The Malihini

Competition Day 1

I buried my toes in the sand and watched as the waves rolled and kissed the shore. They’re bigger than the ones I’ve ridden. Way bigger, and we’re not talking about glassy waves. We’re talking about waves with white water that’s seven to eight feet high. Short board waves, not long board waves. Yet here I am, competing as a malihini in the long board division of the 2014 Philippine Wahine Classic. I must have been out of my mind when I registered.

What if I fall?

It’s just water.

But still.

What if I fall?

Then I heard another voice in my head:

Oh honey, what if you fly?

I found myself second guessing. I thought of backing out especially when I failed to catch a single wave during our training before the competition. Quitting is always easy, but the awful aftertaste of regret is always difficult to let go of, especially when it haunts you every single day. Once the pingpong battle in my head ended, I decided to just push through with the competition. I already paid for my ticket, I traveled a thousand miles to compete, and quitting sounds insane. I decided to apply the concept of open space, the one that says “whatever happens is the only thing that could” so I could manage my expectations.  If I’m meant to win, I’ll win. If I’m meant to lose, I’ll lose. What’s important is I go out there, paddle my little heart out and surf. I also managed to read a text from my mom before paddling out for my heat. She said, “have fun, waves are your friend”.

Preparing for my heat. (c) Ivan Montalban
Preparing for my heat. (c) Ivan Montalban

Paddling out was a struggle for me and Joeren, my caddy. I remember him asking if I want to give up and I said no. Yes, the waves are scary and I’m risking the possibility of drowning and breaking my neck but I didn’t travel all the way from Mindanao to quit. Seeing that I’m determined, Joeren asked me to turn around and start paddling for my first wave. It was big and scary but I was committed. I paddled and stood once I felt the push. My ride was a little shaky at first, but I had to make sure I won’t fall. We were allowed ten quality rides. Carla Rowland told us that ten 2’s are better than two 10’s.

(c) Janine Agbon
(c) Janine Agbon
Second ride. (c) Janine Agbon
Second ride. (c) Janine Agbon

By the time I made it back to where Joeren was, he asked me to turn around again and paddle for my second wave. My arms were tired but I paddled anyway. Second ride done. I tried to get three more rides, but I kept slipping. Next thing I knew, we were down to the last two minutes. We gave each other high fives and paddled back to the shore. Joeren kept saying “I told you, you can do it!”. I just smiled. I was too tired. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my rides were good enough. I just wanted to rest.

Moral support from this kickass surfer! (c) Janine Agbon
Moral support from this kickass surfer! (c) Janine Agbon

Before heading out for lunch, my cousin and I approached Carla Rowland and asked for the results of my heat. I was so stoked when I found out that I landed first place and that I’ll be advancing to the second round! I was grinning from ear to ear. I didn’t expect it at all! When I told Joeren about it, he was stoked as well. We were told that the continuation for the Malihini Longboard Division will be moved to the next day because of the wave conditions so we decided to grab lunch and rest for a while.

Day one ended with lights, music, and booze as all surfers made their way to Aliya Surf Camp to party and for the awarding ceremony. Daisy Valdez was able to defend her title as the Open Shortboard Champion and Candra Jordan who came all the way from California won the Open Longboard Division.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban
Divine Smith, our DJ for the night! :) (c) Ivan Montalban
Divine Smith, our DJ for the night! 🙂 (c) Ivan Montalban

Competition Day 2:

Two knocks on the door- that’s what woke me up. My cousin opened it and Brian, our friend, was there. “Time to go to church”, he said. We dressed up, checked the wave conditions and the competition schedule, then made our way to church. After church, we wolfed down our breakfast then made our way to Aliya Surf Camp for day two of the competition.

So stoked to see this! :) (c) Ivan Montalban
So stoked to see this! 🙂 (c) Ivan Montalban

I was in Heat 5, round 2. This gave me enough time to observe other surfers. My cousin was out first who won her heat and advanced to the quarter finals. For round 2, I was on my own because Joeren had to teach. He told me “I know you can do it, and you don’t need me there”. Shudder.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban

There are moments in life when you only have yourself. I have to admit, day one was easy because I knew that Joeren was there and as long as he’s around I’ll be fine. For day two, I had to toughen up. While paddling out, I kept reminding myself that everything will be okay. First ride, fail. Second, manageable. Third, okay. Fourth, wipe out. Paddle out, try again. It was almost impossible to reach the line up and it was hard to paddle against the current. We were all struggling but we still gave our best.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban

I didn’t make it to the quarterfinals, and that’s okay. I told myself that I’ll just have fun and accept whatever the competition results will be. For me, it’s enough that I finally had the chance to surf again after being landlocked for a long time. My cousin finished fourth, and I’m very happy for her. She’s improved so much from last year and she’s proof that hard work really pays off.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban

I ended the trip by burying my toes in the sand again. I stared at the ocean, as if trying to take a mental picture of the waves that were rolling in front of me. Fall, I did. Hard. But fly, I did, as well. I was asked why I decided to compete despite being landlocked for six months and my answer is, well you have to start somewhere. Yes, I haven’t surfed for six months and my skills suffered, but I’d like to think that whatever’s meant to happen is really the only thing that could. Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith and surprise yourself. It’s like falling in love- there’s no specific schedule. It just happens to you. I now experienced what a real competition is like, so I know what to expect next time, if I decide to compete again. Surfing is as fluid as it can get. All you have is yourself, the board, the waves, and that 10 seconds worth of commitment to paddle, stand, feel the drop, and ride. This experience taught me to trust in myself more, and to not be afraid of falling. Sure a wipeout will shove buckets of saltwater down your throat, but what do you do after that? You get back on the board, and you paddle out again. I also learned to open myself up to possibilities, and to more good things. 🙂

It’s been three weeks since the competition and I’m still on a high. . I went home with a huge bruise on my right arm because it was hit by a fin, but it’s all worth it. I learned so much from this experience and I met a lot of people. I’m just glad I took the risk.

I’m very thankful for my mom, gave me permission to take time off work to compete, and for sending me messages of support all throughout the competition. My uncle, who lent us his car  so we don’t have to commute and to Manong Dario of course who drove for us despite lack of sleep. To  J9 who encouraged me to join the competition and made sure that I enjoy my first Baler experience. Fin, for cheering me on when I told her that I was thinking of backing out. Brian, my Monopoly Deal partner for the water (yay!) and for the support, of course. Esh, my roomie, it was so nice to see you again! Ivan, for helping us carry our stuff and for taking our pictures. Sagasa Surfkada, it was very nice to meet all of you. Siargao crew, it was great to see you again! Mico, thank you so much for lending me your board and for telling me to imagine Siargao when you noticed that I was scared. Joeren, my masungit-na-mabait caddy for helping me brave those big waves. Of course, to Carla Rowland and Ian Zamora whose passion for surfing and love for the Philippines made this event possible.

Fellow wahines who competed, kudos to all of us!

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