Art by Tom Swanson

Blog: Pilgrims

3/25: I was due to give a massage at 9am in Mal Pais so I had to get up early to make it to the surf on time.  If things had turned out a little differently with the tide this morning, I’d either be broken to bits or dead.  It was a hard paddle and there were only five people in the line-up at 7am; waves were fairly macking (by my standards) at Banana Beach and that can keep the number of people low at a spot like this.  Two of the other guys were expat residents – one whom was among the first gringos to set up a business here about 15 ago.  We caught a few waves each but it was a bit slow between the sets; the two expats sat some distance from me chatting.   By 45 minutes or so into the session, I was getting antsy and went for a set wave when one finally came.  The wave jacked up unusually fast and the lip pitched over as I stood up. There was little chance for me to make such a critical drop and I began a slow cartwheel from 3+ meters above the flat water that was sucking up the face of the wave.  A tuck at the last second allowed me to roll a little further so that my shoulder hit the water first.  The lip came down just after I landed and blew up on me.  My daily beating. Grabbing the board fast upon reaching the surface, I turned for shore –  no need to wonder if my session was over.  Something was wrong but I hadn’t figured out what.  It was abundantly clear, however, that I was in the impact zone for another wave and wanted to avoid another thrashing.  Scanning the shore only confused me.  All the normal landmarks were nowhere to be found. I didn’t know where I was but I’d never been there before.  We’d drifted so far and so fast that I’d taken off over the reef south of the Casa Zen beach access, hundreds of meters north of our entry point.   No one surfs the spot where this wave breaks over the reef.  I’ve looked at it hundreds of times and simply passed by without any consideration, knowing that there wasn’t need to wonder about it.  I paddled hard to get where there were fewer jagged rocks below me and scrambled to shore.  It was almost a ‘kiss the earth’ in gratitude moment; a little less water over that reef and my head could’ve been split open like a coconut.  Trying to signal Ross and Ian was futile: They were in their own world.  I shuttered at the thought of ride to the hospital 8 hours away.  Better to break my neck I think. 

3/28:  Days of head-and-a-half to double overhead waves kept me feeling like I was getting my medicine.  There’s a reason that the videos I do for the website say, “Produced by Chasing the Dragon Films”.  Bukowski was a man who knew something about getting high and he was honest about it.   

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A side street lead up a hill to a dead end in the woods. Danielle and 3 other women I’d just met, including Danielle’s mother, had set up a wonderful dinner on the flat roof.  The moon was almost full and the weather was essentially perfect.  If you’ve never played Heads Up with a phone, I highly recommend downloading it wherever you are.  Another surprisingly good night in ‘paradise’.

4/8: A day of Imaginary Surf.  A short flight got me to SJO to meet up with David @surfymurhpy.  Another flight south for about 45 minutes landed us in Golfito, and after a bumpy 2 hour cab ride we arrived Pavones, 1 hour drive from Panama.  The break is considered a regional classic and was my destination when leaving Oregon in April 2014; I’d attempted to drive here but had been caught up in spontaneity as I travelled Mexico.  I eventually turned my truck around and despite arriving 7 months later than planned, my pilgrimage now felt complete.  Caza Olas (basically House of Waves) was full of friendly people from various parts of the planet.  We pulled our boards out on arrival to get them ready for the following morning.  David had something he’d just finished that was made of redwood reclaimed from the old water towers of NYC and I had another that has a cork top and requires no wax.  Curious travelers asked about the boards.

4/13:  Some of our hostel-mates might have suspected David and I of being lovers.  We spent most of our time in the room ‘napping’.   And even when not asleep I just sat in the bed and wrote while David worked on ukulele tunes.  We opted for a room with a/c and maxed out the value; more of my hours in Pavones were spent in bed than anywhere else by far.  I love Casa Zen for the atmosphere and the people there, but I didn’t sleep much there and was making up for it.  David was fresh from juggling his bodywork practice and surfboard manufacturing so we just sank into the tranquil town.

We were wave hungry enough to rise at 5am in hopes of scoring.  The swell hadn’t really filled in like we hoped but it was good nonetheless.  David met a woman in the line-up that had a yoga shala overlooking the point and we’d each scheduled a massage with her.  I walked over to her  place after the surf and could look out from the massage table to where the waves hitting the point 150 meters away.  Amy’s property is large and parklike – a sort of manicured zen garden.

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The town of Pavones feels like an outpost.  It was quiet and felt empty for a world famous spot.  Most people were surprisingly friendly.  If we waved or said hello to someone (expat, local, or traveller) they invariably returned the greeting and sometimes came back with a big smile.  It was the same whether on water or land and a big change from Santa Teresa.  This is the Pura Vida you hope for.

By two days into our stay we began eating chocolate.  People would come by the hostel with empanadas or coconut oil or chocolate for sale and we bought 2 logs of handmade, local chocolate in log form.  Chocolate is a staple in my diet in the US and I buy good, og chocolate almost daily when up there. For a long while was grinding cacao beans in a coffee grinder to add to my morning smoothies.  The criollo cacao for our chocolate was grown and processed about 30 minutes away.  David and I are fairly matched in our eating habits when traveling and quickly decided to put in an order for 18 logs.  We probably ate close to 1/2lb (a little under 1/4 kilo) of chocolate each day for several days.  By the end of our time in Pavones most of the chocolate was gone and our dream life was being effected significantly.

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Peanut butter was mixed to a thin consistently with high grade coconut oil then spooned with the fresh logs

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