An unshaven young guy quietly sat across from me at the table when I was having dinner; I had escaped from wet Panama City in the morning and had just checked in at a rusty hotel/hostel in wet wet Santa Catalina. I was quite exhausted by then but relieved to be in Santa Catalina for the third time. He and I exchanged our glances for a moment and we both remained silent in a little awkward way. A slight thought popped out in my head: "Mmm... This guy kinda looks familiar. But never mind." I didn't think any further and kept on eating.
His friend came out of the kitchen and they started talking to each other with such a thick Oz accent, mate. Now this unshaven guy's voice sounded quite familiar to me. So I looked back at him. And it was Lee, whom I was travelling and surfing with back in May 2011 along with another Australian guy called Clint.
Of course, the very first thing that instantly came out of my mouth was;

" WHAAAAAT THE F*******K ! ! ! "

Excuse my words, but please understand if you were ever in a situation like this. So was the second thing I said;

" Ohhh.... WHAT THE F**K! "

And Lee went on after me;


We ecstatically swore with a few WTFs, and it took us a minute or so to eventually shake our hands and to truly feel this astonishingly sudden reunion here in Santa Catalina.
In fact, the funniest thing was that Lee, Clint and I first met right here in Santa Catalina in 2011. We ran into each other again in Pavones a week later and then we travelled together through San Jose and the southern Nicaragua until I left for Leon by myself while Lee and Clint continued their way north. No emailing, no Facebook (No way!), no Twitter (No f**ckin way!) and no other dodgy SNSs to stay in contact with each other after all. Yet this time Lee, without a crazy Clint but with his two other Australian friends - Darcy and Luis - came to Santa Catalina after they surfed along the coast of Peru this July. How super hyper coincidental was it?!
The photo below shows (from left) Darcy, Lee, Luis and me. All grinning :-)

Air+Esky+Surfing+in+Panama 20140801

Because I've been going around the globe three times over the last four years, this wasn't the first sudden reunion for me.
As far as I remember, the very first occasion was probably in June 2012 when I was just about to paddle out to Supertubes in J-Bay, South Africa, I ran into David from Cape Town, who was previously surfing in Lombok, Indonesia in 2010 - so was I then. Funnily enough, a couple of weeks later in the same month while I was surfing at Supertubes, I bumped into Whip, a Delta Airlines pilot, who I previously met and surfed with in Senegal in December 2011. The third occasion was when I ran into a French surfer while surfing in Lafitenia, France in August 2012, we previously met each other in Barra de la Cruz, Mexico in October 2011. And the forth occasion was with Rachel from the UK, we happened to be staying in a tiny sea-side town called Tofo in Mozambique last August, we previously met each other in El Tunco, El Salvador in June 2011.
To run into somebody who you have met before in the same country is actually quite possible. However, to run into somebody in a different country on a different continent is extremely rare, though it has occurred to me at least four times now. What A Tiny Wonderful World!

Speaking of which, this was my third visit to Panama's most famous break - Santa Catalina: The first time was in May 2011, then I met Lee. The second time was this past June and the third time was early this month, then I met Lee again.
The waves in Santa Catalina were good: I say "good" because they were neither fantastic nor bad, but were simply good. There were a couple of days both this June and early August where the waves reached 5ft+ on sets with occasional bombs. I did enjoy Catalina's typical wally punchy waves with a little anxiety inside me: "I might hit a rock if I keep going deeper on the inside...." I never hit any rocks but a couple of wipe-outs, in which I went over the fall and might further have damaged my herniated disc in the spine. Ahh....

Air+Esky+Surfing+in+Panama 20140802

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The above photos were taken in the morning of August 06th (Wed) when the forecast was showing 5 ~ 6ft with the period of 15 ~ 16sec. The wind was very light offshore throughout the day, and the waves picked up to almost 7 ~ 8ft just after midday as the tides started dropping. Luckily, it wasn't too crowded on this day with the neap tide and actually surfable even on low tides. I surfed until my shoulders became almost crippled.

Air+Esky+Surfing+in+Panama 20140805

Ok. This is it for my time in Santa Catalina, a.k.a. the world-class coincidental spot!
I'm heading to Boquete now to indulge myself with some seriously good coffee.


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