BOCAS BABE: ANA
7 years ago I travelled from Friesland (Northern province of the Netherlands) and Amsterdam to Central America. From the first moment I discovered the beaches of Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua I became addicted to SURF. When I came back to Holland I continued surfing the local beach-breaks. Fun, but I missed the clear blue warm waters of Central America, the perfectly formed consistent waves and variety of surf-breaks.
I kept coming back to Bocas del Toro, Panama. Here I knew a lot of people and I loved the diversity of locals and foreigners that live in Bocas. And since the surf is so great in Bocas with swells all year long and many different beach and reef breaks, I got stuck in Bocas del Toro and have been living here on and off for about 6 years. I have lived on isla Colón, on isla Carenero (my favorite surfspot) and ended up living on isla Bastimentos where I live very happy in between the local Jamaican community.
When I started to learn how to surf in Bocas del Toro, I floated around the more radical breaks for a while. I went along with experienced surfers, which of course only had attention for the waves and no time for a beginner. After wiping-out several times because the laughing surfer boys were telling me to ‘just go for it and don’t worry about the reef’ when a big set was coming, I realized this was more difficult then I had imagined.
Then I met a girl that surfed at the same level as I did, we soon became good friends and started surfing together more often. When I saw her catching a wave, I was thinking to myself, ‘if she can do it, I can do it too!’ and it motivated me. We got to know more girls, some surfed better then us, some the same and some with less experience. We used to joke around saying we had our own ‘surf gang’. We surfed the smaller swells and the less crowded spots until we got more confidence and less fear to try out the bigger waves. I had so much fun and it was exactly what I needed to develop myself in the surf. It was, and still is, a great time! Spending the day surfing, pushing your limits, getting better and more confident. Then ending the day, cruising on your skateboard trough the streets of Bocas!
BOCAS BABE: ESTHER
It was not until the year of 2010 that I started my travel from Holland to Brasil to Panama and there on up towards Mexico. I had spent the previous 10 years on training hard and fanatic in Martial Arts (self-defence sports). Because of my passion for sports and the desire to become a business owner, I obtained my bachelor degree in 2008 in Marketing and Management of Sports at the business school of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
When I arrived to Bocas del Toro I immediately felt at home. The friendly vibe of the island people and the amazing beauty all around made me always wanting to go back to Bocas. I stayed the first time for 3 months. Studying Spanish and getting used the Caribbean lifestyle. My natural desire to practice sports got me to try out surfing. I did not grow up on the ocean and did not know much about waves, currents, tides, reefs and all those things that matter when you’re out there on your board. But I simply loved the feeling being out there in the ocean, gazing over the water looking for the waves to come.
I had only given surfing a few tries that year. I did not have my own surfboard and no budget for classes. My first experience was a tough one. Luckily for me I was a strong swimmer and in very good shape at that moment I was unsure if I wanted to continue surfing but later I found out that the spot were I started out was no beginner spot and the waves and currents at that time were pretty strong and big for even the more advanced surfers.
When I came back in 2011, again I only went surfing a few times. Simply because, I either had no board, or no time, or an ear infection that kept me out of the water, or nobody to surf with. Inexperienced as I was, and after my realization of the strength of the ocean I didn’t want to go all by myself and I had not met many friends that surfed yet. The guys that took me surfing the first few times where way better surfers then me and they did not want to surf the beginner spots. So I went along with them and was only busy ‘surviving’ in the breaks where I was simply not ready for at all. After these try-outs and survivor modes I’ve been trough, I can only advice others to not follow that example to begin your surfing experience.
I finally owned my own surfboard in the end of 2012 and started to go surfing with several girlfriends (Joan and Ana) I had met in Bocas that were more experienced surfers then me. Now I finally started to have fun and did not feel so incompetent anymore. It was motivating and relaxing to surf with other girls and it inspired me to see them ripping the waves. The chit-chat in between and laughter amongst friends helped me to feel more comfortable in the water and to get rid of my fear of failing. It was then, that I got hooked on surfing and continued to surf on a regular basis. Since then I have only had good experiences in the water and feel happy each and every time I am out there, also when surfing by myself.
I do not claim to be a pro-surfer or the ‘best’ out there, not at all. But I love it, I believe anyone that enjoys the ocean and water sports can learn it, they just have to follow the right steps and believe in themselves. I wish to share the good experience, the fun, that special connection with the ocean, and empower more women to believe in themselves and their capabilities. I believe that sports in general should be a part of every individual’s life. And to be able to combine that with creating a deeper connection with mother nature… is just the most rewarding feeling!