Trip Tales: Liz Clark's visit to the Private Panama Surf Island
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 29 April, 2013 : - - The next morning the wind helped me decide to point Swell toward the mainland. Heather woke up in the night with pain in her right ear. I cringed at the mere notion of ear pain but was sure that the worst was over if she started on my super powered eardrops and rested that day.
We caught another nice tuna on the way over and dropped anchor right in front of the Private Panama Surf Island surf camp. That afternoon Mitch paddled out from the camp and filled us in on the waves and happenings in the area. Poor Heather was busy crafting ear candles and trying to extract the annoying lump that was blocking the hearing in her right ear. That night her pain got progressively worse.
I knew Heather well, and it was rare that she ever complained about discomfort, so I knew this was getting serious. I just couldn't believe it. It was like it had jumped out of my ear and into hers? How could it be? The next morning I found her riddled with pain the in the fetal position. I knew we were going to need more medicine.
Luckily, I felt fully 'licensed' to handle ear situations and quickly paddled the longboard to shore to see if they had any more potent antibiotics than I did in my medical kit. We were at least three hours from any sort of ear specialist and getting there would have required boats and buses. Plus it was Carnival, so everything was going to be busy and who knew if the doctors would be holding usual hours and so forth.
When my foot hit the sand I received a warm hellos from the surfers at island. I did my best to reciprocate the greeting, but the image of Heather's swollen face and tortured look quickly turned the conversation to her needs. Jeff, the camp's manager, led me to the first aid cabinet and insisted that I take a full course of Cipro back to her.
He refused my twenty-dollar bill and said to come in for lunch or dinner whenever Heather was feeling better. So she started the Cipro and dealt with the pain with an assortment of prescription pain medications. I turned the cabin of Swell into her sick-room and tip-toed around her while I tried to determine why the solar panels weren't charging again.
The next day she was still in pain. I started to worry that it was truly the same super ear demon that had lived in me and that we would have to get her to a doctor. She suffered miserably through another entire day of pain. A pile of Q-tips and cotton balls grew on the makeshift table I had made for her. The worst part was that I knew how terrible she felt-I mean, I really knew-and there was nothing else I could do to make her feel better.
While she rested, I went surfing with the local islanders. I'd seen ads for the camp in the backs of surf mags, but never knew anyone who'd actually been there. My unfortunate swell timing didn't allow me to get the fullest experience of the area's waves, but the people there were well worth the stop. The camp actually sits on an island separated from the coast by a mangrove estuary. The whole place runs on its own power from solar panels, wind generators, and the occasional help from a generator.
Their fresh water comes from a local spring. It's a small camp, with room for only about 25 people, so the feeling was definitely intimate. The surfers there were from all over, from New York to Oregon, and ranged from families like the lovely Petersons with their pre-grom groms to single female travelers, to Bob, a retired nuclear weapons researcher in his late sixties.
One glassy morning, Andy, the most surf-stoked of the guides, showed me over to a fast little left that had formed off of a rivermouth across from the spot they normally surf. The racy little chest high close-outs were enough to make me feel like a surfer again. We spent a few hours frolicking in the water, and I felt a little guilty returning to Swell sun-baked and salty while Heather writhed in pain. We talked it over that night and decided that if she was not significantly better the next morning, we would head for David and leave Swell at anchor there.
Exploring Islas Secas
Thankfully, the Cipro kicked in by the third morning and she waved me off to go surf. A friend of the camp and former Huntington beach local, John Meeks, picked me up in his gleaming panga and we headed off to surf the 'sandbar'. My fish made the average waves into an exercise in surf creativity and I lucked into a few set waves. When I returned I found Heather up and writing in her journal. I was so relieved. She made her debut on land that evening.
The campers gave her a hearty welcome after monitoring her health through my reports over the prior few days. They treated us to fish and salad and we all sat around a bonfire out on the point. I finally pried the 'shipwreck' story out of John, who was much more interested in reminiscing about his falconry days and explaining his current struggle to save the local iguana population.
Andy made magic sounds spew out of his guitar, while Jeff (a strict vegetarian) somehow got stuck roasting a stickful of wieners over the fire. He grimaced at the sight of them, but w too polite to refuse when a Panamanian guest outside the fire circle solicited him for the duty. The evening capped off (my) delightful time there (Heather's memories of the place are less fond).
And although I only got to imagine myself on the waves in the photos on the wall in the cafeteria, there is plenty of evidence that the area is loaded with good surf set-ups. Firsthand, though, I can verify that Surfer Paradise Panama surf camp hosts a fabulous combination of positive surf-stoke, natural beauty, seclusion, and environmental awareness for its visiting surfers.
Source: Morro Negrito
Author: Liz Clark
Tags: Panama, Surf Trips, Swell Forecasts
Surf Camps: Surfersvillage