surfing

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Ocean Potion

The past few months we have been outside surfing and soaking up the sunshine.  Worried about wrinkles I was pleased to find Ocean Potion.  This powerful face sunblock (clear zinc oxide) protects against both UVA and UVB rays, is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and doesn’t sting your eyes when you are out in the water!

We bought two containers in Costa Rica, priced at about $5 a pop.  Since both of us have been getting maximum sun exposure an entire jar has already disappeared, however at home I think this little puppy would last quite a while. Ocean Potion is readily available in the US – I can’t seem to find a Canadian retailer but it is sold online here.

We caught the ferry from Bocas to meet up with our travel buddies Chris and Kristin in a little town called Santa Catalina on the Pacific coast—which is also home to a really good surfing break (named after the town) and it’s touted as having the most consistent surf in Central America. A long walk out over volcanic rock and then it’s a fair paddle to a beautiful but shallow reef break offering fast lefts and rights, when we arrived the waves were about shoulder high. We camped in a nice spot called Oasis right on the beach with plenty of shade and fresh coconuts falling scarily close to our tents, like manna from the sky. Try boiling a cup and a half of rice in the juice drained from two freshly fallen coconuts in a thin camp pot … best eaten under undiluted galaxies.

shady-camping

A few tranquilo days later we headed inland to camp with a rasta yogi, known locally as ‘Swami‘ and his rainbow gathering crew, the cheapest accommodation we could find in a town that’s centered in the crater of an extinct volcano, called El Valle, about two hours outside of Panama city. When the Panama Canal was owned and operated by the States a few Panamanian officials were getting fairly good kickbacks and we were told that this is where their kids bought up large chunks of fertile land, building grandiose houses with rambling manicured lawns set amongst awesome tropical landscaping. We had read that the town hosts an interesting arts and crafts market and were a little disappointed to find it much of the same and our only real discovery worth reporting was the Maracuya (passionfruit) juice served in a small out-of-the-way cafe.

I open my eyes, turn my head and feel my muscles shriek as I attempt to roll off the mattress, my noodley arms are useless so I flounder on the bed till I manage to work into a semi-standing position. My neck feels like Andre the Giant stepped on it, I think my spine is crooked and my stomach feels like some sadistic trainer made me perform 500 crunches in a row. No, I haven’t been in car accident, I did not trip or fall down the stairs, and I am not following some insane work-out regime.

I am learning to surf.

This sport, which surfers perform so effortlessly, has been one of the hardest, and one of the most humbling, things I have ever tried to learn.

This is a rough idea of how I tend to surf: grab my board, paddle through the white water as it continues to hammer me, fall off, lose my board, get smashed by the white water a few times, finally arrive at a place where the waves can’t beat me. Face my board to the beach, look behind for a wave, paddle (again) to catch the wave while trying to time it so the wave doesn’t crash directly on top of me, if I manage it right, get pushed faster than I expect, try and stand up, lose my footing and perform a spectacular crash into the water, almost drown for a little bit, subdue the panic attack and with the last bit of air leaving my lungs, come to the surface gasping and spluttering, turn around only to find another wave preparing to land directly on my head, hang out underwater, do a couple back flips, wonder how my head can touch my toes like that, resurface, and repeat 4 or 5 times. Once the set has ended have a little cry and thank the heavens, Buddha, Vishnu whomever that I am alive, climb back on my board and REPEAT.

Catching a wave

kels-pop-up

The beautiful part is that very slowly you figure out how to stay on your board, being beaten by the waves is a little less scary, wiping out becomes humourous, and eventually the feeling of riding a wave gets addictive in an “I can’t move my arms but just one more” type of way. There are still moments of indescribable panic but somehow this lessens and I’m finding myself wanting more. I’m still a little scared that I could drown but Tom doesn’t want me to worry because:

Victory

“You won’t drown…your wetsuit floats.”

Crash