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Beach bums and us
Padre Burgos (Philippines), July 22nd 2012

Jorn and Robin, two teenagers from The Netherlands, travel together with us for 6 weeks through the Philippines. The boys like sea, sand and surfing, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to head to the Filipino Archipelago. The nice thing about travelling with others is that you reckon with each others preferences, which means that you sometimes travel to places that you probably wouldn’t visit if you were travelling alone. Siargao Island is such a place. It is a small island off the coast of Mindanao and one of worlds famous surf destinations because of its break: Cloud 9.

A boat ride of a little bit less than two hours brought us from the town of Surigao to Siargao Island. It was another 30 minutes by tricycle (motorcycle and sidecar for approximately 4 persons, including baggage) to the Ocean 101 resort, only a five minute walk away from the famous Cloud 9 surf break. We are not visiting this break during the best time of the year. But that’s probably a good decision because the best surf season on Siargao coincides with the typhoon season, which can make the waves at Cloud 9 to a size that’s only advisable for surfers with balls.

The tricycle that brought us to the Ocean 101 Resort
 

We have chosen consciously for the busier Ocean 101Resort, because we want to absorb the real surfer’s culture as much as possible. As soon as we walk onto the grounds of the resort, we know that we have chosen for the right place. The rooms with small verandas contain stands to hold surf boards, swimsuits and bikinis are drying everywhere in the sun, and typical surf boys hang around in the area. This must be the place for our travel companions to enjoy themselves. We check in, drink a much needed coffee in the patio restaurant (we got up this morning at 4 am), and walked afterwards to Cloud 9 to get a first impression of this famous surf break.

When we arrive at the break, we notice that that aren’t many surfers in the water. It is low tide and that means that the situation isn’t optimal for surfing. The break is on a coral reef and at low tide it is easy to hurt yourself when you fall off the board. Only a couple of die hard local guys and some probably unaware foreigners are in the water. “From 3 pm onwards, the surfing is good” is what some local guys assure us. That gives us enough time to rent some boards for Jorn and Robin. We walk to the Hippies Surf Shop and as soon as we enter the shop, surfing language is all that we hear. All kinds of boards are discussed, including sizes, weights, thicknesses and shapes. We leave the choice up to the guys and after ten minutes, the choice is made. The woman of the shop waxes the boards for better grip, after which they are ready for the action.

After lunch we walk to Cloud 9 again. The sea level rose significantly last hours and it is busy now. The Cloud 9 boardwalk is approximately 150 metres long which gives us the opportunity to see the action from a reasonable distance. We brought our birding binoculars, just to be sure that we miss nothing. The guys descend the stairs into the water and peddle themselves, whilst lying on the board, to the break. Time for action!

A local surf girl
 
It doesn’t take long before we have a good impression of the surf culture. Of course, surfing is all about having fun on the board, but also image is important. The image is mainly shaped by how good one can surf (standing long on the board and making spectacular moves), but also the ‘looks’ of a surfer play an essential role. Unfortunately for the western surfers, the local boys and girls outperform the western surfers on all fields. The slim, muscled and well shaped Filipinos and Filipinas ‘dance’ over the waves while the westerners are mainly looking around, waiting for a good wave. And that is understandable because the locals know the break as good as they know their pockets. But the westerners are also too afraid to fight for themselves to get a good wave. There is no surf etiquette on Cloud 9; its like ‘every man for himself and God for all of us’. And that this absence of surf etiquettes can result in injuries shows a young Filipina that shares the boardwalk with us. She has a big wound on her upper leg as result of a collision with another surfer.

The western surfers try to make up for their shortcomings on the surf board. Surf coiffures and beards play a role in getting the right surf image, but also cloths from the major surf brands are used to lessen the gap. Brand names like Quicksilver, Ripcurl and Billabong shine on surf shirts and boxer shorts. Some western surfers even decided to bring their own surf board, just to make sure that the ‘inferior’ quality of the local equipment doesn’t influence their surf competences. But we quickly learned that the quality of the boards and cloths has no influence on the performances on the wave; at least not for the surfers that we saw in action on Cloud 9. A local surf girl, who sees herself as the second best female surfer on the island, confessed to us after some beers in the bar, that she would like to see the foreign surfers move to another break. ‘They are constantly in the way, and it is better for them and for us if they use another break’, is what she tells us. But she is whining. She has to understand that the foreigners are bringing in a lot of money for the local community, including her.

We have some great days on Siargao Island and we especially like the fact that we experienced the surf culture for a couple of day. We spent a lot of hours on the boardwalk of Cloud 9 to see what’s going on. We particularly like the young surfers, whose absence of fear, make them great to observe. Young boys of around 12 years old surf like the best and even much younger girls flounder like dogs around the boardwalk to keep their head above the water. Some of the very young girls are lucky enough to have an older brother that takes her on his board to the break. He is doing the work, while she can practice to stand on the board; probably the first steps in a very active surf life.

Ocean 101 Resort
The Cloud 9 boardwalk (at low tide)
Leaving the Hippies Surf Shop after selecting the 'right' board
Jorn in action
A local girl shares her board with her older brother
 
 

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