While living in Panama last summer, the 2011 Island Interns had an opportunity they simply could not pass up: the chance to watch the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games in Playa Venao, Panama.
Although their summer internship was based on a jungle-covered island in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Luke and Ben journeyed to this off-the-beaten-path beach for a sporting weekend among champions from all over the world as they took on 15-foot swells in the warm waters off Playa Venao.
“With its half-moon shape, this beach reminded me of Playa Palenque,” says Island Intern Ben Brown. “The competitive atmosphere was incredible.”
This remote beach is something of a well-kept secret among surfers – it enjoys the same formidable swells as Santa Catalina, with only a handful of visitors on the weekends and virtually no one on the weekdays. Pounding waves contribute to prime surfing conditions but make swimming a bit treacherous, so bring a board if you want to get in the water. Playa Venao represents just one of Panama’s many spectacular locations where the visiting traveler can lay claim to a pristine beach for the day and immerse in the unspoiled natural surroundings.
“Playa Venao, Panama reminds me of home,” says Tony Silvagni, Gold Medalist and Longboard Champion at the 2011 Billabong ISA World Surfing Games, “but it breaks out further and has a little more power.”
The usually untrodden sands of Playa Venao came to life last summer as competitors and fans congregated to share their love of surfing in a spirited display mingling local pride and international camaraderie.
Sporting events add another dimension to travel experiences, whether you’re dropping in on a local soccer match or attending the Olympic Games. For travelers who are looking to immerse in their destinations, athletic competitions like the Billabong ISA World Surfing Games offer a thrilling new angle from which to experience a place and its culture.
Panama, formerly a lesser-known destination, is now receiving widespread acclaim for its beauty and abundant adventure opportunities. Events such as the World Surfing Games, along with ecotourism efforts and sustainable development initiatives, aim to preserve this country’s wonders while opening them to today’s environmentally- and culturally-conscious travelers.