21 July, 2010 21 July, 2010

P-Land, South America Spot Check

Click here to explore the area on Google maps.

Off Panama’s remote central Pacific coast is an Island called Silva. It’s a small island, tucked away, not where you expect it to be. Somehow the big south pacific winter swells manage to unload on Silva’s south coast, creating two serious big wave spots. The left is called ‘P-Land’ and the right is ‘Nestles’. Golla and his family cruised through here on their catamaran Shimmi, and they scored a solid swell on their first day. Here are some pics of these waves:

P-Land is a heavy left, with a few boils and bumps, a cross between Factory and the Outer. It’s a big drop and a longer board will be handy. When it gets over 8ft the take off moves onto a lovely barreling platform, which immediately causes half the okes in the lineup to kak themselves and move to the spot down from P-Land, called ‘Leftovers’. But is not really a ‘leftover’ at all, rather it can be the main course. Because it’s further down than P-Land, and less exposed, Leftovers needs the swell to refract which makes for a cleaner and more perfect wave. It’s longer than P-Land with a specific take off spot (on the legde!) and a full stop rock near the end, which you can negotiate around.

Although these islands are smack bang in the middle of the tropics, the reef is not coral as you would expect. Sometimes we have this theory that the worlds best waves are on islands fringed by massive coral reef systems. Indonesia and Fiji are two obvious examples. If you dive under the waves in Indo you will see the massive flat moss covered thingy below, usually with a few drainage furrows here and there. This is not rock, it is layers of (mostly previously) ‘living’ organisms that make up the reef which grow in the wave zone. Waves act like a giant pair of hedge clippers cutting proud coral stems down by just mowing them down. So the waves keep the reef in check, flat, perfect for surfing. These blemishless flat tropical reefs have created the world’s most beautiful waves. If you’ve been to these places you will know.

Off course there are quite a few other really perfect reef breaks, which don’t have coral bottoms. But they were specially made entirely by chance when the geological landscape was originally formed. They have rock bottoms, often improved by the arrival (like J-Bay) or departure (like Pipeline) of sand. But the wave is how the wave is. Why we mention all of this is because Panama, despite being in the tropics, does not have these table-top coral beds in the wave zone. P-Land runs over a perfect rock bottom which has remained unchanged for millions of years. No coral has filled the gaps to make the wave better.

P-Land grinding somewhere between Outer Kom and the Factory

Although the waves may not be as perfect as Indo, but Silva and its neighbors are some of the most beautiful and un-spoilt islands on the planet. Virgin rain forest grows down to the waters edge with almost none of the palm trees, which have invaded so many other tropical islands. Howler monkeys dive through the canopy and colonies of scarlet macaws squawk in the treetops. And when you done surfing P-Land, go drink a long Balboa (The Bintang of Panama) with the boys and girls of the Morro Negrito Surf Camp, swapping yarns and comparing scars. A nearby river mouth has a consistent super bank lefthander and if you buy a round they will show you where…

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