Who is considered the FATHER of SURF in Panama?

This has definitely been an argument that has been much debated between the early surfing pioneers of Panama. Some believe that the zonians (Canal Zone residents) were the first. So we set out to shed some light on this issue. We interviewed several surfers from the era and one name always came forward, TOMAS MIRO.

One of the old surfers that we got to interview was Rupert Turner. This is what he said:

"To understand the "History of Surfing in Panamá" There is Only one beginning.... There was Only One Man. Tomas Miro. 

Tomas.... along with his younger brother Ruben Miro were the first two surfers in Panamá waters.   From these two young men.... The complete history of surfing in Panama was born some 60 years ago.

You asked "Who was the Father of Surfing in Panamá"    Tomas Miro."

We seem to get the same answer time and time again. This is the beginning of the story. 

Tomas Miro early newspaper article-classic surf apparel-classic surf t shirts-waterman

Tomas and Ruben Miro-classic surf apparel-classic surf t shirts

Here we see Tomas and his brother Ruben at Riomar. Circa 1965

 As per Rupert Turner, the very beginnings of surfing happened right in Panama City! The place was Las Bovedas. It was in the area where the Club Santo Domingo (in the neighborhood of San Felipe) used to be. Here is where the surfing club Los Trota Olas de Panama was born. You can see some of the members in the newspaper article.

It is also important to mention who was indeed the first GRINGO to surf Panamanian waters. This happened around 1964. This honor goes to Ed Romer. Ed was a Navy man stationed at the West bank. Tomas and Ed became lifelong friends after meeting at Riomar. Ed brought the first "high density foam" board to the isthmus. It was from this board, that Tomas made a fiberglass mold and started making his boards. Ed kept on surfing until his mid-70s. Unfortunately Ed Romer passed away this year. This post also pays homage to him.

Tomas Miro and Ed Romer with longboards at Riomar, Panama courtesy of Panama Surf tees

Tomas Miro, Ed Romer (first North American surfer in Panama)... and Ruben Miro at Rio Mar... circa 1963-64

We keep on investigating and will bring you more of the stories that made that era. Today, Tomas is around 84 years old. The Panama Surf community will like to thank you for leading the way.

We have left the "comments" section open to the public so that anyone who wants to contribute is free to do so. We do not want these stories to be washed away by the sea.

Photos credits: Rupert Turner


  • Edward Husum

    There was really never any animosity between Zonian and Panamanian Surfers. We knew that Tomas and Ruben Miro where the 1st Surfers of Panama and there was a respect from us young kids of them both when we saw them at Rio Mar . I never really spoke with Tomas till 1972, one afternoon at Las Bovedas I was watching some friends surf from the seawall and he came up and started talking with me and told me he was the 1st surfer of Panama and his experience with making the his 1st surfboard and blowing foam. I enjoyed our little conversation. Zonian did play a part in building Panama, they built the roads to the beaches, the sand for building the Panama Canal came from Punta Chame, the Rock from quarries from Ancon Hill, Sosa Hill, and Portobelo the cement from the US. We shared waves, breaks, boards and rides. Some of us considered it a special time and we respect those that have pioneered Panama for the better.

  • steve bissell

    As most stories involving Panama and me, it’s kinda funny and a bit twisted. Me, Im just one of those Panama loving Americans (most often called self named ZONIANS, I hate that name. It might have been proudly created by
    Americans themselves over local rum, hell, it might have well been created by Panamanians, Not very aesthetic is it?) A lot of us (americans) missed the mark when we were presented with the beautiful opportunity to live and work in Panama. Some of them NEVER ventured outsdide the safety of the imaginary borders of the Canal Zone for fear of who knows what? Thank god most of us
    loved Panama and its unique people, some as much as life itself. Now your awake! Too late!! I’m done with the negative shit.

    I, along with Ruper Turner (who is a great writer) and some other Americans happened to know that first group of gringos who by chance or puro luck were the first americans to join the Rio Mar Conga…dot dot dot dot…dot…! My very first date was with a surly 6-9 foot out front CLOSEOUT low tide Rio Mar, my best friend Scotty Willliams TOLD ME that even though we were best buddies, beginners should not surf with the advanced crew for many obvious reasons, so Louis Stabler, a friend and I made our way to big, out front, low tide Rio Mar while Scott and the advanced guys surfed much better formed waves to the left. I remember it so well so dumb, so happy…we had just rented a nice pop-out surfboard from Tomas Miro
    and now it was time for “daddy-o”, me, to show off to my beloved new wife, Anna. Well, to make this short and quick, somehow I made it out beyond the breaking waves, and it was just about a minute of rest and I saw a monster with my name on it…or was it the other way around? As I pumped to catch it…it caught me and PITCHED me six to seven feet off the lip…my last visions
    was Thomas’s rental board shooting like a missile straight to the bottom of the sea and me shortly following. Wham, Bam, thank you MAM…I was in the middle of my parents washing machine, turning twisting, fighting the good fight to survive and reach that precious oxygen…it seemed like forever, the dark lights of the surface grew darker and then finally just before I took a breath of water, ending this pain in my lungs, Whoosh, I opened my eyes and I was at the surface in 3 feet deep foam! I just grabbed a huge breath of salty bubbles and prepared for the wave. Well, I somehow survived my first wave
    and as I dragged myself onto the beautiful life giving shore, the guys were raving. Looking down I noticed Two things very quickly…my baggies were ripped OFF, the surfboard was in two pieces and then I noticed that I had lost a very expensive ring.

    Well, that was my first surfing experience in Panama. It popped my cherry or should I say “cherries” and even a banana or two.

    Steve Bissell

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