Surfer Girl Diaries Feature: La Union

Here’s an excerpt from one of Republic of 7,107 Islands Travel Magazines last May 2011


By Elaine Abonal


     A lot of people travel around the Philippines to frolick on powdery white sand, lie around and get a tan, or get drunk by the beach. Those things are fun for a girl but this girl looks for something else – WAVES. And the Philippines definitely has it.

     Ever since I started surfing 9 years ago, I’ve always looked for coasts with waves, otherwise I easily get bored. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no pro and I am definitely what one would call a soul surfer. I love “playing” and dancing with the ocean in easy waves with my friends and I don’t care too much about winning contests or catching the wave of the year. Surfing, for me, is not only a sport, but a big part of my life. It’s the reason why my photo albums and journals are full of images and adventure stories of the people I’ve met from around the world, the waves I’ve ridden, the islands I’ve discovered and the road trips I’ve gone on with life-long friends.

     The Philippines has the most beautiful islands and coasts lined with undiscovered waves. People are friendly, travel is cheap, and adventure is bound to happen anywhere. I may be biased when I say this, but as much as I enjoyed surfing in other countries like in the US or in Indonesia, surfing my home break beats all of the hype written in other magazines. Ten years ago, there was only a group of surfers from each surf spot that everyone knew everyone else. Now that number has multiplied ten times, if not more, and there are more surf resorts, surf shops, surf schools, restaurtants and other businesses.

     This little article on my favorite surf spots in the Philippines will hopefully give you a preview of what it’s all about, help you out on where togo and what to do if you’re interested and inspire you to try it.

Favorite Surf Spot Number One: LA UNION

Why I Like It: It is only 5-6 hours from Manila by car/bus and it’s only a 45 minutes by plane. La Union is perfect for beginners because of the many surf schools that are constantly growing in the area, as well as the beach break. The beach break is a spot where waves break on a sand bottom so you don’t have to worry about getting hit by the reef or stones. There are other spots, with or without reef, which are also better suited for more advanced surfers. There are quite a number of surf schools and resorts to choose from and there are also different kinds of places to eat that can suit any budget. Locals here treat you like they’ve known you forever and are always willing to give you some tips to improve your ride or invite you to their table to have a beer. I’ve made so many friends here, I’ve even learned to speak Ilocano, and it’s a place that has a special place in my heart.

Type of Surf: Small to big waves for learning, longboarding and shortboarding.

Place To Stay At: San Juan Surf Resort. I’ve been staying here for as long as I remember and already consider the staff and the owners as family. A lot of surfers from around the world come and spend weeks or even months here. My friend Luke Landrigan, who is  part of the Billabong team, owns the San Juan Surf School where students can learn take lessons or rent boards. I’ve actually even “worked” there for a month right after I graduated from Ateneo – it was a perfect excuse to live the beach life and surf every single day!

My Tips For You: Respect the beach and make sure that you don’t leave any trash behind. If there is anyone directly affected by what happens to the sea or the ocean – it’s the surfers. More and more people come here every year now, which is good for business but also bad for the ocean. So we should all take part in maintining the clealiness of our playground. The locals have clean ups every morning and afternoon and this is something we should learn from. We wouldn’t want to be surfing next to plastic bags now, do we? Also make sure that you know where you are surfing, what goes on around the spot (rips, tides, currents), and proper surf etiquette because not only does it make sure that you have fun and keep you safe, but it’ll also keep others safe.

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