The Island Of Plenty

The Island Of Plenty

Discovering euphoria off Panama’s Caribbean coast
Words: Dave Malcolm
Photos: Seth Stafford/SPL

“Oh, man, I’d love to, but I don’t think I’ll have new boards ready before then—I’ll let you know.”

It’s the third time I’ve heard that same excuse in the last 24 hours—time I’ve spent rifling through the TransWorld SURF rolodex trying to wrangle up a small crew of three for a last-minute strike mission to Panama. Is it me? Does my breath stink? I should floss more. Anyway, I’m somewhere around belly button deep in production for our new surf flick Tropically Yours, and cherry-picking the proper crew for these trips is key. There’s a fine line one must dance when enticing pro surfers to pack their bags and book a flight. It sounds funny, but these surfers can be pretty damn reluctant to go on surf trips. Strange, right? You’d think in the middle of winter it’d be a no-brainer to throw some trunks in a board bag and head south to warmer pastures. But in reality, convincing these guys to squeeze more “work” into their schedule involves finesse and technique. You’ve got to hype it up but not too much. It’s quite an art form, really.

Having been to the Caribbean side of Panama the year before, I know the potential, and the forecast looks good once again. But with only three days of advance notice, I need to push our tentative crew over the ledge, so I commit to a tactic I told myself I’d never use: I over-hype it. “You guys have to believe me: It has the most fun waves ever, it’s the sickest place, there’s rad parties, the forecast looks mental, and Latin American supermodels litter the beach with not one dude in sight. I know, I know, it sounds too good to be true, but it’s real. I’ve seen it.” I speak as though I’ve discovered El Dorado, and somehow Matt Meola, Dillon Perillo, and Michael Dunphy believe me.

I always house some level of anxiety on the way to a new destination, laying out the variables in my head over and over. Will the swell really show? The charts were downgraded. Should we even go? The longer the journey, the higher the expectations, and though I’m normally not a pessimist, this trip really has me spinning my wheels in a negative direction—toward delusions of complete disaster. No waves. No chicks. This crew will never do another trip with me. That cliché evil movie laugh echoes through my weary skull well into our Panama City layover. And then, hope arrives.

“Excuse me, where are you going?”

I stir out of my subconscious in one of those ergonomic airport seats, and squinting through bleeding eyeballs, I see Dillon in a similar state, quizzed by what sounds like a girl. More squints. Yep, that’s definitely a girl—and an attractive one at that. Dillon mumbles something about Panama, but I pay no attention to him. His new friend continues in broken English. “Okay. So are we. We are staying at Calypso. We will see you there?” Turns out “we” is her plus seven more gorgeous friends on summer vacation from Buenos Aires, Argentina. The outgoing one returns to her curious pack and relays the information. Giggles and smiles exchange. Did that just happen?