*Update: Paddle boarding is no longer offered in Casco Viejo but you can still enjoy the article!
Paddle boarding is a great way to have a fun workout while enjoying the beautiful, relaxing views of the ocean and it’s now something you can do right here in Panama City! John Boyle from Panama Paddle invited me out to try his stand up paddle boarding (SUP) class in beautiful Casco Viejo…
My first paddle board class
I invited my friend Robert along for the paddle board class since he had never done it before either. We met the instructor John and he was a super nice guy, very passionate about teaching people how to paddle board and showing them that the Panama Bay is actually fine to go in (I’ll let you know if I saw any poop in the ocean later on).
John gave us a quick introductory lesson showing the basics like how to correctly mount the board, where to put our feet, how to hold the paddle, how to turn, etc and then we headed over to the beach right outside.
Enjoying the last beach in the city
The unique thing about the beach at Casco is that it’s the last one that is right in Panama City. There used to be a beach running all along Avenida Balboa and its since then been covered up by Cinta Costera. Here’s a photo taken in the 1930’s of what it used to look like:
Thankfully Casco Viejo is a protected UNESCO world heritage site so the beach here hasn’t been destroyed. It actually looks about the same as it did in this photo from 1950 as it did the day I went paddle boarding:
I had previously only seen this beach from far away when riding my bike on Cinta Costera 3 so I was surprised that it was actually a decent beach. I mean it’s not San Blas, but it’s cool that we have a usable beach in the city.
If you want to check out the beach for yourself a great day to do it would be on the next Un Dia En La Bahia. This is an initiative that began to encourage people to come and use the beach in Casco Viejo. One Saturday a month the beach is filled with chairs and umbrellas, yoga lessons, volleyball matches, paddleboard lessons, and more…and it’s all completely free.
And you can always go there anytime yourself to sunbathe and cool off in the water or sign up for a paddleboard lesson with John.
Out in the open ocean
Robert and I paddled out from the beach with our instructor John and I tried to remember everything he told us to do in the intro. I sat on my knees, tried to find my balance, and dug deep with the paddle. It felt a bit like kayaking.
I felt pretty comfortable and we got to a point where the water was calm enough to try standing up. I’m not a very coordinated guy so my first couple attempts were a fail, but I didn’t fall in. I gave it another go and boom! I got up…for a few seconds. Standing up is really difficult but I eventually got the hang of it and managed to stand for several minutes at a time and navigate through the ocean.
So is the ocean filled with poop?
I’m sure the lingering question on everyone’s mind is if the water is filled with poop. The bay doesn’t have the best reputation and often has the stigma that it’s filled with poop and garbage, which is was once very contaminated at one point but an initiative to clean it up began a few years ago and it seems to be working because I didn’t see any poop. The water looked pretty normal to me but feel to verify that for yourself 🙂
Paddle boarding in the open ocean was kind of surreal for me and something to add to the unique experiences I’ve been able to have in Panama. The views are beautiful, plus I got a great workout from it! It’s a hobby I am excited to keep on pursuing. If you happen to be visiting Panama City it’s a great activity to do out of the realm of normal touristic things and if you’re living here it’s something new you need to try!
You can sign up by using their online scheduling system and if you have any questions you can contact John via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or whatsapp +50762564061. The time slots available depend on the tides of the day.
The initial introduction class costs $50 and lasts for about an hour and a half. It includes the board, paddle, leash, instructions, and photos of your experience. PTY Life readers also get an extra $10 off the first class when you mention this article. After your first introduction lesson, classes are $35 or you can save by purchasing a 10-pack of classes for $225. In the near future they will also be offering an unlimited class package.
Panama Paddle is located on the end of Calle 4a Oeste and Avenida A in Casco Viejo (follow the signs directing to Casco Antiguo Spanish School if you have trouble find it). The building is the last one on the right and once you’re in go inside the Alley Cat Fitness Center.
This is a sponsored post promoting Panama Paddle and I received compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own and I will never publish anything that I wouldn’t go to myself. For information on promoting your business through PTY Life visit THIS LINK.