Stab Magazine | The Head Of Argentina's Surfrider Foundation Tries To Build Pier At Bocas del Toro
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The Head Of Argentina’s Surfrider Foundation Tries To Build Pier At Bocas del Toro

That very same development that’s got Kelly Slater and locals in an uproar. 

Words by stab

Surfers, we assume, share a common respect for the environment. However, Argentinean Surfrider Prez, Ernesto Gutierrez Conte and his nephew, Juan Medo, plan on building a 130-foot dock on live coral reef at Paunch, in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. 

Medo and Conte, own La Coralina, a hotel that occupies the point at Paunch, regularly surf the wave that they plan on altering for their benefit.

Despite local protest, and advice from contractors, who said that the dock would cause environmental harm and be at risk during large surf, the wealthy Argentinean surfers are going through with their plans.

Construction crews have cleared 500 feet of jungle at the proposed site. And, on June 7th, hired workers placed rebar in the reef where the dock will be.

Stab spoke to Scott Balogh, owner of Red Frog Bungalows, who said that the local government of Bocas Del Toro didn’t approve of this project, but Gutierrez and Medo, have found government entities in Panama City to sign off on it without local approval.

“Piers and small docks do not require any environmental impact study, however, a dock of this size does require an environmental impact study. The local branch of MiAmbiente did not sign off on this and knew nothing about it,” said Balogh.

While many hotels and bars have docks in the archipelago chains of Bocas del Toro, they are not a direct hazard to surfers or the ecosystem. The proposed site is where surfers enter and exit the wave through a keyhole in the reef. Meaning, as Kelly Slater told Stab, “It makes absolutely no sense. The waves would destroy any pier within months and the pier would be in the current line of the wave. Surfers would get stuck in it after a wave or wipeout.”

“Surfing is the number one draw to Bocas del Toro, and its waves are of tremendous economic value bringing in tens of millions of dollars every year,” said Balogh. “This development would benefit very few, and none of those being locals.”

Many Panamanians in Bocas, work as panga boat captains, ferrying surfers to and from Paunch and waves nearby. They rely on mooring in the channel at Paunch to idle their boats while surfers enjoy the A-Frame. If the dock is built, then access to the wave would be diminished.

If you would like to help oppose the development of one of the Caribbean’s best waves, join the fight on Facebook at Salvemos Playa Paunch and sign a petition here.

Special thanks to Angie Whittemore, and Juan David Issac for spearheading the opposition and fighting to protect Paunch for the rest of us.

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