I Was Robbed in Panama Part 1!

Totally my fault! But also Chas's!

Remember that shady roommate I talked about here? Well it took few days but he finally got the best of me! Let me explain how I became a terribly clichéd victim of a tourist trap, all thanks to Chas Smith.

After deboarding my insland-hopper and taking a cab to the nearest, cheapest hotel in Bocas del Toro, Panama, I was informed by the clerk that they had no availability due to Carnaval. Slightly dismayed but mostly just thirsty, I made my way to the water refill station, which was currently occupied by a couple of American girls and their bevy of empty jugs.

The ladies kindly ushered me in and even paid the twenty-five cents for my refill, as I didn’t have any coins on me. While waiting for my flask to hydrate, I asked if they knew of any places to stay nearby.

The blonde, who would have been attractive were it not for her very dead front tooth, named a few different spots and pointed a few different directions. Not much help. Then the brunette, who was less attractive but had a wonderful smile, led me outside the building to further explain. Mid-way through her spiel, a local guy on a bicycle rides by. “Anybody need a hostel?”

“Uhhh, I do!”

“He’ll rip you offfff,” she said in a sing-songy tone. “But up to you…”

Not hearing her warning, the man flipped a U-ey and rode up to my feet. “What you looking for bro?”

“You got any singles?”

“Yeah bro, $20 a night.”

I looked to my female friend. “It’s a good deal…” she said with an unconvincing shrug.

Remembering Chas’s sage advice to seek out hardship, and neglecting every parent, travel guide, or intuition I’d ever experienced, I replied: “Uhhh, yeah ok… let’s go check it out.”

Next thing I know we’re standing at the bottom of a big apartment building. The guy hands me a key and says I’m in number six. I lug my board bag up two flights of stairs and find the room, which is actually a two-bedroom apartment, walk in, and try the first door. Locked. The light emanating from the frame tells me there are people inside. I try the next door, which is unlocked, and open it to a double-bunk bedroom with no apparent occupants.

I guess it’s all mine?

The first bit of swindling happens an hour later, after I’ve meticulously laid out all my goodies across the stacked bedspreads. Homeboy, let’s call him Timmy, comes back and walks in the door.

“Bro, what are you doing? Why you got your shit everywhere?”

“You told me it was a single… I assumed that meant I could put my shit anywhere.”

“Maaan are you serious? You think I’m gonna rent you this whole room for $20? Bro it’s a $20 a bed, so unless you wanna cough up $80, you better move alllll that shit over there.”

We went back and forth until I talked him into $30 for an entire bunk, or two beds. He made it seem as if I’d twisted arm, but I knew he was still getting one over on me.

“Oh, and get off that bed. That’s my bed,” he declared.

“You’re staying here?”

“Yeah bro we’re roommates! Hey and there’s only one key so we gotta like… coordinate and shit.”

At this point, I was 99% sure the situation was destined to end badly. Everything from the salesman pitch, the backpedalling, the “best friend” act, and now the fact that he was going to be living in the same room as my passport, computer, money and surfboards all spelled disaster. But I felt a certain comfort in the fact that I was aware of it all. Like somehow because I knew the situation I’d put myself in, it wouldn’t happen to me or if it did, it wouldn’t hurt as much as being robbed blindly.

Gotta let the bad times roll!

Stayed tuned for part 2 and maybe 3 of this scintillating tale founded in utter stupidity.

cyber bully

Surf Taught Me How to Be a Loser!

The game of surf gifts us immunity to the calamities of life.

The sting of rejection? The burn of disappointment? The horror of reflection? You won’t feel a damn thing if you surf. Here’s how the game of surf gifts us immunity to the calamities of life.

1. Self-Reflection (watching yourself surf on video for the first time)

Most of us think we look like gilded ballerinas on a wave. Watching it, transferred to the smart screen sitting in your palm, there are snippet parts familiar to an Eastern  European throwing an American football for the first time. Ever seen? It’s physically impossible to make the pigskin look more awkward, askew or asymmetrical, flying through the air like a buck-shot duck.  The good news? No one is exempt from being graded on this Bell Curve.  Just like the camera adds five pounds, no one (except John John and some choice elite) is immune. Michel Bourez’s arm flares are akin to a Kermit the Frog freak out with Miss Piggy in pursuit. Let’s not forget Adriano’s Bitchy Crab Stance. Options: Think of POV Go-pro vids like a reverse Monet, the closer you are the less of a mess it seems to be…

2. Introspection (Recognizing our wave-height ceiling)

Everyone lands on this vertical timeline. There are a few things that are inherently terrible but everyone pretends to like and are socially bound to accept: listening to someone’s Declaration of Independence about their kids baseball game, cute photos of the cat snuggling with the dog on the couch. Most therapists will tell you guilt is like carrying a bag of bricks, just put them down. Like telling your friend you truly hate their outfit, there is a liberating effect to saying, ‘No way man, too big for me.’ Like a 12-step program on the way to recovery, a simple equation applies: 40ish (years of age)+ 20 (years surfing experience)+ 1 solid turn + ability to thread a tube = Honestly not giving a shit what the groms in the surf shop or the parking lot crew think about your limits.

3. Rejection (Back of the bus)

That peeling point where the locals take off behind the rocks. Their little rotation, closed to outsiders, trading stories, is very similar to a circle of cheerleaders giggling over the quarterback. Paddling into one of these snake pits reminds me of freshman year in high school. Of walking into the cafeteria for the first time, desperately scavenging for a morsel. You can’t blame them. They earned it and they have the skill and knowledge to take off deeper. John Steinbeck said one of the possible reactions to social ostracization is that a man becomes determined to be better, purer and kindlier. Go back to your beachie, work on that wrap and return with a swagger.

4. Disappointment (Optimistic/confident surf forecasts) 

At this point, the sexually provocative website Surfline (and the likes) remind me of the soothsayer from Julius Caesar. Sure, they can tell the future, but what kind of future? Beware, the Ides of March is a transitional season month with sudden wind shifts. Like Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.” I’ve made dinner plans with old friends months in advance only to have them disappear one by one like characters from the movie Clue. Turns out, the ‘best laid plans’ are the ones never made. Hyped-up swells that only show half of what they promised on the wind charts remind me of “current” Tinder pics from 10 years ago. Both letdowns are equally painful. Eventually, the light of day exposes both. If Alexander Pope was bright enough to translate Homer from the Greek, then he’s good enough too summarize limp swells. “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

Confession: I’m a dickhead!

But what radical aggression!

So a few days ago I was out surfing a very good run of swell at my local reef break. I mean beach break. I mean what is Cardiff-by-the-Sea’s Pipes? There are rock things there somewhere but I wouldn’t call it a reef because, I don’t know, it’s not tropical and ummmm but… anyway I was surfing and it was a very good day with pumping rights and throaty lefts and I was killing it on a brand new Matt Biolos Puddle Jumper courtesy of Matt Biolos and Derek Rielly.

Killing it!

Devil-may-care floaters. “Hacks.” Etc.

I was surfing rad but got out of the water because I had to post a story about Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson’s Former too early but… awesome… a surf photographer babe was standing on the shore and she said, “I got some great shots of you today…” and handed me a card that read SanDiegoSurfPhotos.com on one side and “You were shredding today! I got the proof!” on the other side.

I gave her a cool guy chortle, took the card and hiked up the incline.

Later that night, after lots of boozes, kuriosity killed the kat and I klicked onto sandiegosurfphotos.com and found my shredding picture.

It is the one you see above.

I am a dickhead.

Doing a dickhead turn on a wave? Is that a wave?

In my defense.     Wait. I don’t have a defense. I was doing a dickhead turn on the flat ocean.

So yeah. I am a dickhead. But so are you (I hope. Please be a dickhead too. Can we be friends?).

Chas Smith (pictured) acting like a dickhead.
Chas Smith (pictured) acting like a dickhead.

Self-reflection: Are we dickheads?

Are surfers unable to receive love or is it just me?

I finally got done giggling about Samsung abandoning the World Surf League about four minutes ago. Whew! That was good… but now that I have regained a modicum of restraint I am left to wonder. Are we, surfers, self-destructive dickheads?

Let us rewind to March 2016. The World Surf League was about to embark on an exciting new season with world’s third largest company as title sponsor. Its CEO, Mr. Paul Speaker, had come in the year before after a successful (maybe) run as the director of marketing for the multi-billion dollar NFL.

Them skies don’t get much sunnier!

But was I content? No! Unless by “content” you mean “rude.”

Speaking for myself, I cajoled Herr CEO as much as I could (see here, here, here, here, etc.) and he ran away crying, taking all of his NFL experience with him.

I also regularly poked Samsung (see here, here, here, etc.) and while I don’t think BeachGrit is widely read in Korea, I’m sure the Samsung VP in charge of Samsung’s surf relationship saw some of the pieces simply because only three people write about professional surfing and two of them are here (I’m including Nick Carroll).

Which has left me to wonder?

Are we unable to accept love?

Is there any company that could come in and headline the Tour that I wouldn’t kick in shins? Any future CEO I wouldn’t fun make?

Are all surfers dickheads or is it just me?

world sleep league
Or maybe best job to get tubed is… pro surfer! | Photo: @worldsleepleague

The Best Job for Traveling Surfers!

Surfers dream of a job that allows for months spent in foreign tubes. We found it!

My arrival in Bocas del Toro, Panama, coincided with the last few days of Carnaval, a tradition of week-long partying that I believe started in Brazil but has since been absorbed by nations across the world. Much to my surprise, Bocas is not only a surfing haven, but also a renowned party destination for South America’s wealthiest and North America’s most “free-spirited” (see: no bras, blonde dreds, septum piercings) twenty-somethings. A Caribbean Ibiza.

I’ve not partaken because the waves here are best in the early early morning, and even slight hangovers have been known to cripple my delicate frame into the late afternoon hours. In short, I’m a pussy.

Every morning around seven I hail a cab out to the surf zone and see what the day has to offer. I surf either the terrifying beach break or the dribbly reef and by the end of my session attempt to cozy up with another group of surfers. Cabs are $15 each way and when you’re on your own that adds up real quick.

Today I surfed the terrifying beach break and my ride-share victims were a three-pack of Aussies, at least one of which was quite the talented surfer. After the session we hopped in their car and I asked what they do back in Australia.

“Well, Matt’s a sparky (electrician), John here’s a chippy (carpenter) and I’m a plumber (plumber),” the talented one tells me.

All of them tradeys (tradesmen). Here for a month.

This reminded me of the time when, in Indo, I met a traveling Aussie duo, one of which was a chippy and the other a miner. They had worked twelve-hour days all summer and repaid themselves with a four month Indonesian sojourn.

All of this anecdotal evidence led me to wonder, is a tradesman the best possible occupation for a traveling surfer?

I asked the car what they thought.

“Well, it’s a trade-off, ya know?” the portly one replied. “We work our fucking cunts off for a few months, but then we make good money and have long holidays. A lotta blokes are fucking around at home with whatever retail job, making shit money and eating pingers to pass the time, and then they end up with no cash and short holidays. Meanwhile, we’re here. So yeah I like it better.”

There you have it! Tradesmen work hard and play hard, and that is probably the ideal situation for an aspiring surf traveler. At least in Australia.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe most American handymen are on contracts that pay menially, dictate a nine-to-five presence and allow two weeks vacation.

So, what’s the best occupation for an American frother? Surely one of our readers is sitting on the secret to wealth and free time…