“Tilt the board upwards to go up, and point it down to go down, oh and watch the coral” – after our in depth lesson, we were ready to go deepboarding.
I’d never heard of deepboarding before and with good reason, you can’t do it anywhere else in the world. What is it? Speeding through the sea, dragged behind a motor boat whilst holding on to a curved piece of clear plastic for dear life.
Watch the video here, or read on below!
The previous day, Olaf the German traveller with 28 years on the road to his name informed us that “I can’t guarantee anyone good weather, it’s been cloudy and raining for two and a half months now”. I think he must have put a good word in with somebody though as we awoke to bright blue skies and burning sun: perfect for a day on the water. Cheers Olaf.
Welcome to Bocas del Toro, Panama’s answer to Venice. A small archipelago near the Costa Rican border where the mode of transport of choice is the water taxi.
Speeding off from Isla Colon (keep reading, no jokes to be seen here), we passed through the mangroves and in to Bahía Honda. After about 15 seconds we saw 3 wild dolphins surface not far from our boat. A few laps of the bay later, they popped up again just along aside us for a quick breather!
We pushed on, through mangroves with lazy sloths hanging around at the top of the trees. Apparently it can take them a week to get from their treetop homes to the water if they need to go…
Luckily our captain was a bit quicker, and we were soon approaching the two desert islands of Cayo Zapatilla. With palm trees overhanging the pristine white beaches and only one other boat around, it felt like we were arriving in paradise. The vibrant blue water looked it had already been severely instagrammed, but this was real life – #nofilter.
After a spot of snorkelling, I walked the length of this amazing beach, over mangroves, under palm trees and through the water. For twenty minutes, I didn’t see another person with my only friend being a huge barracuda swimming in the shallow water alongside me.
This is heaven, I thought to myself. This is what Alex Garland was talking about in The Beach. He may have set his novel in Thailand, but he could have just as well been talking about this place.
I ran back to our boat, as I knew it was time to deepboard. 5 of us hopped in to the water, pulled our masks on and grabbed the piece of plastic that would guide us through the sea.
The boat started slowly and dragged us clear of the coral surrounding the island. Our Argentinian guide then shouted “vamos!” and it was time to descend. Pointing my board down I shot underwater! Down down down, close to the sand at the bottom. I looked up and saw the sun shining through the surface of the water creating silhouettes out of my fellow deep boarders.
I carved through the water with almost no effort at all. The boat was doing most of the work, so we could stay under water for much longer than normal without using much energy. The feeling was amazing!
Then there was a collision. The left and right turns weren’t quite as easy as our instructor had made out. The boat banked to the left and the resulting human pileup was unavoidable! Ropes tangled and everyone went up to the surface. The salvage operation began far from the island: ok you swim under him, now you go over there, now you swap boards with him.
Detangled, we headed back under, speeding our way back to the island whilst spinning around 360 degrees underwater. We recrossed the coral and with that, our deep boarding experience was over. I loved it and would definitely recommend it to anybody passing through Bocas !
What was the nicest beach that you’ve ever visited? Have you tried any sports not many people have heard of?