Paunch Lights Up, My Phone Shuts Off

Another swell landed in Bocas on Friday night. Saturday, dudes were pulling into barrels and coming out with a broken board. Within the first hour 2 guys had turned from surfer to spectator, their boards eaten by Paunch. I had some of my most most hair raising drops and rides since starting surfing 15 years ago. Those rides were equally matched by wipeouts that would have made the “best of” reel. Intense is the best word to describe the day. I simultaneaously wanted to go back to bed and curl up in the fetal position as I craved to ride another locamotive. The speed was intense. Paunch is a left, which for this regular foot, meant more concentration to surf these steam rollers. No cutbacks, just raw speed. My pulse is racing just writing about it 4 days later. Through trial by fire I’ve had to relearn and advance my skills as a surfer. I almost feel as if I belong at that break. Since my last post I’ve gone out everyday, except Sunday, and I’m exhausted physically and mentally.

A bit bigger than this at Paunch

Piling on to my intense Saturday morning surf session, I decided to see if my phone was really water proof. Before we embarked on our gap year/Fuck Trump Tour, I purchased a phone case from a company so confident in their product that they warranty your phone in case of water damage. Good thing, because my phone is now an expensive paper weight. Since then, it is not lost on me how much we depended on that phone for our travels: maps, travel guides, email, photos, Airbnb, booking tours…Luckily it seems case company will make good on my claim and ship a new phone here. I won’t place money on whether the phone arrives intact before we leave for our next destination, but I’m hopeful.
For some less shitty news, I finally got my bike today! You see our Panamanian bike dealer, I’ll call him Mañana, was supposed to get me the bike tomorrow 8 days ago. Everyday since I would show up, he would tell me how busy he’s been, and to come back tomorrow. It started to feel like a routine for me. It’s as if I was the lead character in Groundhog Day. Queue the hopeless trip to the warehouse, queue shaddy Panamanian crew, queue the inevitable rejection. I still had my hooptie loaner, but surely at any time the bike was going to disintegrate beneath my legs. Not today mis amigos. You see yesterday I showed up and acted indignant at his constant deferral. At that point our new friend was now Mañana and asked him name my new bike. He christened it ‘El Negro’. Even though it’s half orange, he could have called it Lady Gaga’s Pink Parade for all I care. Today, I did a victory lap around town. I was sure everyone was eyeing my new ride, green with jealousy. In reality, I’ve never been so excited to get a shitty, but less shitty, bike.

My new ride!
Mañana (¡con dinero!)

Speaking of routines, that’s one of the fun parts of travel. There are the ‘events’ like grande surf or breaking your phone, but the character of this journey is the temporary life you build. For instance, every morning I wake at the crack of dawn, ride my shitty hooptie up the coast in the dark for 25 minutes. By the time I depart this tropical island I’ll have that path memorized. Every pothole and bend, every locale going to work or school, and who the consistent surfers are. As it turns out, mi espousa is a mid-day drinker. After our class in the morning, she’ll come back to our bungalo and crack a beer. Every day our warm and charasmatic host, Etelyn, will cook us breakfast and dinner. Ethlyn is a character. She’s raised 5 children in this house and has a number of grandchildren. 2 of her kids live in the states. She’s not afraid to give it to you straight and has a wonderful sense of humor. Yesterday she died her hair red, but left the dye in too long. Her hair was bright red and she was calling all her friends and clamoring about her hair, poking fun at herself. I’ll remember that as much as any wave.

Ethlyn (wouldn't let us take a pic of her red hair)

Finally, we are in the thick of architecting our tour of Central and South America. We are looking for recommendations for our travels, and so far Adam Haid gets the best recommendation award. So for those of you who tag somebody on Facebook and don’t give anything definitive, your half-assed efforts are better than those who gave nothing, but you need to step up your game! If you’re not on Facebook, we’re likely headed to the following:
  • Patagonia: First 3 weeks of March (We just squeezed this in and have no idea about logistics, where to go…)
  • Galapagos: 3 weeks through mid April
  • Peru: mid April through late May (looking to go to Machu Picchu, the Amazon, and surf between Chiclayo and Trujillo)
  • Columbia: late May - mid June (Medellin and Cartagena)
  • Lisbon: mid June - ?
¡Hasta Luego!


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