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The Inertia

The second half of the year in Central America has many labels. Some call it winter, some the rainy season, and others the green season. In Cambutal, Panama, a few things are certain: it will rain, sometimes torrentially and there will be south swell.

We don’t have to dissect the swell forecast here (we still do it anyway), but rather wake up every morning with a fresh set of eyes and an open mind to see what’s happening out at sea. Although it does happen, it’s rare to see unimpeded lines storming in from deep in the Southern Hemisphere.

The storm track just off our coast often adds short period ripples into the orderly long period swells. Combined with large tide swings and a dozen fickle setups, finding the best waves on any given day is more like a jigsaw puzzle than an easy read.

Originally from Florida, Aaron Lichter has lived here longer than me, and together we’ve created a mental journal of where to be and when. Most often we are the only two in the water as the masses flock to the most well-known, albeit reliable, surf spots.

As 2021 transitioned into the deep winter months of August through December, the hard work of the past 10 years paid off. It rained, although not as much as normal, and the south swells were as plentiful as ever.

Find more from photographer Sean McDonald on Instagram. 

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