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In Panama, a Surfer Is Born

John Briley last wrote for Travel on back-country skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Details: Panama Surf Camp

Morro Negrito's package price of $550 is based on Saturday airport arrivals and departures and includes seven nights' lodging (including in Panama City), ground transportation, lodging at camp, all meals while at camp and daily surfing instruction. Extra days at camp are $60 each. Some Spanish-language skill is helpful in getting around Panama City and communicating with bus, truck and boat drivers and camp staff.

Students at an island surf camp get their feet wet in Panama waves. (John Briley)

Guests can make and receive phone calls from camp, but reception is spotty, and you will be charged for extensive phone time. There is no Internet service on the island or anywhere nearby. Camp has a television for viewing videos only -- it receives no regular programming.

GETTING THERE: American, Continental, Delta and US Airways serve Panama City's Tocumen International Airport from the D.C. region, starting at around $400 round trip. Morro Negrito surf camp is on the island of La Ensenada, about a five-hour bus and truck trip from Panama City followed by a 30-minute boat ride. The camp arranges the road and boat transportation.

WHAT TO BRING: Surfboard (unless you want to rent; the rental selection is not extensive), ding repair kit and warm-water wax, plus the usual tropical accouterments of sunscreen, bug repellent, etc. Also, bring fishing gear -- including extra lures and tackle for the inevitable snapped lines -- and snorkel gear in case the surf is flat, and a dry bag for keeping cameras, camcorders, etc. dry while out on the boats. The local children are baseball enthusiasts, so baseball gloves and balls draw gleeful appreciation from the kids. School supplies such as pens and paper are also in short supply.

WHAT TO EAT: Morro Negrito serves three meals a day and recommends bringing snack food, such as trail mix or candy bars, to eat between surf sessions. Beer and sodas are available for $1 each; unlimited gringo-safe water is free. If you like hard liquor, consider bringing a bottle.


In the eastern United States: Wrightsville Beach Surf Camp, Wrightsville Beach, N.C., 866-844-7873, www.wbsurfcamp.com; Surf Session, Fenwick Island, Del., 302-539-2126, www.atlanticbreezes.com/surf sessionssurfinglessons.htm; Lou Maresca's Central Florida Surf School, Vero Beach, Fla., 877-366-7873, 772-231-1044 or 772-713-0412, www.surfschoolcamp.com.

In California: Richard Schmidt Surf School, Santa Cruz, Calif., 831-423-0928, www.richardschmidt.com; Surf Diva (women and girls only), San Diego, 858-454-8273, www.surfdiva.com.

In Mexico: Agua Azul Surf Camps, Guerrero, 208-863-1100, www.aguaazul.com/at/surf.html; Pescadero Surf Camp, Baja, 011-52-612-130-3032, www.pescaderosurf.com.

In Costa Rica: Loma Del Mar Surf Camp, Playa Hermosa, 011-506-643-3908, www.rovercam.com/lomadelmar.

INFORMATION: Morro Negrito, www.surferparadise.com.

-- John Briley

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