Sweet Bocas Surfing

Bocas del Toro surf has been compared to Hawaii’s north shore (on a smaller scale) and certain places in Indonesia. The way the bottom drops off the coast is one of the reasons why the waves break with so much power in Bocas del Toro. Even though Bocas del Toro only receives short period swells (mostly under 11 seconds), the dramatic drops in the continental shaft create hollow, barrelling waves. Add to that some reef, a little sand or a certain angle to the coast line, consistent seasonal swell seasons, and you got yourself some serious tropical world class surf.

The winter season swells (November through April) are produced by the combination of a) the Intertropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres come together), b) the dry winds of the northern coast of Colombia and certain Caribbean islands which are practically deserts, and c) the Caribbean high pressure systems that form every winter in the mid Atlantic, providing significant push and pressure gradient differences.

The result of these three combined factors is a massive acceleration of low pressure pushing constant north eastern swell into Bocas’ wave window, which does not stop for weeks or even months at a time. Another swell contributor which brings a more northerly swell comes from the low-pressure systems that drive swell down from the Gulf of Mexico into other spots of the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro.

The summer season’s swell is produced by the early hurricane season coming off Africa (Bocas del Toro is not within the Hurricane zone). Just like during the winter, the swell glides over the Atlantic and accelerates thanks to the high-pressure systems of the Caribbean, and then hits several dry and windy islands in the Caribbean and northern coast of South America, producing the same type of NE swell as in the winter.

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