Most surf trips for pro surfers have built-in agendas — a contest, an ad shoot, a video part, a magazine article. They travel with acquaintances that eventually become friends, but maybe not their besties. Last spring, Michael Dunphy decided to break from the script. He saw a swell heading to one of his favorite haunts — Bocas del Toro, Panama — and rallied Luke Davis, Ian Crane and Evan Geiselman on a trip that reminded them why they got into this surfing thing to begin with. “We all just wanna surf good waves with our friends,” says Dunphy. “That’s the goal for anyone who calls themselves a surfer.”


Freesurf trips are one of the best things you can do for yourself. Competitions are hard work, and they’re constantly up and down, so when you lose you’re really bummed. For instance, I just lost this morning [in Ballito], but I’m hopping on a plane in 30 minutes to surf perfect J-Bay tomorrow. If I just lost and that was it, I’d be super pissed right now, but the prospect of going to score with my friends instantly turns that around. There’s nothing like being out there with your buddies, just screaming at each other getting blown out of barrels and ripping waves. I would strongly encourage anyone who has the means to pull off a trip like this, to do it.


I’m not that good at following swell charts, but Dunphy is pretty on it, especially in Panama. We usually just watch the swells for a week and then pull the trigger a day or two before. This one happened to work out perfectly, with great waves and an awesome setup at Redfrog Bungalows, but it doesn’t always go that way. The thing is though ­— it’s always worth it. If you get skunked, you’re still with your friends on an adventure. Even if some sketchy shit happens like you get robbed or you get hurt or break all your boards, it’s worth it every time. It’s all about the crew you take with you.


That was probably the best I’ve seen it down there. We got three of the main waves as good as they get. Silverbacks in particular was pretty psycho. We didn’t really think we were gonna get that wave, but one day we just went out there to check it and next thing we knew it was on! We were all on 5’9”s or 5’10”s, and it’s an open-ocean, kinda Sunset-feeling wave, but a wedge. You have to be behind it and underneath it at the same time, and there’s nothing to line yourself up with. It was definitely a battle, and we took some pretty tough beatings out there, but it’s a cool adventure of a wave. We would have been better off with 6’3”s though. Next time we’ll be more prepared.


For the whole trip, we were literally the only people in the water. The beachbreak isn’t that big, but it’s very slabby and powerful, so no one was surfing. I would have liked to surf it a little more put together, because it’s so consistent, and at that size, maybe only one in 20 waves were good. But those poundings eventually took their toll, as I hurt my collarbone on the last day. My arm got ripped across my body and it compressed my neck, so I’ve mostly been out of the water since then. That being said, I’ve been rehabbing every day so that I can do it all again as soon as possible.