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!

Surfing in La Union

In a parallel universe, I’m on a surfboard riding the best wave of my life. For now, I’ll have to satisfy my craving for long rides, wipeouts, saltwater, and sand by watching surf videos and looking at surf photos. Yes, I am surf deprived and boy oh boy I’d give anything to surf again… but it’s almost flat season so…. but there are still waves somewhere so… but I need to work on our products… but the waves are calling… but… but… ah, let me tell you about my surf experience in La Union instead.

I rode a van from Baguio to San Juan. In case you’re wondering why I came from Baguio, you can read it here. I was told to get off once I see Sebay and walk towards Fatwave Surf Resort since that’s where we’re booked. Because it was my first time there, I decided not to sleep so I won’t miss my stop. Looking back, it wasn’t hard to look for my stop at all since it was a long stretch of Surf resorts. Add to that the fact that there’s a huge sign in green and white that says “Surfing Area San Juan Beach”.

I was supposed to meet my cousin and two of our friends there but since they went to Tangadan Falls, I decided to go to our room, change clothes, rest for a while, and wait for them. They arrived a little over thirty minutes after and since they were hungry, we made our way to the dining area to grab a bite. I was very thankful that there were baby waves, contrary to what the forecast was saying. My surfer friends would always tell me that it’s always a plus or a minus that’s why I still take risks and pray to the heavens that they’ll be kind enough to give us “surfable” waves. Sometimes the prayer works and sometimes it doesn’t.  At around five in the afternoon, we grabbed our surfboards and paddled out.

Sunset surf <3
Sunset surf ❤
"I'm so happpyyyyyyyyy!!!"
“I’m so happpyyyyyyyyy!!!”
With my instructor, Benito
With my instructor, Benito
Yes please :)
Yes please 🙂

We surfed until it was dark and it was the best feeling in the world. If there’s one thing I enjoy doing, it’s sunset surfing. You paddle out, see the sun on the horizon, wait for a wave, surf, and then paddle out again. I find peace in watching the sun paint the sky with different shades of red, blue, pink, and purple – a perfect harmony of colors before it bids the world goodbye at least for twelve hours.

The group went to Flotsam and Jetsam for dinner and we feasted on sumptuous food while lounging in cozy bean bags and listening to hits from the 90s since, coincidentally, it was Lorraine Lapus’ engagement party that night. Flotsam and Jetsam really gives you value for your money. The ambience is great, the food is excellent, and you get to meet a lot of people. Too bad I didn’t take pictures because I was too hungry. If you want to know more about them, visit this page.

With Fin, J9, and Xie.
With Fin, J9, and Xie.

We woke up early the next day for more surfing. We were singing, cheering each other on, playing with the GoPro, and enjoying rides both short and long. When it was almost 12, we went back to Fatwave to shower, change clothes, and pack our stuff. We dropped by Surfstar to claim our free shirt. Yay! That made the trip even more fun! For lunch, we went to Marv’s house. They cooked sinigang which is one of my favorite dishes. The group hung out for a while and by 4 PM, it was time to go back to Manila.

The Frolic Girls: Koko, Xie, J9, Aliya, and Fin.
The Frolic Girls: Koko, Xie, J9, Aliya, and Fin.

Surfing in La Union was a very memorable experience for me. It was great to be back on the ocean, ride the board, and paddle until my arms feel like noodles. I also met two new surfers :Marv and Benito who are funny, accommodating, and very patient. Should you wish to learn how to surf when you’re in La Union, I highly recommend that you look for them.

If you want to surf in La Union, you can contact Marven Abat to learn about their surf lifestyle packages. For now, I’ll leave you with this video. Enjoy! 🙂

12 Months of Stoke

It’s been 12 months since the road trip that changed my life. What I thought was just a surf adventure with my flag football team turned out to be the first chapter of my surf story. I’m a lot darker now, my hair is no longer pure black, and I’m currently sporting a medium-sized bruise on my right cheek as I type this but I’m proud to say I have no regrets. I learned a lot about myself because of surfing and I can no longer imagine living without it.

Since that roadtrip, I found myself boarding a bus almost every week to Zambales. I didn’t mind that I had to sit for hours and I didn’t care that I was getting darker each week. Every trip to Zambales gave me the feeling that I’m on my way home. I fell in love with the place, the sport and the people that’s why it was very difficult for me when I had to disappear for six months due to certain circumstances.

My heart longed for Zambales that’s why I made sure that I’ll pay the place a visit one more time before I go back to Mindanao. I wanted to celebrate my 12 months of surfing + my 26th year in the place where it all began. I also wanted to surf again.

Home sweet home!
Home sweet home!
With my fave board. :3
With my favorite board :3

I joined my friend Vince who left for Zambales last Friday at 3 in the morning. I was very excited to go back I didn’t sleep at all! We stopped by Jaro’s house in San Marcelino. We also had breakfast there. When we were approaching Liwliwa, I was grinning from ear to ear.  I missed how the concrete road ends all of a sudden, making the car dance as it makes its way through the sand. When we arrived, I ran to our cottage to see how it is. After putting my things down, I went to the beach with Jing and Panke ride the pretty neat swells that were waiting to be ridden.  We surfed from 8 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon. We were so stoked!

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Where the wave kisses the shore no matter how many times it’s pushed back… featuring Pangke’s surfboard.
The closest I can get to cross stepping.
Baby steps.
I missed this kind of tired.
I missed this kind of tired.

My day trip turned into a 5-day vacation when I had to cancel my trip back to Manila because of typhoon. I planned on leaving at 3 am the next day, but I had to forget about leaving when I woke up to the sound of strong winds, trees being snapped in half, and waves that sounded like the Mavericks. I slept dry but woke up wet because water entered our cottage. There was also a power outage so we had to work with light from our cellphones and my trusty mini flashlight. After changing sleeping positions for the third time, we finally fell asleep despite the chaos that was happening outside. When we woke up the next morning, this is what we saw:

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Photo by Vince Dayrit

The rain didn’t stop, and the water level rose to around 12 inches from my waist. Since there wasn’t much for us to do that day, all of us stayed in the cottage and waited for the rain to stop.

There wasn’t a lot of improvement in the weather conditions the next day but since we wanted to surf, we made our way to Pundaquit. It was my first time and I was excited to finally experience two surf spots: Magic Left and River Mouth. When we arrived, I decided to surf at Magic Left since the waves in River Mouth were too big. I spent the morning paddling, riding, rolling with every wipeout and eventually hitting myself with a fun board (but still feeling the stoke). In the afternoon, I decided to stay at the shore and take pictures of my friends since I’ve been fighting the urge to shoot since morning.

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Ping Danila
Vince Dayrit
Vince Dayrit
Pangke Tapec
Pangke Tapec
DK Pasallan
DK Pasallan
Caloy Reyes
Caloy Reyes
IMG_4274
Mike Bonifacio
Carlo Guillermo
Carlo Guillermo
Kiko Lacuesta
Kiko Lacuesta
The stoked shutterbug.
The stoked shutterbug. (c) Ping Danila
With the gang. ^_^ (L-R Shine, Aliya, Pangke, Brian, Vince, DK)
With the gang. ^_^ (L-R Shine, Aliya, Pangke, Brian, Vince, DK)

Since all of us were stoked after the surf session, we went back to Pundaquit the next day. This time, I gave my camera to Kuya Ping, who then gave it to Gab Sarmiento, the editor-in-chief of Blunt Magazine. It was a good rainy surf session.

Out of the water, I am nothing. (c) Ping Danila
Out of the water, I am nothing. (c) Ping Danila
DK Pasallan | (c) Gab Sarmiento
DK Pasallan | (c) Ping Danila
Love. <3 (c) Ping Danila
Love.
Shine Pasallan
Shine Pasallan
Caloy Reyes | (c) Ping Danila
Caloy Reyes | (c) Ping Danila
Vince Dayrit (c) Gab Sarmiento
Vince Dayrit (c) Ping Danila
Kiko Lacuesta
Kiko Lacuesta (c) Gab Sarmiento

I went back to Manila with a happy heart. I was reminded of why I fell in love in the first place, and why I had the patience to sit in the bus for hours and the strength to get back on the board and paddle out with each wipe out. I realized that although some of my Liwa memories have been tainted because of some situations that made me run to the shore and cry my heart out, there’s still a lot of good things that Liwa has to offer, like… sleeping in a hammock during an impromptu slumber party because of the power outage, buying strawberry ice cream and Mog-Mogu at Seevuhn Ehleevuhn, going to the market and cooking meals with the gang, listening to the “telenovela” courtesy of the friendly neighborhood skatekids featuring TK, endless laughtrip sessions, late night and early morning discussions, random trips to Pundaquit, and a whole lot more.

This was my home for 5 days. I miss this place already.
This was my home for 5 days. I miss this place already.
Kuya Ping preparing breakfast for the gang.
Kuya Ping preparing breakfast for the gang.
Slumber party! :)
Slumber party! 🙂

My day trip may have been extended because of typhoon but if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have had the chance to really meet the people I met. Most of them, I knew since last year but didn’t really get the chance to bond with because we had our own groups. I guess it’s true what they say, you can only connect the dots backwards. If things didn’t go the way they did, I wouldn’t have had this much appreciation for what happened during that 5-day trip. This trip made me realize that I do have friends. Well… family disguised as friends.

I’m writing this with a heart that’s grateful and happy. I’m still stoked from everything that happened during the trip. My mind’s currently operating as a mini movie theater, and I keep pressing the replay button to relive everything that happened.

I’m so excited to come back for my next Liwa adventure. Liwa friends, thank you. I owe 5 days’ worth of epic Liwa memories to all of you. 🙂