Santa Catalina - La Punta Spot Guide

About Santa Catalina - La Punta

Santa Catalina is a broad, flat, rocky shelf that gradually slopes into a south/southwest-facing bay, with lava-rock fingers that jut out at the top of the reef and force any swell bigger than two feet to rear up and rifle down the line. At high tide, the first section on the right is a high-'n'-tight barrel followed by a speed run into another barrel section a-ways down the line, followed by a series of bowls all the way through the inside. At low tide, the right barrels and hisses and spits super close to the jagged volcanic reef, making it safe only for the crazy or Tom Curren, who visits regularly and has been known to get very long, very deep tubes here.

The left is shorter -- and you sure as hell don't surf it when it's double overhead or bigger, at risk of getting creamed on the way back out -- but it can be a good option for goofyfoots or anyone else sick of battling the ever-present crowd. It also has a little barrel section off the drop, but its wall is way shorter than the right's. The bonus is you could get three lefts to every right. So if you're a real frother and can't sit still for the occasional lull with a crowd on the rights, then perhaps the lefts are for you.

Catalina, while it often can get quite big, isn't really a difficult wave to surf, at least at high tide. Swells come in and feel the reef and draw up into a fairly obvious A-frame, with a long right wall and a shorter left bowl -- take off, stall, and pull in. Or lay out a giant bottom turn and a hook under the lip -- up to you. It's definitely a performance wave, and after a few weeks of surfing here your level will unquestionably go up a notch.

Low tide is a different story and most folks don't even bother, even though it looks appealing -- it's too shallow and unpredictable. If you must surf at low tide, make sure to kick out before the inside double-up bowl section -- that lava is pretty damn sharp. Ideally, you could bring three boards: your regular, everyday shortboard for everything up to a few feet overhead, a rounded pintail mini-gun or hybrid step-up for surfing both Catalina and the outer islands up to double overhead. Then, if you're prone to charging, a seven-foot-plus gun isn't nonsensical for those triple-overhead-plus days at Catalina, which are not all that uncommon during south swell season.

Source: Santa Catalina - La Punta Surf Guide

Ability Level

Intermediate - advanced

Beg Int Adv

Small days are OK for beginners. Best suited for good to advanced surfers when its on.

Local Vibe

Doable

Welcoming Intimidating

Can be intense. After all, Catalina is home to a couple of Panama's best surfers.

Crowd Factor

Heavy

Mellow Heavy

Always a crowd comprised of locals and visitors, especially during the mid to high tides and on the main peak.

Spot Rating

Perfect

Poor Perfect

One of the best waves in Central America, especially in Panama, offering a bit of everything.

Shoulder Burn

Exhausting

Light Exhausting

The spot is pretty far out there. Also, long rides mean long paddles.

Water Quality

Clean

Clean Dirty

Usually clean, but there is a rivermouth here, which can get a bit dirty after heavy rains.

Additional Information

Hazards

Lots: Sea lice, the odd stonefish in the inside shallows, shallow reef, powerful waves.

Access

Stay at a camp overlooking the wave, or stay in town and walk the mile-long trail south. Avoid the shallow, low-tide paddle out. Long paddle.

Bring Your

Shortboard, funboard, longboard, fish, bodyboard, gun

Seabed

Rock, lava reef

Best Season

All summer. Prime season is April through September. Much of October typically sees onshore wind and heavy rain, while November is a sleeper month with late season pulses and good conditions.

Swell Consistency and Wind Overview

Photos & Videos