Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Mi Nuevo Amor

After bumping down on Bocas runway I found a place to stay thirty minutes walk down a swampy road to Playa Punch, a shallow reef break with lefts and rights that I didn’t get to surf on my last visit. Staying in walking distance from my surf spot saves the $20 return trips water taxi fee and being out of town in Big Creek suits me just fine, I just want to surf, eat and sleep my way through these remaining days in Panama. Having orientated myself at El Alma I waded through the morass up to Playa Punch with the admittedly cumbersome GG under one arm — she’s definitely putting on weight. Keen to surf I innocently strode out across the reef until it was deep enough to paddle and stroked hard to clear the white water. The waves were fun, fast and head to head-and-a-half high so I had a fine old time of it despite the excessive crowds in the water. With my arms/shoulders burning and energetically bankrupt I began to look for my exit point, hoping to follow someone else back in — the reef was sharp and the tide had dropped exposing even more of it. Most folk were getting picked up in water taxis and taken back to Bocas so after half an hour of waiting my patience gave and I caught a wave in toward a randomly selected spot. I let it wash me in until it was too shallow to paddle and I slid off my board to walk the rest of the way in. The wave that had delivered me thus far washed out revealing a reef covered with more sea-urchins than I believed possible. There were urchins nestled in between the spikes of bigger urchins having a sea urchin jamboree, their spikes swaying in the water in anticipation of the fun to come.. A quick scan in all directions confirmed that the whole coral shelf was covered in the pesky blighters. I couldn’t go back, I couldn’t go forward. The scene resembled a WW2 minefield, in miniature, and I the ship’s captain had to negotiate safe passage back to shore. After a few minutes of physical and mental inactivity, standing there like a right ‘nana I figured I had to take what was coming to me and I stumbled onward through the calf deep water aiming my feet at light–coloured spots where possible. On examining my reef boots once on dry land they had absorbed most of the damage, but the more tenacious spikes had found their way through and I knew I had a fun packed evening ahead — just me, the iodine, the needle, the tweezers and a whole lot of wincing.

I have a terrible confession to make. After such a heady, whirlwind romance I have forsaken GG for a smaller, lighter, more petite model. The following morning I just couldn’t face carrying GG for thirty minutes across difficult terrain — water retention from the knocks and scrapes we’ve been through have left her bloated and heavy. The smaller board I have with me which I’ve only used sparingly until now — the smaller size and volume make it less forgiving to ride and I’d judged it a step too far for me in more challenging waves — took a walk with me up to Punch. GG has been in dry-dock ever since. My new love is fast, light, agile, nimble and her duck-dives are obscenely satisfying. She doesn’t quite have the looks of her rival but she makes up for it in performance, in these waves anyway. I’m not proud of the way I’ve behaved but to be honest things had been a bit tense between me and GG for a few days previously. We just weren’t having fun any more.

There’s a great Hotel up at Playa Punch called La Coralina run by a wonderful host called Stacey. I had initially tried to stay there when I got to Bocas this time but they were full, but I have been hanging out there between surf’s, eating, drinking and enjoying the antics of Edgar the monkey riding Sugar the dog around the place like a pony. Her dad was arriving a day later than expected freeing up one of the expensive suites for a night. She let me have it for the price of one of her budget rooms so I’ve just spent a day in the lap of luxury enjoying a deliciously comfortable bed and an amazing multi-directional mist spray shower room. La Coralina overlooks Punch so at dawn I paddled out — through the urchin-less key-hole in the reef that Mike from the hotel showed me —and had the waves to myself for an hour before the boat’s unloaded their town-dwelling cargo. Between sessions today I took the first surf pictures of the trip. A combination of difficult access to the waves, water taxis and breaks being too far out to sea to photograph has handicapped me until now. Better late than never.

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