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The History of the Panga
The panga was simple — no inside floor, no cockpit, no extraneous beauty marks — but it had superior handling and capacity.
The Yamaha Debate
When asked if Yamaha was actually responsible for the first fiberglass pangas, Shroyer shook his head.
“It was the other way around,” he said emphatically. “We did it here first.”
In the 1970s, Mexican President Luis Echeverría authorized the building of pangas throughout the country. The World Bank financed the project, and Yamaha partnered with Mexican builders, including well-known Imensa in Mexico City, to produce the boats. The Japanese company provided engines, of course, as well as its own engineering expertise.
There is no question that, around this time, Yamaha’s manufacturers also got into the panga business. “They built stacks of pangas to sell motors,” Shroyer said. “Their project worked fairly well, but the Japanese version had a big, bulky gunwale and foam for flotation. Most of the boats ended up on the east coast of Mexico.”
The Japanese panga differed in that it was 22 feet long with a 5½-foot beam with a more rounded, rising bow — as Shroyer noted. It also had a flatter transom and a Delta pad underneath to help it ride on top of chop and to make it easier to beach. In Asia, these boats were even called Yamahas.
Yamaha advocates contend that the company took inspiration from traditional surf-fishing boats all over the world and distributed the plans to local builders (such as Shroyer) so they could make their own versions. Yet Shroyer’s plans are clearly of his own hand.
Later, I contacted Rob McDaniel at Sarasota, Florida-based Panga Marine for his take on panga history. Three decades ago, McDaniel became acquainted with Mexican pangas while vacationing and fishing in the Yucatán. He has been building his pangas stateside since 2005. When I told him about my search to find the first fiberglass panga, he told me that a librarian friend had dug deeply into the history of the World Bank project to see if she could confirm any specifics.
“She didn’t find anything,” he mused. “I know Yamaha had early participation in the project, shopping around and forming partnerships with local boatbuilders.”
Shroyer was not a Yamaha partner, so was it possible that he developed the La Paz panga independent of the World Bank project?
“I think so,” McDaniel said thoughtfully. “Both the stories might be true.”
As the 1970s marched on, and as Yamaha pursued its partnerships with builders elsewhere in Mexico, Shroyer continued producing pangas for local collectives. He produced approximately 3,000 pangas until 1982, when the devaluation of the peso spelled the end. Shroyer gave the molds to his employees, who are still building pangas in some form to this day.
Enthusiasts will continue to debate who was first on a global scale, but either way, there is no doubt Mac Shroyer is a major figure in building the boats that changed the world.