Neil's unforgettable Panama trip
Byron Bay surfer Neil Cameron has returned home as part of the victorious Australian team which won the recent World Surfing Titles in Panama, South America.
Despite Neil’s fifth placing in the over 50s division, the seven-member Australian team was victorious overall to take out the surfing titles.
About 20 countries competed in the championships which were held at Santa Catalina.
“I never imagined that I would be surfing at the world titles,” Neil said.
“The trip was a real experience for me and my wife Janice, and just to get to Santa Catalina took 28 hours of travel.
“We arrived at 2am and found that we were locked out of the team house.
“A friendly neighbour presented himself and drew a gun and fired shots into the air.
“Welcome to Santa Catalina!”
In another hair-raising incident, Neil, Janice and fellow Australian woman surfer Sandra English were confronted at their doorstep by 12 members of the Panama Drug Squad who were armed with pistols, bullet-proof vests and shotguns.
“They didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Spanish, but they’d been told there were drugs in our house,” he said.
“It was pretty heavy and went on for an hour before two members of the International Surfing Association (ISA) turned up and defused the situation.
“Our story spread through the surfing community, to TV stations and finally resulted in a personal apology being made to the Australian team by the president of Panama.”
Neil said the presentation and closing ceremony was huge.
He said the Australian team was swamped with TV interviews and requests for photos.
“The most sought-after items at the championships were our Aussie uniforms and ‘BC’ leather hats,” Neil said.
“The celebrations raged on into the early hours of the morning with a crowd of 5000.
“It’s an experience I will never forget.”