Prior to my trip to Panama, I had very little knowledge about Jiu-jitsu. All I really knew was that it involved a lot of grappling and that interesting people, like the late Anthony Bourdain and surf champ Kelly Slater, were devout practitioners. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. Inside Beach Break Surf Camp, you’ll find Playa Venao Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, run by Beach Break General Manager and Black Belt, John Boyle. John has done more than create an alternative activity for his clients; he has fashioned a space where locals and travelers alike can participate in the activity of bettering themselves. Jiu-jitsu classes here have been wildly popular with local kids and adults alike. Globally, Jiu-jitsu is growing at astronomical rates and people shell out large amounts of cash for the guidance of Black Belts like John.
Prior to the class, I spent the morning prior lounging about the camp, reading, writing, and attempting to ride some small longboard worthy waves, trying to not overexert myself before what I saw as an inevitable ass kicking.
While I made it out of my first Jiu-Jitsu training session relatively unscathed, the whole thing wiped me out. The entire hour was one long tortuous lesson in body control, core stability, and overall durability. With hindsight, it’s obvious why so many turn to Jiu-jitsu to better their surfing. Much like surfing, no one starts out good at Jiu-jitsu. There is no beginner’s luck. Overall athleticism, even prior martial arts experience, means nothing. Hours and hours of disciplined training is the only way to improve. Hence the appeal to many skilled surfers.
Immediately after Jiu-jitsu training, the surf picked up and I headed straight for the water, board in tow. Upon entering the water and attempting to paddle, duck dive, and merely pop up, I found that my entire body was, for lack of a better term, out of gas. So, I took several waves on the head in my meager attempt to paddle out to the lineup. After a restful few moments bobbing up and down in the water, I was able to catch a few lefts and ended my session with a gorgeous, perfectly sectioned (by my Gulf Coast standards) right-hander. Little did I know the next morning would be even better.