• Paul Clark

Panama: A paddle board adventure

It takes a while for a photograph to develop. Looking back at experiences through the lens means remembering a lot of things, and forgetting a lot of things.

A shot that I remember as not good because it wasn't what I was looking for, often is the better one in retrospect.

This trip to Bocas del Toro was bitter sweet. It was kind of miserable, actually. Bug bites and foul weather. Scam artists, and me focused on getting properly branded shots rather than enjoying the time with loved ones. Our dog became ill while we were away, and Angelique went home early to euthanize. Shitty.

But it was an amazing experience, in retrospect. Many good people we met along the way. And it stands as a reminder that any experience has many different perspectives.


About the trip.

We flew from Oregon to Panama City in the winter of 2015. My buddy, Mark Cornwell along with my now ex-wife, Angelique, and I wanted a paddle board adventure touring the archipelago of Boca del Toro.

Curious about the local ingenuousness communities who commute between islands in dug out canoes, we hoped to experience something new rooted in tradition.

Bocas is popular for adventurous travelers, backpackers, and surfers. We found a very colorful Afro-Caribbean culture intermixed with Spanish and indigenous populations. Hitting the water, we realized quickly that our original plans to do a multi-day SUP-support tour would be cut short. Camping on the islands is nearly impossible due to the mangroves that line the coast. Where there was a clearing, it was private property. And the locals preferred to keep to themselves.

As a result, we did day paddling based out of both Bocas and Isla Bastimentos. We stayed in hostels and back packer's lodges.

Mark was able to stay for a week. Angelique was intending to stay the full three weeks with me but left early to euthanize our dog after it became ill during the trip. During the last week, I was able to venture on my own and do some rugged back country camping. I also was invited to tag along one day with the volunteer program Give and Surf teaching native school children English and other classes.