My First ever Surf Lesson in Bocas del Toro, Panama

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"My First ever Surf Lesson in Bocas del Toro, Panama".

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My First ever Surf Lesson in Bocas del Toro, Panama

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My name is Evelyne, and I am a Language Travel Consultant at Habla Ya Spanish Schools. I am responsible for helping future students plan their trip to Panama, and set up their Spanish Program. This also means that I have to be in a position to give my opinion and recommendations, when it comes to suggesting activities and eco-adventure tours in Boquete & Bocas del Toro. This is one of the coolest parts of my job - I get to try out every single activity before offering it. You ask why? Well, would you take advice from someone who hasn’t done any of the tours you are asking about? Mmmhh I didn’t think so.

With my surf board ready to get into the water. My surf instructor calls it the magic carpet because everyone gets up on it!
With my surf board ready to get into the water. My surf instructor calls it the magic carpet because everyone gets up on it!

I am 32 and spend most of my working day in front of a computer. I attend the occasional Yoga class, love to go to the beach (Bocas del Toro has loads of them) and run maybe twice per week just to say "I did it", so it is fair to say that I am not exactly physically fit. Even worse... I find every excuse to NOT work out on certain days. So imagine my expression when my boss (and excellent surfer) told me "Evelyne, on Sunday morning at 9AM, you are going to take a surf lesson and give us feedback". The simple thought of getting up early on a Sunday morning (yes, 9AM is early!) already gave me nightmares. Add to that, that I had to be physically active (did I mention it was on a Sunday morning?!)... oh boy... but since my boss doesn’t take NO for an answer, I had no choice but just go with the flow and do it.

On that Sunday morning I woke up tired, dreading the surfing experience, dragging my feet to the water taxi, where I met with my two other colleagues Melissa and Emily, and my friend Rachel. We took a small boat, and only 2 minutes later we arrived on Isla Carenero where the surf school is located. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by our very friendly instructor, Luis Bertone from La Escuela del Mar Surf School, who has been surfing for over 25 years. He also owns a great restaurant called Bibi's, right over the water. But let's not get side tracked and get back to the surfing part. He took a quick look at us, and decided that we qualified for the baby waves (also called the "kitty pool" by the cool people who make fun of amateurs like me). Basically where the uncool people surf. But hey, that's cool, kitty pool it is! Nobody is judging here, right?

Emily and I getting all our surfing gear on
Emily and I getting all our surfing gear on

Before I continue telling you more about my surf lesson, I wanted to make a quick parenthesis about my previous experience with surfers – I was convinced for many, many years that surfers were dumb, sometimes good looking, but mainly brainless and uninteresting "dudes" with long blond hair. One time a surfer told me that every wave has it's personality, while staring at a surf video, a beer in his hand... what a turn off... I don’t have to tell you that I stopped listening right there.

Back to the theory part of our lesson – actually, believe it or not, this is the most important part! From my own experience I can tell you, that if you don't follow the advice of the (very smart) surf instructor, you will fall off and swallow a significant amount of salt water! Not fun!

The theoretical part of surfing is very important so pay attention!
The theoretical part of surfing is very important so pay attention!

Luis showed us how to lay down on the board, and how to get up (the looser version in 3 steps, and the cool one for those who get it right away!), and more importantly the security instructions to follow strictly. He also explained the code that surfers have amongst them, in order to avoid accidents. Once the theory was finished, he gave us rash guards and water shoes, so that we would not get hurt or sunburned. Oh and of course... the surf board selection: Luis took another quick look at us, and decided that since I was the tallest, I should get what he calls "the magic carpet" – I asked why he calls it that way, and his answer was: "because everyone gets up on that one...". Oops - no pressure here!

Rachel, Melissa and I preparing to get into the water before catching our first waves
Rachel, Melissa and I preparing to get into the water before catching our first waves

So let's recap – we get to ride the girly looser waves, and on top of that I get the looser board.. oh well... whatever you say, surfer dude! Bring it on!

LEARN MORE ABOUT SURF LESSONS IN BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA... »

And finally we're ready for the funnest part: we get into the water, and off we paddle! Did I mention that paddling is really hard, especially on a Sunday morning?

I felt like my 10 footer was heavy as hell, but that could have just been a distorted impression of someone who is really (not) fit. Luis never left our side, and checked every one of our moves from his sea kayak – this was great! He was paddling next to us, while shouting things that we only partly understood (under water you don't hear that well)... but the motivational factor was there, and I felt really safe which is important in order to enjoy this activity completely. Surfing can be very scary for a controlling person like me. Having a huge (baby) wave arriving at full (baby) speed behind you, and then getting ready to take it (Luis pushes you) is a very pleasant experience full of adrenalin! You don’t have much time to react! Luis yelled "get up" and of course I fell off of my looser board, in the looser wave, proving the magic carpet theory wrong.

But don’t worry, I wasn't going to give up...

My friend Emily catching her first wave
My friend Emily catching her first wave

I went back! And I rode the next wave, believe it or not, like a baby pro! That's when I started to really enjoy myself! Surfing is great, I must confess! Now I understand how this activity can monopolize people's entire evening conversations, talking just about that one wave! OK, the conversation part is still boring, but I definitely want to keep trying this incredibly exhausting, fun and challenging sport. I now admit not all surfers are dumb (I do have to say that my boss is a very intelligent person, and so is Luis!) and I respect them a whole lot more. I would recommend a surfing class to anyone visiting Bocas del Toro, no matter how old or young you are! Surfing is so much fun! It is also safe if you follow the instructions, and if you do it with friends, you also get a good laugh out of watching them.


Me and my friend Rachel catching our first waves!

I am very happy that I was forced to try this out, because otherwise I would have missed the chance to experience something that I didn't know I would be capable of and that I actually like, and I cannot wait until the girls and I can go for a second round. Maybe this weekend as the swell is picking up again: I might even try the cool waves!

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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1 Response to "My First ever Surf Lesson in Bocas del Toro, Panama"

  1. I had a great time learning to surf at Bocas Surf Resort last year ! Thanks for inspiring me !


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