The Stoke is Strong in Panama
SIC Maui Global Athlete and Paddle Monster Coach Seychelle visited Panama City, Panama last week for a series of clinics and adventures with our friends at Standup Panama. Here’s what she had to say about the trip.
My whole life I have wanted to visit the country of Panama. I was raised by sailors and the history of the Panama Canal has always fascinated me. In my pre-SUP life, my dream was to sail around the world. I always knew I would visit one day. I just thought it would be on a slightly larger vessel than 14’.
My plane arrived in Panama City in the evening. My host, Arturo, the owner of Standup Panama, picked me up at the airport and took me to an incredible 5-star hotel downtown where I would be staying for the week, compliments of some very nice friends. This was a most pleasant surprise.
Standup Panama is a paddlers club and SIC Maui Glide center that is located on what they call “the causeway” in Panama City. The causeway was formed by connecting three islands together and then back to the mainland with rocks that were dredged from the building of the Panama Canal. The launch site they call “la playita” which is an endearing way to say, “the beach.” It is one of the only places where one can launch a board in Panama City, and therefore a very popular spot.
My first two days, I taught four clinics to four amazing groups of paddlers. SUP skills, SUP racing, and SUP endurance. What I love most about teaching is making connections with people. Learning this sport, I went through the same process as each of my students to get better. I didn’t grow up doing this and I can relate to going through the practice of acquiring each of these skills. I especially love it when a young paddler is really fired up about getting better, as some of Panamanian national riders are. I know exactly how they feel and exactly what it takes to get to that next level and we form a connection in spirit.
On Saturday morning we organized a fun, group paddle called a “Paseo.” This translates as walk, but I think of it more like a tour. We launched at la playita and had an excellent group of paddlers almost all of which had been to one or more of my clinics the previous days. It was fun to watch everyone working on their newly acquired skills. It was even more fun to continue to see the same faces each day, truly making friends and life-long memories.
After a few days in Panama with these eager, welcoming, open, and quite hilarious group of people, part of my heart will forever be touched. It made we want to do more clinics as a “camp” style or even as a retreat where we can spend multiple days together and gain so much more than just paddling skills from the experience.
In the afternoons we visited some “must-see” places like Casco, the Old Town of Panama City, and the Miralfores Locks of the Panama Canal to watch the ships pass through.
One of my favorite adventures was going for a paddle at the famous “Bridge of the Americas,” the first bridge to span and connect North and South America. It also marks the entrance channel to the Panama Canal. We are technically not allowed to paddle in the channel for security reasons, but I couldn’t help myself. I paddled into the channel and was overcome with emotion and bliss as I felt one of my life long dreams being fulfilled, entering the Panama Canal.
I also had the opportunity to paddle Cayuco with some friends at WAA Panama. Cayuco is the traditional paddle sport of Panama. It is a 4-man canoe carved from a single log with no outrigger for stability. They are very tippy and require massive amounts of teamwork to maneuver. I got to paddle with one of the best teams in the country for a very unique Panamanian cultural experience.
On the second evening, I was invited to a Christmas Party at the US Ambassadors House in Panama City. I met some super folks from the US Embassy that are also paddlers and members of the club at Standup Panama. It’s funny in Panama City you feel like you are in a big city and a small town all at the same time. There is traffic and skyscrapers galore, yet everyone seems to know everyone. I learned a lot about the relationship between the US and Panama, was filled in on current happenings and politics, and was warmly welcomed as an ambassador of the Sport from the US to Panama.
I want to extend a HUGE thank you to Standup Panama for their amazing hospitality and for organizing such a fun trip and all the experience that came with it. Thank you to SIC Maui for their support in helping me spread the love of SUP and grow our SIC Ohana around the world. Thank you to the US Embassy in Panama for helping me feel what it means to be an ambassador for your country and your sport. Thank you to the paddlers of Panama for your open hearts, open minds, all the Spanish lessons, and deeming me your “Proesora.” (an inside joke.) And thank you to Paddle Monster for helping cultivate a community of paddlers from all over the world and a platform from which to help them grow.
Hasta la proxima vez! Where to next? Want to organize a clinic or camp? Interested in our online training programs? Reach out and let me know. Let’s make it happen!
Love and Gratitude,