by Tricia Suguitan
A funny, honest, and well-written description of Tricia Suguitan’s first time surfing and what it REALLY felt like to be in the water.
A slot in the latest Surfista Travels trip became available at the last minute and I wriggled my way into the list of participants and effectively ended ten years’ worth of stalling and excuses. For over a decade, I’ve used and abused “I’ve got school,” which became “I’ve got work,” which I then alternated with “I’m too tired.”
As it turns out, the cure for prolonged excuse-itis and hyper-wussness (these are words, I checked) is joining a surf tour which helped turn what initially felt like a straightforward learn-to-surf mission into a fun trip. All I had to do was pack a bag and show up at the meeting place.
It was a quiet ride to La Union, understandable at 1 AM, but everyone looked like they had a full night’s sleep by the time we had breakfast at the resort. As an A-grade klutz, I was a little anxious about surfing for the first time in front of people I had only met hours ago but by the time we grabbed our boards and followed the instructors to the shore, the Surfistas, as we would eventually be called (naks), were just a bunch of kids eager to hit the water.
And hit the water I did, once or twice. Or a lot — enough to make finding my balance and standing for the first time the kind of moment that calls for a crazy victory dance. I know some people get it on the first try and God bless you and your athleticism, but for sedentary folk, any manifestation of physical capability is a feat. I remember thinking in merry expletives. I was bleep surfing!
Pro surfer Luke Landrigan took over the session that afternoon and demonstrated the basics of surfing, pro rider-style. He also hung out with the Surfistas during our stay inSan Juan. No big deal. I didn’t commit this to memory or anything.
The waves were bigger and meaner and they went out of their way to knock me off the surfboard even if I wasn’t upright yet! The instructor would warn me about coming waves and I clutched the rails for dear life, but a monster wave would toss me high enough that I’d slam against the board. Repeatedly. With what felt like lethal intent.
At one point, my nose ran, my leg cramped, and I was spending more time ducking to avoid rogue surfboards than standing on one. Two things kept me in the water: an instructor that told me to try one last time for about 24 times and the realization that quitting mid-lesson is far worse than falling off the board again and again. You’d be crazy to enjoy being towed underwater but darnit if I can’t pull myself up and surf! I’d grab the board and paddle back each time. I may have been breathing through one nostril by then and my arms were killing me but all things considered, there was no place I’d rather be (except maybe on the actual board, doing tricks. A girl can dream). I was having a good time. Good enough that I started thinking about when I can get away to do all of this again.
By the way, while I overcame tidal obstacles and wheezed in the sea, half of the tour group became YouTube stars as they filmed a segment with Bogart The Explorer by the shore. Achieving personal goals is cool but being part of a wacky shoot is another kind of cool. Some Surfistas have all the luck!
I slept like a bear that night and woke up with a growl. I ached all over, from my eyelids down to my toenails. A surprise made up for it: the Surfistas were driving out to another surf spot in La Union, which was what “us surfers” do when waves at the regular site aren’t up to par.
The final lesson was over after a couple of hours and it was time to pack up. Because of all the freebies from the trip I had more stuff than when I arrived, all of which managed to fit in my backpack with some magic and a bit of excessive force.
Wearing identical Surfista shirts and the universal sign for “just came from the beach, had an awesome time, thank you” – an all-natural glowing skin and occasional silly grin – we trooped to the vans and said bye La Union. For now. Manila was waiting.