Julian Wilson makes an assessment of what could have been. Playa Paunch (we think), BDT, Panama | Photo: DJ Struntz

Good News: Panama’s Pier Postponed!

Chalk one up for the little man!

And it appears our efforts were not in vain! The people of Panama (and the world) have spoken and local authorities were forced to listen. According to the @redfrogbungalows Instagram, the construction of an allegedly illegal pier at Playa Paunch has been postponed. Please read below:

And does this not give you hope? Hope in the sense that we, the little people in this very big world, have the power to effect change through unified action? It warms my heart like puppy yawn.

Now, let’s break down this announcement.

The phrase, “on hold for more investigation” is ambiguous in nature, but it affords the Bocas del Toro locals time to strengthen their case. If they can prove that the project is in fact illegal, then maybe they can stop it entirely. Or maybe not, because, well, Central America and corruption go together like South America and corruption. Or North America and corruption, if we’re being honest.

When they get into the part about, “Keep the threats to yourselves and continue to be peaceful to get this situation resolved for once and for all. Let’s make our community in Bocas Del Toro be a positive role model for the rest of Panama and the rest of the world,” I can’t help but shudder.

It seems that in every positive movement around the world, there are a few (or many) wild individuals who take it too far. They feed off the movement’s energy but tend to alter its direction to fit their personal desires. Like the lunatics who kill cops under the blanket of BLM, or the lunatics who shoot up abortion clinics in the name of Christ.

By using a worthy cause to justify deplorable actions, the lunatics delegitimize the movement while simultaneously hurting innocent people. What a shitty pattern!

Here’s hoping they can settle this dispute practically and peacefully.

“That’s a fucking White Shark, dude!”

Fifteen-footer beaches itself! Winemaker wades out to examine!

Our love for the flashily reckless great white continues! Without words, these titanics of the sea speak volumes!

Here, we see the winemaker Dale Pearson wading out to a Great White shark whose navigation skills have left it gesticulating on a shallow sandbank. And, Pearson, who knows the shark can’t get to him snatches the rare opportunity to examine the White.

“Holy fuck me right. Holy shit, holy shit,” he says.

Ironically, it’s the mostly inoffensive stingray that strikes and not the White.

“It was a calculated risk. I am neither brave nor stupid. I knew the shark was too shallow and out of range. The stingray however did get me. I have over 37 years of ocean exposure and this is my first stingray hit. Very painful.”


Prepare for the kiss of death! | Photo: Strandloopertjies

Watch: Skeleton Bay Comes to Life!

The clips are pouring through!

Oh, commenters — you both break my heart and give me reason to live!

With you, I’m often made to feel ignorant, arrogant, and unwanted. Without you, well, I wouldn’t be in a position to feel anything at all.

It’s a strange thing, to write for a demographic so much older, more knowledgable, and oftentimes better writers than yourself. Every day I push the rock up the mountain, only to get kicked in the nuts by Nick C. or Longtom or even our beloved moderator, Negatron, at the midway point. I hope they never stop.

Because the pain is good. It forces me to strive for something greater than clickbait mediocrity.

But sometimes the comments find a soft spot. I’m left gutted on the floor, soaking in a mess of what were once my internal fluids. It’s painful beyond belief.

Seas Nail got me yesterday with dagger: I know no one in Panama unfortunately, but I did hear guys were calling skeleton ‘best ever’ on this last swell. Have you wept yet or are you saving it for a mental breakdown episode in your late thirties?

So yeah, not a writing or character critique, but goddamn if he didn’t find a weak point. Skeleton Bay has been my primary goal for the last three years, and I had every ability to chase this swell. Just didn’t love the forecast nor did I want to deal with a disgruntled missus. There’ll be another chance, I (and she) told myself.

And there might be. But this was the swell, apparently.

But then, a moment of positivity. Another commenter, Head Dip, posted a link to the video from the Skeleton swell, along with an intriguing prompt. He said:

Do a post on what it would’ve taken to get there.

Latest “Spit” podcast david lee scales and scott bass break down how much time it took for him to get 3 barrels in 4 foot Southern Mexico pointbreak. How much prep/travel time would it have taken and how many waves would you need for it to be worth it to travel halfway around the world?

Let’s watch the video first, for reference.

My intial impression is that, while the waves were clearly remarkable, I can’t say this is the best Skeleton I’ve seen. The caves are large and bulbous, true, but they don’t seem to run the same way I’ve seen in years past. Maybe it’s the swell, maybe it’s the bank, or maybe it’s the downfall of the wave as a whole — as predicted by multiple surf sites and locals of the region — but it doesn’t quite look like the world’s best wave in this clip.

So I can’t say I’m that depressed by my exclusion. From the looks of things, guys were lucky to get a 3-5 second tube, which is fucking amazing any day of the year, but not for Skeleton. You go there in search of something from another dimension, which I didn’t see much of in this clip.

In response to Head Dip: For me, it would have been worth it to go on this swell, almost regardless of how I performed.

I look at it like this — the 80-hour (round trip) travel and $3k spent would be forgotten in short time. The memory of surfing the world’s best wave on a massive swell would stay with me forever. If I got the wave of my life, unreal, but to expect such a thing — especially with no knowledge of the lineup and such a short window of opportunity — would be foolish.

My recently discovered goal in surfing is that, when aged forty or fifty, I’ll be able to look at any surf film or magazine (I’m calling for a resurgence around 2038) and say, Oh yeah, I’ve been there, with a smile and wink.

It’s about dedicating myself to something that’s important to me. And this is more important to me than… just about anything.

I’m sure that’ll change when I start popping out keikis, so as far as I see it, the time is now. Which is tricky, because the savings are quickly depleting and I still have responsibilities at home. Becoming an adult is learning to wear several different hats, but almost none of them match your favorite boardshorts.

So yeah, Head Dip, I’ll spend all my time and every last penny for a shot at perfection, or at least another pin on the map. This is my thing!

Locals protest at Playa Paunch in Bocas del Toro, Panama | Photo: @redfrogbungalows

Help: Panama Surf Break Under Siege!

On World Ocean Day no less!

Do you know why we can’t have nice things, like affordable health care and waves without piers running through them? It’s because certain super-wealthy individuals feel the need to exponentially increase their wealth even when, nay, especially when it comes at the expense of the people.

They are greedy sons of bitches and all of us know it. Unfortunately, these rich bastards have the upper hand in pretty much every situation, on account of all that goddamn money.

This theme rings true throughout history, but even today, World Ocean Day, we find the same problem in Bocas del Toro, Panama. I’ll let this Instagram post explain:

And don’t this just grind your gears? Me yes.

If you haven’t already forgotten, I took a trip to the Caribbean archipelago in March. The wave they’re referencing, Playa Paunch, is one of the most consistent in the region. When small, it’s a rippable A-framing reef break. When big, it’s a proper left-hand slab. Like Greenbush without all the perfect.

I got my best wave of the trip there.

What you’re seeing in this photo is the initial rebar being planted in the reef. This is actually the portion of the wave where you paddle out. After walking across the reef for 20 meters, there’s a small keyhole that allows you to shoot into the channel. The pier looks like it will sit smack on top of it.

By my calculations, a pier built on this part of the reef will need to be tall like giraffe and strong like ox. When the swell’s up, even the “channel” has rogue waves in the six-to-eight foot range. Something tells me they’re not quite prepared for that.

Still, let’s play a little game of potential Pros and Cons to Paunch’s new installment.

– A place to dock boats
– A place to paddle in/out from (the reef walk, in all honesty, sucks balls)
– A place for spectators/filmers
– A place with legitimate earning potential (charge boats, surfers, hell, throw a little bar on the joint!) that could benefit the local community

– Could potentially ruin the surf break
– Will damage the reef
– Eyesore
– May not benefit the local community whatsoever

Local surfers and even Kelly Slater seem to be against the pier, which I get, but maybe it’s not all bad? Like how do they really know it will ruin the surf? And who is this greedy nemesis they so mockingly mention?

If the locals are right that the construction is illegal, they have every right to bitch, moan, protest and maybe even beat some people up (I’m not privy on Panamanian property rights). If not, well, maybe it’s worth talking to an expert to discern the validity of their claims.

Like, would a pier really not help the local community at all? And would the wave actually be ruined by a channel-bound pier? This is a reef break after all, so I can’t imagine how the size or quality of the surf would be affected by a non-swell-blocking structure. But then what the hell do I know?

Is anybody connected with a lawyer/business owner/oceanographer from Bocas del Toro?

And wetsuits make the most elegant fight suits!

Surf Quiz: What Would You Do?

Man stabs you in face with board. Do you jam it back into his kisser or flee to the cops?

Four days ago, or thereabouts, a fight took place in the surf at Broken Head, near Byron Bay.

That ain’t a surprise. For all it’s commitment-free sex and the well-oiled bodies and no bras for the ladies and water so warm it’s like sloshing around in a tepid bath, the idyll stumbles when it comes to surfing.

It crowded.

And fights happen.

And so, at Broken Head, one surfer hit another surfer in the face with his board. From Byron’s local newspaper, the Northern Star.

Police said the accused 29-year-old pushed the pointy end of his surfboard into another man’s face, causing him facial injuries that bled.

The victim left the surf to contact police, who arrived shortly after to find the accused in the surf.

Upon exiting, he was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which in NSW carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

(Of course, unless the stabber has a roll call of offences or the stabbee lost an eyeball, or he black, a fine and a suspended sentence is the most likely outcome.)

Is it ever okay to go to war over something as dumb and pointless as surfing? Conversely, is it okay to go running to the cops when things get a little heated?

Let’s examine.

Scenario #1.

It’s a four-foot point. Crowded. But you can get the occasional runner every half an hour or so. You’ve played it good. You waited your turn for the sets. You’ve called a few people you don’t know into waves and you’re feeling real happy about surfing, life, the world, humanity.

Then, as you paddle into a dreamy set, and as the pack parts ’cause they know you’ve done your time, one determined surfer looks at you in the eye and windmills into your wave from the shoulder. He shimmies and jerks and attempts an aerial and lands on your back.

You surface and he tells you that you are “a fucking kook”.

What do you do?

Scenario #2

You’ve just landed into an Australia summer from gloomy England. You unpack your Bic mini-Malibu wahine on the beach and climb into your lycra sun protection suit.

You can hardly believe your luck. It’s crowded but no one surfs nearly as good as you. You’re only out for three minutes when you deftly out-paddle the pack and, despite there being a local on the inside whom you’d noticed earlier letting waves go unridden without challenging anyone, you go, go, go. First a slash, then a kaboosh, a yahoo and then, as your own flourish, one for the ladies on the beach and the studs out the back, you soar to the heavens.

You surface to find the local staring obstinately at you. Oh you let him have it.

“Fucking Aussie kook-man”, “I challenged the wave more than you and therefore the wave was mine”, and so forth.

He responds by stabbing you in the face with his surfboard.

Do you, a, jam it straight back into his kisser, like, right into his puss, or do you run off to the police?