When I started this new blog, I’ve shared with you that I’m re-reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project because I want to bring more happiness into my life, the kind that really comes from within me and not the type that is pressured into my life by other people or caused by pride and envy (which is why I started this whole new blog and let go of my old persona even if people close to me advised me against it). I want to be just me. Be me. Be Jen. Which is why I am writing a lot more now about my life, my thoughts, my past experiences, etc. because I am first and foremost a diarist more than a typical blogger, more than a marketer or any other kind of writer. I like looking at my own past experiences, enjoying those happy forgotten memories and using the positive energy they give me to bring more good things into my present life so I can forge ahead with a bit more wisdom, inspiration and strength towards a brighter future. And one thing about my not-so-far-off past that gave (and still gives) me so much joy is SURFING.
This is more of a story of love and letting go of fear rather than a pure guide to surfing. Although there’ll be bits and pieces about how to surf, where to surf, how much it costs and what not, more than anything, I’d be sharing with you a photo journal about it and how this water sports activity has changed my life and influenced me (hopefully for the better).
It was because of all these news about Super Typhoon Lawin (with international name Haima) that brought surfing to my attention. I miss it. My surfboard, which I named Didi because of its yellow color (Didi for dilaw), has been gathering dust in our lanai for quite some time now just being displayed there and not being used. We’re saving up to get a roof rack and roof rail for our Chevy Trailblazer so the next time we go to a surfing destination (like Baler where we went to recently), we can then bring my surfboard. So yes, I miss surfing. But I don’t miss the scary parts that led me to a decision that changed my life forever.
Speaking of typhoons, do you know that whenever there are typhoons, surfers are the only type of people I know who seem to be happy about it? Coz it means there’ll be big waves coming and of course hardcore surfers love that! Though I surfed for quite a while (about a decade), I was never really happy about surfing during typhoon season but I must admit, it did get me excited.
2006… THE BEGINNING
I was 28 years old when I first delved into this seemingly dangerous water sports we call surfing. Wow! That was a decade ago. I thought I was already old then and that before I hit my 30’s I should try things that I consider risky. Surfing was one of them.
Surfing in La Union
I vividly remember coming to La Union, staying at San Juan Surf Resort (the one and only resort I stayed at every time I was in La Union owned by the family of Filipino-Australian hottie surfer Luke Landrigan because their rates were affordable at that time ranging from P900 – P1200 per night depending on how many beds and number of people are staying in the room), and excitedly going to the beach to watch the waves. They were huge!
Before then, I was so used to looking at calm, crystal turquoise waters and white powdery beaches like those in Boracay, Ilocos, Bohol and White Island, Camiguin. Here in La Union, their beach has dark grey sands and the waves both scared and excited me!
Then I got into contact with a surfing instructor named Jericho (no, not Jericho Rosales, though I’d usually see him surfing with then GF Heart Evangelista). This instructor of mine was very fit (he also joins dancing competitions aside from surfing competitions until now) and he seemed nice. Since I didn’t have a surfboard at that time yet, I rented one for one whole day which I used in the afternoon after checking in and the whole morning next day before check-out. Instructor fee is P400 per hour. I tell you 1 hour is actually more than enough! A few minutes out into the open sea paddling through the waves will already leave you breathless!
After orienting me on how to use a surfboard, how to position my body and my feet, Jericho immediately made me paddle through the huge waves that very first time. The waves were as high as 5-storey buildings! I’m not a swimmer but I know how to swim like a dog and I also know how to float. Hehehe. So you can just imagine how fast my heart was beating because I was so nervous and excited at the same time. I kept saying to myself “I can do this! I can do this! Just breathe and paddle, Jen!” Too bad no one took photos of those moments because Jericho and I were already so very far and I didn’t yet own any underwater camera. My instructor was just there swimming beside me and guiding my surfboard whenever a huge wave would seem to topple it. I learned to paddle hard; I learned to go under the waves (called duck diving so all your efforts of paddling out through the waves won’t get lost by just getting washed backwards by the waves); I learned to ride through the waves but I didn’t stand on the surfboard yet. It was just all about paddling and making sure I would stay afloat on my surfboard and not get whitewashed and toppled over by huge waves. Whew!!!
The next month, one summer day, the waves were no longer as violent so I surfed. Jericho was still there to guide me and that time, I rode a lot of waves! Wooohoooo! I was so happy! I’ve never felt that exhilarated my entire life before! It was amazing!
I was in La Union almost every month since then. On those weekends when there were no waves, I skimboarded but I did it my own way. I specifically bought a skimboard so there’ll be something else to do in case there were no waves. What I mean is, instead of standing on the skimboard, I’d lie prone lying position. It’s less dangerous and it felt like I was flying above the water. Hehehe.
San Juan Surf Resort
Rates now range from almost P1980 to P7780.
They have more rooms now with a lot more amenities.
Surfing in Zambales
One Zambapalooza event, I went to Zambales with my friends. Before all the partying happened, I surfed first. Waves in Zambales are way different than those in La Union. Since I was so used to the compact, hard and shallow seabed of La Union, I didn’t expect the deep waters and soft bumpy seabed under. Though I went to Zambales a few more times after that, I no longer surfed there but just enjoyed the beach (Crystal Beach), the nearby island of Capones, and the hike going up the falls of Pundaquit where I eventually jumped! Wooohoooo!
Beach Resorts Rates: P1,500 to P3,000
Island Hopping Rates: P1,500 to P2,000
Hike to Pundaquit Falls: Free
2007… MY VERY OWN SURFBOARD
Finally, because of the frequency of my surfcations, I decided to once and for all buy my very own surfboard. It got it from FIVEFORTY SURF CO. made by the owner himself, Lui. The board Lui made at that time was a first of its kind shaped in the Philippines because the material is 4th generation epoxy instead of the usual fiberglass so it’s touted to be a lot stronger and durable. Add to that the fact that it is A LOT LIGHTER than most surfboards of the same size. It’s a beginner’s surfboard so it’s nine feet tall.
That Fateful Day in La Union
The best surfing months in my experience are the first half of the year until about September. In 2007, since I’ve already been surfing for almost 2 years then plus I was really already confident with my skills, I braved the waves of La Union one December afternoon.
I was carrying Didi, my surfboard, and after checking in, I immediately headed to the beach, went to the water, rode my Didi and paddled out. Just a few seconds after I hit the water, I was already oh so very far from the shore out into the open sea and a few more seconds after that, huge waves were pounding on me one after another. OMG! Was I going to drown? I tried to remain on my surfboard even if I couldn’t properly breathe anymore. I tried to look at the other surfers nearby but they were quite far and they were just looking at me like they wanted to help me but there was fear in their eyes as well. Then a major life-changing thought hit me — I CAN’T DIE UNTIL I RESIGN FROM A JOB I DON’T LOVE. I was on my 5th year as a high-salaried government employee then and I have been thinking about quitting my job and changing my life. I was looking for a sign from God because I couldn’t just quit and leave all the financial benefits behind. Well, suffice it to say that in the middle of drowning and getting eaten by the waves, a eureka moment hit me! That was the sign! If God will let me live still, I will submit my resignation and start living the life I truly want. It was a Saturday afternoon in La Union. Come Monday morning, I filed my resignation. And the next day after that, I didn’t anymore come to work and spent all my terminal leave staying at home and pondering about my life after government service.
That was really life-changing. Little did I know that it will become the catalyst to what I was meant to be years down the line — a mother.
2008… TRYING TO BE OKAY
After that traumatic incident, I still went to the beach and enjoyed the waves… but I never surfed again. The last time I went to a surfing destination was summer of this year in Zambales. The rest of the year, I was just hopping from one beach destination to the next, those with calm waters with no waves, so I can forget what happened.
When walking along a beach, any beach, and every time huge waves would hit my knees, they would suddenly buckle as if my whole being was drowning again. I tried my best to overcome the anxiety and fear it brought me by still trying to enjoy the sea but my trauma lasted a long time…. 5 years to be exact.
2009… DIPPING MY TOES
I urged myself to go back to La Union. So I did. But again, once the waves hit my knees, my whole body would shake in fear. So I just ended up trying to enjoy the beach as I watch other people get stoked in the waves.
When I had a one-week vacation in Indonesia, I visited Kuta Beach, another surf destination. Oh how I loved looking at the waves and the people who were surfing. I so wanted to rent a surfboard!
But my fear got the better of me. Should anything happen to me, I would be put in a difficult spot because I was in a foreign country. So I just watched and made peace with myself that I probably won’t be surfing again. Ever.
2012… A BIG TURNING POINT
3 more years passed… Surfing got buried way under my priorities. I kept traveling around the country and some Asian countries (even had a 2-week meditation retreat in Taiwan and a solo tomb raider trip to Cambodia) but it was only after 3 years that I had the strength to finally conquer my fear of surfing.
Surfing in Siargao
I mentioned in a previous post that I went to Siargao for my two-week surfcation where I stayed at Ocean 101 Cloud 9 Beach Resort. And oh my God, it’s Cloud 9 we’re talking about here! It’s one of the best destinations for surfing known worldwide! I was definitely stoked!
It was scary… there I was conquering my fear in one of the best surfing destinations in the world. It’s a good thing I made friends with some of the locals there and they accompanied and taught me how to surf again. The waves were not as scary as I thought but because the topography of the seabed was full of corals and reefs, it was quite dangerous as compared to La Union where the seabed was almost always compact and flat with no corals and reefs. But finally I was able to surf!!!
It was then that I thought that if I was able to conquer the trauma of drowning while surfing which I carried with me for 5 years (from December 15, 2007 to before September 2012) then maybe I can conquer my other fears as well… like fear of motherhood. But the question at that time was, can I even conceive and if I can, with whom? It was a thought I didn’t pay much attention to but it was just there floating in my subconscious.
Surfing in Baler
Since I was once again confident about surfing, I tried another well-know spot the following month — Baler. I loved it there! If Siargao has been challenging because of the corals and reefs in the surfing spots, in Baler, the waves were long, the seabed was flat just like La Union’s and so I was able to get long rides! More details will be given when I do separate surfing blog posts for Baler and Siargao next time. I’m just happy to share my amazement that I can really surf again and Baler is one place to really enjoy it especially for beginners and intermediate surfers.
2013… INFLUENCING MY BEST FRIEND
Back at Siargao
During this time, I was already best friends with Mahal so I would usually bring him to my travels and this time around we went surfing! It was his very first time and I made him brave the waves of Cloud 9! Wooohoooo! We were both exhausted and our bodies ached but we were both so stoked! It was a one week vacation so we had a lot of time to not just tour the beautiful island but surf and surf some more.
2014… DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS GOING TO BE MY LAST
Back at Baler
I was with Barefoot Travels for a surfcation in Baler on January and February of this year. And of course I surfed both times! Little did I know that it was going to be my last (in the meantime) because a new life was waiting for me unbeknownst to me.
A decade after I first learned how to surf, I learned quite a few important things…
- That life is just like surfing — you have to know how to ride the waves, go under when you have to, go on top when need be, brave it and face it when you should.
- Just like when braving huge waves, this precious life we have can be taken from us in an instant. So use the time you have to do things that are meaningful to you and that will help you become a better, happier person.
- Surfing has made me fit; the more I surfed, the slimmer and more agile I was. It also made me come out of my shell to meet new people and experience a different culture. Mahal and I should do more of these kinds of things and teach these things to baby Tuz when he grows up.
- Good and bad things always happen to us. No life is perfect. But a life well-lived is just a matter of focusing on the good and doing our best to let go of the bad so we can have a brighter future. Like if I hadn’t done anything to conquer my trauma, I’d always feel bad whenever I see people surf, worse, I wouldn’t have met my Mahal (because it was after that Siargao trip that I went straight to Oslob and stayed at his lodge and got to be friends with him).
- And last but not the least, life will surprise you if you just say YES. Like when I gave my sweet yes to Mahal… like when I said yes to becoming a mom.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading my surfing history. Til my next travel diary entry!