed | All photos by Tom Carey Whenever someone utters the phrase “from where you’d rather be,” Stab’s collective mind’s eye immediately focuses on a sand-bottomed setup beneath a smiling sun. We’re talking beachbreaks. Trunks. Bath water. All the finer things! And, since we so adore such things, we’ve decided to team […]
Words by Tom Freed | All photos by Tom Carey
Whenever someone utters the phrase “from where you’d rather be,” Stab’s collective mind’s eye immediately focuses on a sand-bottomed setup beneath a smiling sun. We’re talking beachbreaks. Trunks. Bath water. All the finer things! And, since we so adore such things, we’ve decided to team up with our like-minded pals at Coronaextra.com.au to deliver you a new series: The World’s Best Beachbreaks.
We’ll be detailing, visually but also through written text, all our favourite sand setups from around the world. The requirements? Nothing but golden grains beneath, nothing but a warm orb above, trunk temperatures only, and a perfect setup to end the day with a Corona and lime.
No. 11: Bocas del Toro, Panama
While the Caribbean side of Panama doesn’t necessarily take a mile-long swim across open ocean followed by a crawl through heavily armed pot fields to a leap of faith from a 75-foot waterfall — all the while plotting a love affair with your comrade’s French lover — there’s also no parking lot when ya get there. What I’m saying is some of the best beaches, and furthermore waves, require a little gumption. A little mistiming, a little vagueness, a lotta jungle, a little adventure. Bocas del Toro, a collection of equatorial islands on Panama’s right coast have a beach or two that’d get a young Leo DiCaprio’s travel bug itching. We’re talking remote rainforests teeming with jaguars and toucans, lined with powdery beaches, surging with hollow, dumping wedges… and a slab or two for the hellions. Indeed, there’s no Surfline cam giving you the heads up, and that’s precisely what makes it worth missioning for. While we wouldn’t completely wanna spell it out for ya, consider the following Daffy’s abandoned map, of sorts.
You can expect the finest fluoro greens in this part of town. Al Knost digs in.
Lemme break it down for you:
Land in: Tocumen International Airport (Panama City).
Then: Catch a cab across town to the domestic airport to get a 1.5 hour flight to Bocas del Toro. Timing that doesn’t always work out perfectly though… If you’re scared of small planes, hell-buses exist, and get you there (eventually).
Stay: At Red Frog Bungalows on next door Isla Bastimentos, then have the boys zip you out to waves nearby on the motor boats.
Bring a: Couple of standard shortboards that you’re comfortable getting kegged on; maybe a step up for a big swell at one of the more slabby, ferocious waves.
A serene dream scene, the type you ride small planes for.
What’s she like? Kinda like those Corona commercials… but with thumping, emerald A-frames sneezing tube-snot both ways in front of that couple watching in the beach chairs on the shore. While you’ll probably wanna head to Playa Bluff for wedgy, hollow overhead peaks, the beachies around Bocas aren’t predominantly easy. Indeed, there are some softer peaks and points in the area, but most (especially with swell) heave, drain and spew comparably to Mainland Mexican breaks. Then, there’s that right slab (the one Mick was at on last year’s Rip Curl campaign) that’ll really get yer blood pumping.
What really makes her tick? Wind, rain, any kind of activity, really, in that zone of the Caribbean. Doesn’t take complex calculus or a certain formula, per se, to score there. A close interval of seconds and feet is fine and tides don’t matter much either. There’s also a prevailing tradewind, but you want that weather, offshore or on, to kick up some swell. A big system, however, will even have you biting off more than you can chew. Swells aren’t limited to the (North American) winter either…
Other options in the area…Venture farther afield to other islands by way of lodge boat service for lesser-known breaks in Bocas. Give the right slab a go if you’ve got the swell and the sack. The Pacific side of Panama has it’s share of surf too, granted, it’s a little softer, and then of course there’s that country to the north that Pat-O and Wingnut were raving about.
The colours might not be perfect, but these waves are perfectly fun. Al Knost vibes.
For a good time Snoop around the bars in Bocas Town on Isla Colon. If you time it right, there’s a few holidays where wealthy Venezuelan and Colombian babes have off and vacay in the lovely islands of Bocas del Toro. And if ya mistime it (your domestic flight) right, don’t fret young traveler, they call Panama City the Las Vegas of the jungle. As in, international bankers looking for mischief and nightlife find their kicks in this sultry Latin city. The Canal Club’s a good place to start from.
At all costs, don’t drop in on local Panamanian surfers. Or, attempt to have Spanish speakers understand your English by raising your voice. Or, walk around town without a shirt on (it’s just a thing there, don’t do it).
OK, I hear ya, but what’s an expert say? Oliver Kurtz says, “F–k you, I don’t wanna talk with you; it’s one of my favorite places in the world. OK, fine… f–k. For me, Panama is kind of like how the East Coast used to be for me when I was a kid. But there, you get that same feeling as a man. Like, as a kid the waves felt like they were pumping every weekend, guys were always getting blown out of barrels, everything felt magnified — and that’s how Bocas feels. Whether it’s a secret or not, it’s such a mission to get to. A lot of times people don’t wanna surf when it’s too big, so you can surf by yourself there. It’s just amazing. There’s some islands out there if you get in a boat and search, that are a lot like The Land Before Time, or something. Islands with no machinery, no houses, pristine with some reeeeally good breaks.
You can expect a whole lot of this kinda vision.
Get at beachbreak number 12, Ehukai Beach Park, right here.
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