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Sole Sisters' Guide to Surfing in the Philippines


Flat abs, toned arms, meeting the surfer dude/babe of your dreams.

Just some of the rewards of surfing. Now that I've convinced you to try surfing from Part 1 of this guide, let me share 4 of the best spots in the Philippines to go to for beginner surfers:

Zambales

Why Go: This is where I first learned to surf. The conditions are perfect for beginners during the monsoon months between November to February. There are several spots in Zambales for surfing but Crystal Beach break is the most popular one. The waves are not too gynormous and if you get wiped out, you fall on shallow black sand.

The Ride: From Manila, you can take a 3-4 hour bus ride from Pasay, Cubao or Caloocan Terminal. Victory Liner is one of the bus companies that has daily trips. Let the driver know you want to get to San Narciso, Zambales. Get dropped off at the nearest stop and you can take a short tricycle ride to Crystal Beach. If you're driving, take the Kalaklan Gate from Subic and turn left to Zambales. Head straight passing through Olongapo City, Castillejos and San Marcelino. When you get to San Narciso, turn left after the town hall.

Surf'n Stay: Crystal Beach Resort rents boards for cheap and often have instructors on site for beginners. There are beach huts in this resort where you can stay for the night. I have to say this is a true backpackers place and it looked run down and not so well maintained when I last stayed here. An alternative would be to bring a tent and camp out in designated areas.


Alvin Pura on a wave by Dio Cerjuano

Surfer's Secret:
  • If the wave conditions are not good at the Crystal Beach break, take the 40 minute walk up to Macolcol River Mouth. Because of the flow of water from the river into the ocean, the waves here are pretty reliable.
  • Try the pizza and hotdogs at Dude's Pizza which is a small family run place close to the town's plaza. I look forward to eating at this place especially after a long day of surfing.
Camarines Norte

I've only tried one surf spot here. The surf in Bagasbas Beach, Daet can be pretty fickle. But if you're lucky, the waves can get really high with a push strong enough for long rides. The surf also breaks on a sand bar which makes it relatively safe for beginners. Just be careful not to ride a wave too close to the shore as it gets really shallow.


Dragging the 'LV' board from Surfer's Dine Inn

The Ride: If you go by bus, there are several lines that go directly there, The last time we went, we took a Philtranco bus and rode a tricycle the rest of the way to Bagasbas Beach. If you want to go on a 6 hour road trip, take the South Luzon Expressway and exit at Batangas. Follow the Maharlika highway going to Lucena City. You'll go through several towns before getting to Daet. Be sure to take anti-biyahilo pills before going as the roads can get rough and zigzaggy on the way there.

Surf'n Stay: There are several resorts in the area but I've only stayed in one place mainly because it's cheap and they offer group discounts. Bagasbas Surfers Dine-Inn is right on the beach strip. The food here was pretty okay, mostly Filipino dishes with big portions.

 

Surfer's Secret:

  • There are few places to rent boards so better bring your own or borrow one before going. The little shop on the corner of the road that rents boards can charge 300PHP (around 5USD)/hour or more depending on the demand.
  • The locals here are friendly and helpful so don't hesitate to start a conversation with them while you're waiting for a wave.


Roxy the shitzu learns to surf on Bagasbas Beach

La Union

Why Go: This surf spot is the most accessible of the four. Although it has a short coastline which means it can get crowded at the lineup. There are also a lot of surf shops that offer board rental and cheap surf lessons.


The girls of Urbiztondo Beach

The Ride: Partas Transport in Cubao offers 24/7 operation with hourly trips to Laoag province up North. Tell the bus conductor you'll be getting off at Urbiztondo in San Juan, La Union. If you're driving from Manila. take the North Expressway and drive straight past San Fernando, La Union. Look for the signs saying Urbiztondo on the left side of the road. When you reach Sebay Resort, then you know you're in the right place.

Surf'n Stay: Sebay Resort is just one among many places to stay in the area. The go-to guy here for board rentals and surf lessons is Badz. He's never failed to give us discounted rates everytime we rent boards from him. He also watches me when I surf and gives me tips on how to improve. You can also learn to surf with gorgeous Luke Landrigan and his small army of surf instructors at the Billabong Surf School in San Juan Surf Resort. Both resorts have pricey airconditioned rooms but ask about cheaper rates for fan rooms. If you're on a tight budget and not too picky, try Hacienda Peter's next door.

Surfer's Secret:
  • Try the banana pancakes at San Juan Surf Resort. They're to die for! You can even ask to add pineapple or mango to this delicious breakfast. Hands down, this place serves the best food in the area, But get ready to spend a few more hundred pesos.
  • There are two areas for surfing in San Juan. There's the beach break in front of Sebay and San Juan Surf Resort which is great for beginners. But if you're feeling more adventurous, try the reef break a few meters away, in front of Mona Liza resort. You'll find locals and Japanese surfers here on most mornings.


Start them young

Baler

Why Go: There are waves here all year round but for massive swells, the best time would be from October to Februrary. Besides the surf, this place is really scenic. It has a long beach break, coconut trees that line the shore and rumor has it that Discovery Suites is setting up shop sometime soon. There are also many surf spots in the area for different surfing skill levels. Most of all, I love the feel of the place. It gives me a sense of community.


Sabang Beach

The Ride: Take a Genesis bus from Manila which goes directly to Baler. It's If you're driving, take the North Expressway and exit at Sta. Rita, Bulacan. Head to Nueva Ecija and take the Canili-Pantabangan Road. For detailed directions, read this. I have to warn you though. The roads are steep and zig zaggy right before you get to Aurora so buckle up and drive safe. It should take you 5-7 hours.

Surf'n Stay: There are several resorts in Baler that fit every budget. If you're feeling luxurious, you can get a room at the Bahia de Baler or Bay's Inn which has a great beachside restaurant. Being a budget traveler, I mostly stay at Kahea's Lodge, operated by Kuya Edwin Namora who is one of the pioneer surfers in the Philippines. He gives a good backpacker rate and is also the best place to rent a surfboard. Since it's a family run business, they sometimes invite us to eat with them- along with their 6 kids, extended family members, 4 cats, 2 dogs and a bird. I kid you not! There are several shops along the seawall that offer cheapsurf lessons for beginners.


Catching a wave on Sabang Beach in front of Kahea's

Surfer's Secret:
  • If the waves aren't epic enough on Sabang Beach and you're feeling brave, ask a local to take you to Charlie's point. This spot's claim to fame is for being the setting for the surf scenes in Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now which made Baler the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines.
  • If you're feeling even braver (read: suicidal) ask a local to take you to Cemento Beach. This spot produces high waves over sharp reefs. Should you chicken out, the view from vantage point between huge rocks is still pretty rewarding.
  • There's a Tapsilog place close to the park that's open 24 hours . Take a tricycle ride from Sabang Beach and order the Adobong Diablo. It's a great surfer's breakfast!

So you're all set. I've given you info overload for all 4 surf spots. Now all you need is a rash guard, sunblock and a lot of guts. Don't forget to check the forecast before going.

Happy surfing!


Lois and Chichi are friends, cosmically aligned, unique in their own separate ways and united by the same passion for travel. Both of them, at some point in their lives, have had to jump in feet first, take risks and see where their itchy soles take them.

Read more about their travels at
Sole Sisters