Surfing: Behind the Scenes

I’ve been meaning to write about this since I started surfing. I just didn’t have the time. No. I had the time, I didn’t have the words worthy enough to give justice to my journey as a surfer. I think for most people, surfing is just about standing on a board, looking fancy, having kickass photos (to be posted on Facebook with -insert number here- comments), prancing around in bikini and board shorts, and doing the “shaka” whenever possible.

Every surfer surfs for a reason. Every surfer has his/her story. Here’s mine:

I started surfing at a time when I was still in the process of healing from a terrible experience. I guess at some point in our lives, we hit rock bottom and we’re left standing in the crossroads. That was, by far, the biggest blow I’ve received in my 25 years of existence. Everything was uncertain. Everything was taken away from me. The only thing I was hanging on to at that time was the determination to live up to my second name (Aliya) and bounce back.

It took some time.

I was slowly getting back on my feet when our flag football team (Team Sunken Garden) decided to go on a surfing trip to Zambales. I had mixed feelings about going. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited. Really. However, despite all the excitement, I was worried about some things. I had issues with my body. I’m not exactly fat, but I’m not thin either. I was scared of not being able to stand on the board.  I was worried about being judged but as the trip drew near I decided to let go of my inhibitions and just go with the flow.

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Kneeling on my first ride.

I remember hating myself for not being able to stand up during the first session. All of my friends were getting stoked with their rides while there I was, struggling. I didn’t want to surf anymore because I felt that maybe, surfing isn’t my thing. Good thing I managed to stand during my second session, thanks to Kuya Pat! Too bad our trip was cut short because all of us had to go back to Manila for work. I remember telling myself that I’ll be back in a week or two to surf again. I really wanted to improve.

Stoked. Me with Kuya Pat!
Stoked. Me with Kuya Pat!

And return I did! This time, my rides were longer. I made friends with some of the locals too! My friends and I stayed at Kila Bot Sir Ping Spot, owned by siblings Bot and Ping Danila. My instructors, Jay-R and Pangke, both patient and generous in teaching.

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My first long ride!
My first long ride!
Skim sessions in between surf sessions
Skim sessions in between surf sessions
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From strangers to very good friends – here’s our first picture with the KBSPS surf instructors.

I eventually found myself riding a bus to Zambales every two weeks. Each surf trip gave me the chance to experience new things, meet new people, and learn more about myself. The beach became my happy place. The sand became a bed so comfy I could just sleep soundly and drift to places far and near. The salt water, a blanket that hugged me with each shore entry, as if showing me how much it missed me. The waves sang sweet melodies that were delightful to my ears. Everything was beautiful, and everything in the beach made sitting for four hours in the bus worthwhile.

Music appreciation sessions with my good friend Momma G. ;)
Music appreciation sessions with my good friend Momma G. 😉
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My first injury. Crashed into another surfer whose surfboard hit my shin. That’s Gan carrying me because I couldn’t walk.

There were good surf days and there were bad surf days but regardless, I learned to enjoy both. I figured, it would be futile to make a fuss out of not having long rides. After several surf trips, I learned to embrace the fact that wipe outs are part of surfing. With each wipe out, I found myself smiling, getting back on the board, and paddling out again. It’s similar to the traps that we fall into in our daily lives. When we’re faced with challenges, our initial reaction is to drown in depression and let the problem consume us until it becomes our reality. Yes, it’s easy to let ourselves drown and accept defeat but because of surfing, I learned stand up with each fall and bounce back.

You learn to laugh after a wipe out.
You learn to laugh after a wipe out.
This "stance" is the reason why they call me Superbend.
This “stance” is the reason why they call me Superbend.
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After a wipe out, all you have to do is paddle out and try again.

I spent Christmas in Zambales last year due to certain circumstances. Pangke, Jay-R, and Noel were kind enough to spend time with me. They introduced me to other locals and surfers. They also taught me how to read waves. Some days, we just sat on the shore and watched the sunset. Jam afternoons were the best. Noel’s a really good guitar player and I sang to every song that he played while Jay-R and Pangke took turns in playing the kahon.

It was also in December when I made the decision to level up by catching a wave on my own. I wanted a solo ride as a Christmas present and it was given to me. 🙂

Mornings, the way they should be.
Mornings, the way they should be.
First solo ride!
First solo ride!
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Liwliwa sunset- always a sight to see.

Catching a wave when you’re a beginner isn’t easy. It takes practice, timing, patience, support from people who know you, and most of all, BELIEF IN YOURSELF. A simple “I can do it” goes a long way. It took me months to take the risk, hours to catch a wave, and a ride that’s seconds long to prove to myself that I can do it. That it can be done. That it’s possible. Since then I’ve been surfing solo but for safety reasons, I still make sure that the pros are nearby.

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Where there are no waves, you practice on an indo board.

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I met a lot of people because of surfing. Most of them are acquaintances- turned-good friends; proof that a simple exchange of hellos goes a long way. I met some of them while waiting for waves at the line up, some through another surfer, and some during hang out sessions at KBSPS.

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With Julianne at Crystal Beach. (c) Benjo Robles
With Kuya Ping and Phil, the surfer dog.
With Kuya Ping and Phil, the surfer dog.
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(c) Benjo Robles
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With my twin, Ian.
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I miss them. 😦 (c) Telay Robles
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Achievement unlocked!

My second family. :)
My second family. 🙂

Surfing has taught me a lot of things. It has taught me to rise with each fall; to go with (and not counter) the flow. It taught me that everything has a process; that things will eventually fall into place as long as you’re patient. It also taught me to believe in myself more.

Sunset surf sessions.
Sunset surf sessions.
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(c) Adele Katerina Raya

img_4117Surfing is the very reason why I don’t mind that I’m 10 shades darker, or that my hair color has changed due to too much sun exposure. It’s one of the reasons why I wake up early in the morning and sleep not-so-late at night. In the beach, on a surf board, is a place where I’m most happy. It thrills me, it keeps me alive, and it gives me an extraordinary kind of high. I’m proud of the scars and bruises I got because of it. I earned each and every single one of them. I know I still have a long way to go and I’m actually excited to see what the sea has in store for me.

Surfing, for me, is more than just riding a board. Surfers are not measured by the number of waves they ride. Instead, they are measured by how much fun they have out there. It’s not in the number of wipe-outs you get, but in the number of times you get back on the board after each wipe-out.

Surfing is waking up each morning and running to the ocean to see how the waves are. It is sitting in the bus for hours while doing everything that you can so that your EQ level stays up. It is going back to a place that’s both beautiful and painful while dealing with all the memories(both good and bad). It is waiting patiently for a wave, even if it means sitting under the sun for hours. It is meeting people from different walks of life who eventually become family disguised as friends. It is learning more about yourself. It is realizing that your biggest competition is yourself. It is putting your life in the hands of a 9″0. It is saving every single penny you have so you have enough money to surf on the weekend. It is caring for nature. It is falling in love with sport. It is learning to put more value in things that matter, and less in things that don’t. It is trusting that you can and will ride that big wave, no matter how many times the blithering idiot in the line up says that you can’t. It is paddling out after each wipe out. It is sharing the stoke. It’s a way of life. It is more than just a feeling, it’s a state of being.

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And when people ask me why I surf, my answer has always been simple: it heals me.

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