After two days of minimal surf, we went trekking. Scott had surfed a place less than ten times since his move to Panama (approximately eight years ago). He knew when it was good and we made the plans to head there early in the morning. The next morning had clear skies and perfect winds, so we headed there from his place on the panga. After a lengthy journey, we reached the dock. We disembarked, grabbed our stuff and walked about a half-hour to the waves.
The journey there had been a rough one and I had my doubts about the conditions. Keep in mind I'm not used to surfing the Caribbean, where the isthmus and/or island set-ups create a multiple coast reality. What's terrible for one coast (solid onshore) is on the opposite side of the spectrum for the other coast (solid offshore).
Once we got within earshot of the waves, I started to get excited. My pace quickened.
The first view revealed makeable-only-by-pros windswell barrels. I was content to surf there and play my luck there (it had been a long journey and I was itching, in a good way). I asked Scott if he usually surfs or he walks down the beach to try it there. He affirmed the latter option and we walked. The waves started getting better and better the more we walked. I slapped on some sunscreen and, with Scott's blessing, affixed the leash to his 6'2" Merrick Tangent (I realized later it was a board Kelly Slater rides). It was just a tad wider and thicker than I would have liked, but definitely in my breadbasket in terms of familiarity with dimensions. Scott said to me. "You break it, you buy it, and this place breaks A LOT of boards". After a little ribbing by me, he added, "It's a new Tangent, you know what those cost". I don't know what these cost, but judging by the Merrick + Kelly Slater insignia, I figured easily $650+. Yikes.
As I continued to walk down the beach, I realized we were the only ones on the beach. The jungle was extremely lush and looked like it could have been from prehistoric times.
The first wave I remember was a quick drop I made backside, but raced off without me.
If you've read the previous blog posts, you know I have a habit of getting into my "crab-grab" in anticipation of backhand barrels. On crab grabs, my front knee hits the deck in lieu of my front foot with my back leg elevated to put even more leverage on to the board's flat spot, leaving me in a position to blast through the barrel (or at least that's the theory).
Which leads me to my second wave...
Daf had gotten a wave just before me and I was all alone. Scott and Jaime (boat guide, ripper from Fountain Valley, of all places) were down the line, hooting me into the approaching set wave. I ceased stroking towards it, whipped around and dug in deep towards the beach. The wave was a dooz, the biggest wave of the trip thus far. This right lifted my board and I dropped down with a slight angle. I grabbed my rail to dust off my seldom-used pigdog stance comically early. I remember smiling on the wave, thinking, "I know this looks like ish, but woteva". As the wave began to catch up to my over-preparedness, I took my leading/stalling arm out and moved my weight forward as much as possible just as the wave curled over me. I was in there for about two seconds before I overcorrected into the wave.
The wave swept me up, separated me from my board and absolutely SLAMMED my head into the sand. Had we not been surfing at a beachbreak, I definitely would have suffered head trauma. I've taken some nasty spills and have hit all kinds of bottoms surfing (the vast majority of these in El Salvador). I have had the wind knocked out of me underwater on sandbars. Barnacled rocks have drawn blood from my feet, arms, shoulders and back. But this is the hardest I have ever hit my head underwater. The power of the wave, combined with the extreme shallowness of the water plus a little centripetal force whiplashing the back of my head that much faster into the sand made for QUITE the slam.
I surfaced without issue and quickly assessed myself for signs of a concussion while paddling and duckdiving to avoid the last wave of the set. I wasn't seeing stars, my neck wasn't sore, my head wasn't sore and I didn't feel lightheaded.
About fifteen minutes after paddling for, and pulling back from, several waves, I found a left that wasn't too racy. I dropped in and got barreled about a second after my soles hit the deck. Alas, I pulled up too high on a barrel with no room for mistakes and I got clipped and sent over the falls. This time there were no scares though!
I then caught a lined-up right and I dropped in, pumped quickly and did a quick slash. I was in a hurry as these waves weren't the type to allow you to sit at the top of the wave, recovering from a maneuver. I was able to gain some speed from it and did another quick one. Both times I heard the sprays' satisfying splash. I kicked out next to Scott and he was amped.
The waves then got more inconsistent. All of us had a hard time finding waves. I found a quick right on which I did a quick crab-grab and was in there for quite some time, but I got shut down while in it.
The next wave was a big left that I was really late on. I was jonesing for another wave and decided to go. The offshore pushed against me and I went over with the lip. Thankfully, I was able to land on my board on my feet, wax-side up. The board's tail washed out. Daf told me he thought I started bottom turning before my fins engaged and so my body turned, while the board stayed behind. Bummer.
I caught another, smaller left on which I tried to do a steep bottom turn and seemed to check myself as the section wasn't as steep. I did a weak top turn, then the wave disintegrated into mush.
On the way back, part of our party stopped at the schoolhouse to do a presentation on water filters he was donating to the town. I'm including a picture of the presentation below as well as some of the little kids.
I made a friend that day. I asked him what his name was (in Spanish) and he said, "Mariel". I asked him to guess what my name was and he said, "Gringo" (True Story).
For the record, I didn't initiate the hand-holding. That was the OLD Eddie...! I'm better now.