Surfista Travels Philippines owner and founder Elaine Abonal was interviewed last January 20, 2012 on a local radio station 558 AM on the show “Bisnis ni Juan.” The show talks about different businesses in the Philippines – both small and big businesses. Here is an edited transcript of her interview translated into English. If you would like to listen to parts of it, we recorded the webcast and you can watch it here on www.youtube.com/SurfistaTravels.
Our guest for tonight is the woman behind Surfista Travels Elaine Abonal. Good evening Elaine.
Elaine Abonal: Hello and good evening Mr. Raffy & Ms. Leo, thanks for inviting me to your show.
So tell us about Surfista Travels. What services do you offer?
Elaine: I just launched the existence of my surf tour company called Surfista Travels. What we’re going to do is we’re going to make packages for people who want to learn to surf or for those who want to go on a surf trip to La Union, Baler, or other spots in the Philippines. Surfing is getting more popular here in the Philippines but a lot of people don’t know where to go, where to stay, where to take lessons, and who to contact. I’ve been surfing for a while now and a lot of people have always asked me for help and I’ve brought so many friends on surf trips. So I was encouraged by my friends and my family to start this. If I know how to do it and I can help others, I should start my own company. And here it is.
Does Surfista Travels only have surfing in La Union?
Elaine: We’re going to start with La Union because that’s where we know a lot of people and have a lot of contacts. That’s where the pilot project is. The first tour is on February 11 and 12 this year. Then from there we can make other packages for other groups of people, for companies, and whoever else needs help and wants to go on a surf trip. That’s the plan for now.
Are you from La Union?
Elaine: I’m from Manila but I feel like I’m a local there because I’m always there. I even learned how to speak a little bit of Ilocano!
So this is your chance to greet people in Ilocos and La Union!
Elaine: Good evening to everyone listening from the North! Naimbag na rabii.
What inspired you and motivated you to start Surfista Travels?
Elaine: I’ve always loved surfing and traveling. It started as a hobby and I would surf on weekends as a student. Now I teach languages (I speak English, French, Spanish and Tagalog) so I always meet a lot of people who like to explore and who like to travel. Some of them are not really good with English and usually need someone who will help them coordinate and bring them to the place. I would do it just because I loved meeting new people and helping them out.
The idea of having my own company occurred when I went on an international trip with my good friend Luke Landrigan, a pro surfer who is sponsored by Billabong and owns San Juan Surf School and his dad, Brian Landrigan, owner of San Juan Surf Resort. We’ve all known each other for a while and they encouraged me to do it and even said, “If that’s what you like and if that’s what you’re good at (being around people), why don’t you make something out of it?”
So I thought about it and prayed very hard and with a lot of thinking and help from others, Surfista Travels was born.
Where do you surf?
Elaine: In the Philippines I’ve been to La Union, Baler, Siargao, Daet, Zambales… Have you tried surfing, sir?
Yeah I’ve gone surfing in the bathroom, on the internet. Haha. What are your other hobbies? Are you a student/employed?
I freelance and work as a language instructor for Berlitz Language Center and I teach English, French and Spanish. I also write and take photos for magazines.
So people can contact you just in case they want to learn those languages?
Sure they can!
So Surfista Travels is something that you really want to explore and do. When did you start?
The idea came last year but I just launched it this month and this year. Kind of like a Happy New Year kind of thing, let’s try something new, new year’s resolution kind of thing.
How do you see yourself five years from now with Surfista Travels?
This is my dream. This is my new dream. So hopefully I would already be going to different places around the Philippines. I’m not sure if in five years we would already be going outside of the Philippines and have international destinations but hopefully we’ve already gone to many places and have had a lot more tours. I would still be enjoying. In five years I want this to still be my passion and something that I will be doing for other people.
Are you not thinking of planning or organizing a surfing competition with Surfista Travels?
Eventually and hopefully in the future. We’re still a small company. Our target for now is to have smaller groups so that it’s personalized and I can see what my customers want, don’t want, what market I have, etc. I have friends who are in the Manila Surfers Association and other surfing associations who hold surf competitions in different surf spots in the Philippines. Hopefully in the future we can work with them and have events, outreach programs, or competitions.
So what you’re doing now is you’re networking and marketing your services?
Yes. We’re trying to get the word out there that we exist. I think what is helping me the most is that I already know a lot of people in the industry and I have the support of my sponsors. I am sponsored personally and as a company by GoPro Philippines (a camera that you can use for surfing), Lightwater & Vitaminboost, Agos Pilipinas, Yabang Pinoy, Philippine First Aid. So I think with my friends and my sponsors, we help each other get the word out on our products/services.
With that we can see that in doing business, we can’t do everything alone. We see that we definitely need support.
Totally. I wouldn’t be able to start this if it weren’t for the help of my friends, my family, and all the people that I know so I am VERY thankful for the people who support me and my new company. I see who my real friends are. It’s really cool. It’s amazing how God has given me so many blessings so I am very thankful for those who have been helping me.
I see that you have a very good asset – you are very positive and you’ve made your hobby into a more enthusiast project or a passion.
Yeah, you gotta love what you do!
How else are you marketing besides the help of your sponsors?
I think Facebook and Twitter helps a lot. People like interaction. You can’t just tell people to join your tour and give you their money. You have to show that surfing is beneficial to you and your life, that it’s a good way to make new friends, and all the other good things about it. There needs to be a personal touch – which is what I want to do anyway. I like getting to know my clients.
So you’re saying it’s not just about the money, but it’s about making new friendships and doing something good in life.
Yes and taking care of the ocean and keeping our beaches clean. It’s actually one of our advocacies. You can’t go on a Surfista Travels trip without going on a Beach Cleanup. It’s part of our itinerary to pick up trash on the beach.
Wow so with your passion with surfing and the environment and with your tours, you are offering your services as your product. What challenges are you facing now?
I just started so it’s at this time it’s getting the word out there. Surfing is not very popular in the Philippines yet and even if we’re a country surrounded by so many islands, a lot of Filipinos are scared to swim or of big waves. People need to be encouraged to try something new in the water like surfing.
So it’s like saying that it’s more fun…
Yeah, it’s more fun when you’re surfing!
Yeah people say, “Surfing? There’s no surf here.” People don’t realize that more and more people surf and foreigners even come all the way here just to surf.
So I guess this is what you’re saying: you should be where your heart is and where your passion is. Even in business, it all starts with your passion and then everything follows.
Yes. That’s something I should remember and I’m very thankful to hear that from you, sir.
Do you have an inspirational message or business statement to share with our listeners? You sound like you’re young.
I think my voice sounds young!
Young at heart but rich in the mind. Maybe you can give an inspirational message?
I’ll just repeat what my friends and other people have been telling me – Just do what you love. If you’re happy with what you’re doing and when you wake up in the morning and think, “I’m excited, this is what I’m going to do today,” then you’re good. Even if you’re tired or spending a bit of money, it’s okay if you love what you’re doing. That’s how it should be. If you believe in yourself and that what you are doing is for you, just do it. Just go.
So since you’ve tickled the interest of our listeners, maybe you could announce your contact numbers so people can reach you if they’re interested?
If you’d like to join our first tour this Feb 11 & 12, you can go to the Surfista Travels website www.surfistatravels.com or check out the facebook page facebook.com/SurfistaTravels. We’re looking forward to surfing with you and going on a Surfista Travels trip with you soon!