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by Magicseaweed on Monday 19th March, 2012 240818 Views
3 of 16
© 2013 ~Bruce Sutherland/Low Pressure~
Panama's Pacific coast has a good window for W and S swells. The major swell season is April to Oct, when the Roaring Forties produce numerous 3-12ft (1-4m) SW swells, with the first 5 months of this period enjoying 90%+ consistency with a healthy 13-14secs period. It's less exposed to the North Pacific swells than Costa Rica and the NW hurricane swells off Mexico, neither of which have any chance of penetrating the sheltered Gulf of Panama which needs an optimum swell direction around 210 © 2013 ~Sergio Bryksa~
Wind-wise, there's little to worry about, as it is almost always calm. There is a gentle SW-W monsoon period from May to December (when it's wet). S-SW predominance occurs for 44% of the time in May to 68% of the time in Oct. Typically, mornings are offshore and afternoons see a light onshore sea breeze. Between September and November, onshore SW winds tend to dominate. The dry winter period has a lot of low wind days with a NW-NE dominance, which is onshore for the Caribbean side, so favour mornings for windless sessions. © 2013 ~Panamaron~
There is a huge difference in tidal range between the two coastlines with some spots deep in the Gulf of Panama reaching up to 17ft (5.5m) while the Caribbean coast will only fluctuate about 3ft (1m). Some spots in Panama City will only break on the biggest tides for a few hours, while at the other end of the canal, most beaches and reefs will be breaking all day. The big tides affect all the Pacific breaks and even the super-consistent Santa Catalina loses shape and size at low tide, but fortunately there other low tide only options nearby. © 2013 ~Sasha/Viviendo el Surf~
This is the most popular region for surfing in Panama with both tourists and locals, thanks to the reliability of Santa Catalina and plenty of surfer-friendly accommodation perched on the cliffs above the breaks. Morro Negrito is also well-patronised thanks to infrastructure that allows a comfortable existence in the jungle and easy boat access to the breaks. The rest is still fairly pristine wilderness where those who find a way, will find a wave and when the adjacent beachbreaks of Playa Venao are chosen for the ISA World Surfing Games, it is obvious this region is on the up. © 2013 Low Pressure
HOTSPOT - P-LAND
Located near Remedios, the surf camp at Morro Negrito offers easy access to various breaks in the vicinity. The island of Silva is the focus, a 30min boat ride offshore, and P-Land wraps around the southwestern tip, peaking on a tabletop reef that creates fast, tubing lefts and pinching shoulders in equal measure. Usually bigger than other spots, it's best at higher tides and the tight take-off zone doesn't handle a crowd. Further down the reef is the mushier break called Leftovers. © 2013 ~Private Panama Surf Island~
HOTSPOT - LA PUNTA, SANTA CATALINA
Long, racy Panamanian pointbreak that is ultra-consistent thanks to the swell-pulling power of a deep offshore trench and regular, all-day offshores. At high tide, the defined peak offers a big drop both ways, although the left is short lived and fats out fairly quickly. Meanwhile, those lucky enough to snag a set off the talented crew will wind down the long reef, hitting a few critical corners where the dash is best done behind the curtain. Ruler-edged walls bring out the best in intermediates, who can pick up waves further down the line. Low tide is very sketchy and makes getting in/out arduous. Ultra reliable during southern-hemi swell season and handles the surf camp crowds. © 2013 ~Dan Haylock/Low Pressure~
OFF THE MAP
Panama's biggest island, Coiba shadows the coast, absorbing the best of the swell at Manilla, a super-fun rivermouth left, plus there's a heaving bombora peak, a mellow righthand point on the east coast and miles of virgin beachbreak, while Jicarita and Jicaron hide more reefs in this huge marine sanctuary. The west-facing coast of Veraguas Province and the south coast of Los Santos undoubtedly cloak some great reefs and rivermouths aside from the known beachbreaks at Cambutal, Playa Venao (WQS site) and Boca de Oria. SW swells have trouble getting into the east-facing coast before West Panama Province, but there could be some good rights wrapping in on a big S. © 2013 ~Susu Nasser~
WEST PANAMÁ PROVINCE
Panama deserves its nickname of "The crossroads of the World". The cosmopolitan metropolis of Panama City hugs the eastern bank of the Pacific entrance to the Canal, deep in the sheltered Golfo de Panama, where only the strongest south swells can penetrate. However, an hour's drive west on the Pan-American Highway leads to another string of sandy beaches with better surf and much cleaner waters. Tides play a big part in the region along with offshore islands that can leave large waveless shadows on the coast between Panama City and Punta Chame. © 2013 ~Low Pressure~
OFF THE MAP
In the middle of the Gulf of Panama, the Pearl Islands (location for the reality TV series Survivor) are surrounded by jagged reef and pillars of volcanic rock, but the surfing options are limited and a boat is essential. Even more of a mission is the swell exposed southwest coast of Darien province, famed for drug running and kidnapping, where apart from Playa Mouerto and the rivermouth at Jaque, it's a jungle wilderness. © 2013 ~CeCe Surfboards~
HOTSPOT - SILVERBACKS
The menacing name is a perfect fit for this coral encrusted righthand reefbreak that stays docile for most of the year before thumping it's chest in the winter months. Surrounding exposed beaches need to be overhead to awaken this muscular, angry wave that sucks up volumes of water and hurls it at the shallow ledge, turning into large kegs that are as intense as they are short. Only experienced, air-drop specialists will gain much from this wave as the under-gunned and under-skilled are punished by the shifting peak and scarily long hold-downs. Longer boards needed and maybe throw a back-up in the boat as Silverbacks has a reputation for snapping boards like twigs. © 2013 ~Red Frog Bungalows~
OFF THE MAP
Vast tracts of the Caribbean coastline are inaccessible, un-navigable or simply unknown. Bocas del Toro is now well-known, but the provinces of Ngöbe Buglé and Kuna Yala are indigenous regions that are only just beginning to allow tourists to visit. Both have considerable potential, especially the 365 San Blas Islands that have numerous orientations of coral reefs making it possible to escape the prevalent NE-E onshores. The Caribbean coast of Veraguas is deep in the Golfo de los Mosquitos and is the least exposed Carib shoreline, but neighbouring Colon province boasts the super regular reef peaks of Isla Grande, which break on all swells and work in the onshore trades. © 2013 ~Emma Roll~
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