The below article by Ted Lerner was featured in
EXPAT PHILIPPINES February 25, 1995. I have several friends that visit every year from
Australia and New Zealand to enjoy the surfing in the Philippines. As a non-surfer, I
welcome your inputs.
SURFERS are unquestionably a hardy
lot. Awkward and heavy surfboard in tow, they will travel anywhere on the globe, put up
with conditions you would wish only on your worst enemy, eat strange food and stay in
substandard accommodation all for one reason: riding the perfect wave.
It does not matter where this wave
might be, for at the mere mention that a wave is breaking somewhere, you can bet your last
peso that some surfer will drop whatever he is doing --- including his job --- and travel
to the farthest place on the planet just to give it a ride. It's the nature of surfing,
they will tell you, and if you havent riden a. wave you just would not understand.
One of the problems surfers
encounter, however, is that there are so many people who will traipse, anywhere to find
good surf. And word travels fast in these circles. People like to talk. Once a good
break is discovered it is very difficult to keep it secret. Soon those hardy travelers
from everywhere will descend upon this new wave like vultures. Whole communities will
spring up to cater to the throngs of wave riders from around the globe. The secret and
secluded spot becomes crowded and with crowds come problems, foremost of which is people
fighting over waves. What was once idyllic now becomes a nightmare. Surfing is a sport of
the soul. Where you can become intimate with the awesome forces of nature. Fighting over a
wave, one of Mother Nature's most beautiful creations, just does not seem to fit.
This is why if you are thinking
about doing any surfing, then the Philippines just might be your ideal spot. The country
boasts some nice surf breaks and no matter what level you are at you can find a challenge.
One of the nice things about surfing in the Philippines is that the waves are rarely
crowded offering you the chance to enjoy the sport without the accompanying problems of
With over 7,000 islands and endless
miles of reefs, one might be tempted to assume that the Philippines would be considered a
world class destination. While the country does boast of some nice surf spots, the amount
of good waves that break consistently is nothing compared to places like Hawaii, Indonesia
and other spots around the globe. But places such as Hawaii and Indonesia also draw the
crowds and the problems that come with too many people in the water. It is a sort of catch
-22; if you want waves everyday, go to Indonesia, but be prepared to be aggressive to get
the wave you want.
To many surfers, however,
especially those over thirty years old, surfing and aggression mix as well as oil
and water. They come to enjoy the ocean, the camaraderie with other surfers and laid back
lifestyle that revolves around the sport. They do not need to strut and compete like many
of the younger crowd. According to the surfers here I talked to, the fact that the
Philippines is not as great a spot for surfing as Indonesia is actually a blessing in
disguise. For with a little patience you can still find what you're looking for right
here. "The key in the Philippines," said one Japanese surfer, "is that it
is not so crowded with surfers. It is just not that well-known compared with other
places. There are many empty big waves. When waves come we really enjoy it." Said a
British surfer, "I'd rather have a second rate wave to myself, than a first class
wave with twenty people on it."
Here then is a brief guide to some
of the more popular surf sports here in the Philippines. Of course there are many more
good surfing waves than listed here. There are loads of surfers out there who are known to
have their own secret spots where they ride the waves in wonderful solitude, and are not
letting on as to these spots are. If are new to the Philippines surfing scene the
following should get you going. Soon you are bound to others who just may you on to their
own surfing heaven.
Located about five
hours of Manila on the South China Sea, San Fernando approximately nine surf breaks, most
which are suitable even intermediate surfers. The most popular of the breaks called
Monaliza which is about three kilometers north of San Fernando. Monaliza is a right hand
breaking wave which takes a rolling shape, making it for long boarders. The wave generally
rises to two to four feet. When it gets bigger it can be a bit dangers as the shape of the
wave a barrel on the inside. Monaliza is a reef so if you fall you may hit the reef below.
One of nice things about this wave is its proximity to the shoreline, so its not
difficult to get in and out. Monaliza generally breaks from October through February. The
wave is particularly good when there is a low pressure system in the South China Sea. The
other good waves are up and down from Monaliza and any of the surfers on hand can offer
you directions. San Fernando is known for its abundant resorts and accommodation is no
problem. Those of you looking for places that cater to surfer should go north of San
Fernando to where the Monaliza wave is located. Several nice, reasonable places there
include Brian's Surf Camp as well as the Monaliza Cottages.
Located in the Bicol
region off the coast of Legaspi City, Catuduanes is a rather out of the way island, but
when the surf is happening, it is worth the effort to get to. If you look on the map you
will see why. The island sticks out into the Pacific Ocean like a sore thumb. The best
known wave on the island is called Majestics, located off a gorgeous beach in the village
of Puraran, which is in the middle of nowhere, two and a half hours from the capital of
Virac. Majestics is a powerful and fast right hand breaking wave that gets raves from
surfers. It can be extremely dangerous. In fact two years ago a British surfer was killed
there. All this really means is that only those with experience should attempt this wave.
The reason the wave is so dangerous is that the reef is actually a shallow ledge. This
means that the wave jumps out of the ocean very quickly and instead of rolling like
Monaliza, it forms a fast moving bowl, which slams down into the shallow reef below. If
you make a mistake on this wave you'll have one majestically big headache. If not I'm
certain you will be very happy.
While Majestics is considered world
class, the problem is that it does not come around that often. The best months to surf
there are July, August and September. Many surfers hive trekked for days and weeks to
reach Puraran only to sit around looking at a flat ocean for days on end. There are
several cottage style places to stay on the beach which offer package deals of meals and
nipa huts for reasonable prices. A lesser known surf spot on Catanduanes, located in the
village of Baras is called Moning. Moning can only be surfed at high tide and only from
September to January. You may need to hire a fisherman to take you out to the break as it
is quite far. Accommodation is available on the beach at Fred and Noras place.
Surigao is located
just north of Mindanao and in the very southern part of the Visaya. There are many surf
spots on this island that offer left. hand and right hand breaking waves. The most popular
spot is called Cloud Nine. One surfer described it as "the perfect reef break."
Cloud Nine is reputed to be the best in the Philippines when it's happening. The months
are June, July and August. The wave is considered difficult.
There are many ways to get to
Surigao but whichever way you will have to take a ferry boat to step on to the island.
Accommodation is of the basic variety, although I've heard that an Australian recently
opened a surf camp there which should raise the standard a bit.
Baler is located on
the northeastern coast of Luzon. Information is difficult to come by on this surf spot but
the town and how to get there is written about in the Lonely Planet Guide Book.