Ever since I started travelling in 2010, I never carried more than two surfboards in my board-bag, but this March I somehow ended up carrying THREE from Morocco to Madrid (by land and sea) and then from Madrid to Panama City (by air and land).
Even carrying only one board can be a big hassle at times. Carrying three was a real nightmare, especially when one of them was my wooden 5'8 Egg which weighed about 7kg by itself. Don't ask me why I did it. I could not sell any of them and, perhaps, I just wanted to break my own personal record of luggage-dragging.

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And I did break my personal record this time with all the three intact! What was actually stunning during my journey with the three lovers from Fez in northern Morocco via Madrid to Panama City was that I was very very sick. I nearly fainted a few times on my way as I had my joints aching, a dry cough, chills and a fever: my fever reached over 39 twice, which made me seriously think that "Did I finally get Malaria? Am I gonna die soon?" - considering the fact that I was bitten many times by mosquito while in Senegal.
It didn't turn out to be Malaria in the end, but it was definitely something viral and acute enough to cause such a concern. I still feel not very well as of today.

!!!!! Note !!!!!
To Dr. Juan Manuel and the nurses at Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid;
Thank you so much for saving me. Although I could not get the results of my second blood-test, I'm very positive that it was not Malaria as Juan told me. Without your help I couldn't have continued my journey. My sincere gratitude to you all.

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Anyway, Panama City is blazing hot as ever and it's my second time to visit this super tropical country.
Apart from recovering from the illness, I had one important thing to do before heading off to remote places in Panama for surfing. It was to send my wooden Egg back home in Japan.
Honestly speaking, it wasn't easy to make this decision and shipping my cute chubby Egg back home was like breaking up with a girlfriend.... I did think about taking her with me all the way from Panama to Mexico, but it just didn't seem practical at all because my main focus in Central America this time is to go surfing all those major spots that I surfed in 2011, plus many more different and unknown spots. Needless to say, I'll be travelling by public transport or taxis, no flying nor car rental.

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It took me a few days to find a good reasonable courier in Panama City. The Panamanian Post didn't have any good reputations amongst local people. UPS and DHL were costing me more than USD800. However, FedEx was offering USD420 for the shipment of my board. A deal was made!

Now one burden is off my shoulders, I have no girlfriend to take care of and I've got nothing to lose. I'm only hoping that my Egg will land in Japan without any problems and that it will arrive home with very little tax on it from the greedy Japanese customs.

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I got this in my fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant the other day.
Yes, I will soon be crossing and surfing the great warm waters!


addiction - the need to take a harmful drug regularly, without being able to stop
(quoted from Longman online dictionary)

I don't take drugs. But I must be seriously addicted to surfing more than to chocolate or coffee.
As of today (May 24th), 55 consecutive days of surfing ever since I arrived in Playa Venao in Los Santos Province of Panama on March 31st. To escalate my addiction is the fact that the surf at this 3.5km pristine beach has never ever been flat; there have always been some waves to be had in the clear warm water with constant light off-shore/cross-shore winds.

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My previous record was 21 consecutive days made in J-Bay last year. I now vaguely remember why I didn't continue on the next day; it was probably due to my sloth or unsurfable conditions then. So I've well surpassed my previous record this time and I will keep on surfing for at least a few more days. Mind you, I neither initially planned to stay at Playa Venao this long nor did I ever intend to break my own record. It's just happened so.

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In the meantime, what's actually more rewarding to me than just making a new personal record is the fact that, by spending so much time in the water and just focusing on surfing after surfing, I've witnessed how my surfing has evolved over the past few weeks.
The below are some of the things I've noticed:

* Since March 31st having only one session a day has been very rare. I've often had two sessions or occasionally three sessions a day. Thus, I'm super-fit now and even feel almost immortal to be able to surf all kinds of conditions (up to 10 feet, Hahaha). A couple of weeks ago during one session, however, with bloody strong onshore winds and 6ft+ waves breaking all over the place I had to give up paddling after I was held under for numerous times. Neptune is always mightier than us, right?

* Playa Venao might keep me constantly paddling with hundreds of duck-dives to be made at times. Nevertheless, one great aspect of a beach break like Playa Venao is that waves break both left and right in perfect A-frames. Therefore, I've been able to practice with my manoeuvres as much as I want, especially with my backhand ones. A while ago left-hand waves weren't really to my liking, but I absolutely love them now. I still have a lot to improve on my forehand surfing though.

* Whenever I get frustrated in the water due to inconsistent swells or guys dropping in etc., I've discovered that the best way to overcome it is to throw all my anger and frustration at every single lip of a wave that I catch. By doing so, my manoeuvres become more radical with lots of spray in the air. And I've damaged my boards because of it too.

* I don't need coffee to wake me up for my first morning session because paddling and catching waves naturally wakes me up. I don't need to stay in bed all morning after having a big drinking night because paddling and catching waves sobers me up. Even if I don't feel like surfing, paddling and catching waves eventually satisfies me. The bottom line is: I never regret paddling out there, but I would regret not paddling out.

* While I'm keeping my surfing more progressive than ever before, the joy of riding every single wave regardless of its size or its form is still exactly the same today as how stoked I became on the very first wave I caught and rode in my life many years ago. Young or old doesn't matter. A smile on my face hasn't aged much :-)

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Consequently, I must be a very boring person to many people as I'm interested in only one thing - Surfing, but I can't help it. And my surfing has now made me realise that this is no longer my addiction. This is my dedication.

dedication - hard work or effort that someone puts into a particular activity because they care about it a lot
(quoted from Longman online dictionary)

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A bright orange-colour house at Hostel Venao Cove was my home-away home for this past April and May in such organic surroundings where birds, insects, crabs, reptiles and monkeys were abundant and there was no shortage of fresh herbs, coconuts and moringas. Moreover, Irene and Leaf - the owners of Hostal Venao Cove - were both great hosts as well as surfers. My very reason for spending nine and a half weeks was partly because of their warmest hospitality.

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At the time of writing this article, I'm unfortunately back in steamy-hot Panama City and dodging waves of cars and people here. Therefore, my last day at Playa Venao was June 3rd (Tue) and my personal record was finally set at 66 consecutive days of surfing then. I could have kept on surfing even more, but I started to feel that it was time for me to move on as the rainy season was gradually creeping in and frequent downpours were transforming Playa Venao into a massive rippy wave-pool at times.

For the past two months Playa Venao wasn't the only spot I surfed. Leaf and I along with a few other guests at the hostel went surfing three other spots, two of which didn't even have any names to them - a beach-break and a river-mouth. The third spot was a reef-break in Cambutal as shown in the photo below.

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Amongst these three spots, the most notable one is definitely the river-mouth. We went there before the rainy season kicked in, so there was neither too much water flowing out from the river nor was it too murky then. The photos below show the waves at the river-mouth on the day. The third photo shows Mr.Spinner Leaf who was taking off to set himself up for a tail spin.

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This river-mouth was no secret as far as I know; you could easily spot it if you carefully pay your attention to the coastline in the south of Los Santos Province, but there was nothing around there except one long sandy beach next to the river. We walked quite a bit on the beach, almost 30 minutes, from where we parked our car to the river-mouth. It was really worth it in the end as we had these fun waves only to ourselves. And I'm 200% sure that there are hundreds more of these empty spots in this country.

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While my stay at Venao Cove was only 66 days, my fond memory of this place and all the good waves I rode will live on timelessly. It feels like I've found my own surfers' paradise here in Panama.
The photo below shows (from right): Til, Irene, Leaf, Kai, Kathi (Au pair but soon to-be-doctor) and me.

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!!!!! Note !!!!!
To Irene and Leaf: Thanks very very much for everything and I really hope to see you again somewhere on this planet and go surfing together, maybe with Kai and Til on their own grom sticks then :-)
To readers of this article: More details about Hostel Venao Cove can be found on their website here.

One of the greatest things about travelling and surfing around the world is that I get to see so many different types of surfboards and I sometimes have a chance to try them too.
Since my time in Senegal this past January I've ridden 10 different boards and I'm always amazed by how they all differ from each other in the water.

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While I terribly miss my 5'8 wooden Egg, my 5'8 Firewire V4 - one of the most agile as well as "fragile" surfboards - is nearly dead now as I've creased it three times - the first time in J-Bay, the second time in Quakam and the last in Playa Venao - each one of these incidents made a whole crack from one side of the rail to the other on the bottom....

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Now I've got a brand new board shaped by a Nicaragua-born guy called Juan, aka BOA, in Panama City. I can't tell you how much this board is; I would probably have to pay double if this were made in Japan. But I tell you that this board is 5'6ft long and is made of EPS with the glassing of 4oz Bottom / 2x4 Deck, plus double-stringers. Yes, this is the shortest board I've ever owned in my life and it's been so long since I last ordered a custom-made board. I'm so stoked to have this one now.

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This time I did ask Juan to imitate the bottom and the tail-shape of my V4, so that I won't have to do big adjustments in my surfing and will still be able to practice with this new 5'6 in the same way as how I surfed the V4 (I hope!) Furthermore, with the medium glassing and the double-stringers I won't have to worry about breaking this 5'6 so easily.

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All I need now is the ocean with waves! My next destination is Playa Morrillo.
The only problem I have right now is that the World Cup 2014 has been hosting some great games and it's bloody hard to get my ass off the couch in Panama City, Hahaha.

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A huge swell reached the coast of Central America over the first weekend of this month. I'm sure some guys with guns loaded in their trucks were frantically driving around to find the best spot depending on the forecasts of the day such as Santa Catalina and Pavones and even Puerto Escondido, while others were compromising or dodging the direct hit of this swell somewhere within the Gulf of Panama.
I wish I were the first, but the latter. My reasons for it were; a) I didn't have a car or could not rent one as I had no valid driver's license. b) I thought that the swell might be too big for even Santa Catalina and for me. c) The World Cup 2014 was still on, so I didn't wanna spend the weekend somewhere in a stone-age village without any TVs.

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The swell kicked in on July 4th (Fri) and I found myself travelling from Albrook Terminal in Panama City to a resort-boom town called Coronado by a public minibus. It was packed with full of Panamanian commuters and my bulky coffin took over a few seats! It reminded me of my minibus trip in Sri Lanka nearly four years ago.

Geographically speaking, Coronado is on the coast of the gulf of Panama, about 1 and 1/2 hours of driving southwest from Panama City, and it offers a few spots nearby to surf such as Playa Malibu, Playa Serena and Playa Teta.
Furthermore, all major forecasts were looking promising for Coronado over the weekend (For Santa Catalina and Playa Venao the swell-sizes were almost double the below.)
@ July 4th (Fri) 2.5 - 4ft with 20sec
@ July 5th (Sat) 4 - 5ft with 18sec
@ July 6th (Sun) 3 - 4ft with 16sec

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I really wanted to surf Playa Malibu, an open beach with a river-mouth, but it turned out that the swell was too big for this spot as I observed a wave after a wave closing out there with a thunder-like bang.
Quite disappointed with Playa Malibu, I moved on to Playa Serena, a righthand pointbreak located on the beachfront of Coronado, and I had quite a few long rides on Friday and Saturday. The above photo shows the outside of Playa Serena, which doesn't go off very often unless a big swell comes in. The downside of it is that waves tended to slow down halfway and I had to do lots of cut-backs: it was probably more suitable for long boarders and beginners.

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On Sunday morning the size of the swell dropped quite a bit. I didn't wanna surf Playa Serena again as I found the waves a bit boring and I also expected some weekend-warriors to flock in there.
I decided to just wander to the west along the beach with my BOA 5'6 Manta in my hand, hoping to find a spot to surf, any spots where there would be no long borders nor beginners!
It took me nearly an hour from my B&B in Coronado to a spot called Rocky Point (shown in the photo below). I became super-sweaty by then, but lucky me, there were only two guys on the outside line-up.

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Waves at Rocky Point were breaking faster and hollower than those in Playa Serena (And less crowded too!) I had a fun session here, but spending two hours in the water, plus an hour of walking along the beach from Coronado to Rocky Point, and vice versa, fried my aging skin (I only had my board shorts on.) I couldn't go for another session in the afternoon.... Bugger me!

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On the following Monday while my skin was still trying to rehydrate itself, Josh who I met at the B&B in Coronado drove me to a couple of spots in the morning.
Rio Mar was the first spot we checked, but it didn't look surfable due probably to the rapidly shrinking swell. We moved on and eventually paddled out at a spot called Costa Esmeralda as shown in the photo below.
It was clean with no wind, but the waves were tiny: maximum 2ft on a set. Nonetheless, we had the waves to ourselves until two other guys showed up an hour later.

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So this was my experience in surfing the gulf of Panama, but my real intended destination for the past couple of months was not this gulf: it was Playa Morrillo.
While keeping myself entertained with the World Cup games in Panama City, my favourite swell-forecast finally started showing a big yellow-and-red dot around the southwest of Central America. It was time for me to hit back on the road.

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To travel from Albrook Terminal via Santiago to Playa Morrillo was very straightforward. In fact, I didn't stay in Morrillo but I ended up in a tiny town called Torio, about 2 hours south of Santiago by minibus and 7km north of Playa Morrillo: Torio is the last stop of the minibus, but I could have gone down to Playa Morrillo if I had asked the driver to take me there by paying him extra money.

Nothing special about Torio apart from the fact that there is a could-be-surfable deserted beach and that several crazy expats had bought a few pieces of land here and were boasting how cool it was to own them in a foreign country. None of my business anyway....

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One notable thing about this village is that there is a hostel called White Spider Hostal, which I found the cheapest in Panama with only USD7.00 for a 6-bed dorm and I was the only guest for my whole stay there :-)

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I would completely have screwed up in Torio because I didn't have a car, but I ran into Mike, a French body-boarder, who I first met in Playa Venao in May and then in Santa Catalina in June coincidentally. He happened to be staying in Torio for a few weeks and was renting a car! I was lucky enough to go surfing with him whenever he wanted to go.
At the same time the forecast was showing something for Playa Morrillo at least for the next three days;
@ July 16th (Wed) 2.5 - 3ft with 18sec
@ July 17th (Thu) 4.5 - 6ft with 15sec
@ July 18th (Fri) 4ft with 13sec

My first surf in Morrillo was on Wednesday morning with Mike and another French guy called Sebastian. It was sunny with light cross-shore winds and the waves were max 2.5ft on a set. Of course, nobody else was in the water. Such an easy and hassle-free session then

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The peak of the swell was on the following Thursday: the waves reached 4 to 5ft on a set with almost no winds. Unlike Playa Venao and Santa Catalina on a good day, Playa Morrillo was the least crowded I've ever surfed. I must also admit that the waves in Morrillo are a little more powerful and hollower than in Playa Venao: it was like a small version of Playa Zicatela, Mexico. Sebastian who claimed to be living in this area over the last ten years told me that this Thursday was still an average day for Morrillo.

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On Friday the swell was still sticking around. Mike and I went checking Playa Morrillo, but the wind-direction was a bit funny combined with seemingly too much water on the high-tide. We drove north to a spot called Mariato.
Strangely enough, Mariato looked just okay when we arrived, but it all changed as soon as we paddled out: it got better! Nothing big during this session, but the waves were fun and rippable. It also kept us busy as we constantly had to paddle (Mariato is a river-mouth).

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Roaming cows, restless roosters, sleepy cats, stinky dogs and laid-back Panamanians are the main attraction of Torio and its surroundings. Moreover, there were only two decent restaurants (one of them can be a bar), one bakery (with only sweets), no shop to buy any vegetables or fruits, no electricity for two days after an intense thunder storm and no Internet.
Don't worry! The slow-lifestyle is what this part of Panama could best offer you and I really enjoyed it. We should be more concerned about the upcoming huge swell here which is a whole bunch of crazy expats and retirees with money. Scary, isn't it?!

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!!!!! Note !!!!!
Big thanks to Mike, the French body-border not "boogie border", for introducing me to the very interesting community of Torio and for driving me around in search for waves.