10 Things To Pack for a Surf Trip by Gretchen Que

While packing itself is a tricky art to master, traveling with a surfboard demands more attention than the usual underwear-count concerns. Just like any other skill, you’ll get better over time as you learn from mistakes. But here at Surfista Travels Philippines, we’ve gone the extra mile by making (and learning from) all these blunders for you, so you can skip through the hassle.
You might want to bookmark or print out this list for your next surf trip, to ensure that you’ve got everything together. After all, borrowing might not be an option as your friends could already be at the line up by the time you figure out you’ve left something. Let’s start with things you absolutely must not leave behind, then work our way down to things you might be able to make diskarte for.
gretch blog

Gretch (far right) on a surf trip with her friends and fellow Surfistas!

10. Key to your tie-downs/roof rack
When you leave this behind, the trip is over even before it begins. You can always cut your way through your tie downs, but that creates the new problem of how you’ll drive your board home. Turning to sampayan strings won’t do, as the drag created by your accelerating car will surely flip your board off the roof. Personally, I secure my tie-down key with my car key so I only keep track of “one” thing.

Tie downs are very important for a surf trip. A couple of macho surfer boys don’t hurt either! ;) Mark Mabanag & Luke Landrigan being wonderful caddies on a surf trip!

9. Fins, Fin Key, Back Up Screws 
Your friends love you to death, but there is absolutely no way they could get you out of this one, short of lending you their board. And that means, one sits out while the other rides. Store your fins in your board bag to ensure that they always come with your board. Know what type of key your fins require: FCS keys are shaped differently from Futures keys, and even within the same brand the models could vary. Just as there are different keys, there are different screw sizes. Make sure you have the correct back ups in case the sand decides to eat up your teeny screw. To keep them all together, I use a Sticky Bumps fin bag where I also store my wax.
8. Leash
The locals and the surf schools could probably cover your ass on this one, but you might not be able to surf at your optimum. Surfing with your own leash that meets your body and board length specifications ensures your safety and of those around you. Using your own leash also means that the length is suitable for the types of maneuvers that you’re practicing for.
7. Foil Tape & Duct Tape
It is heartbreaking, but dings and cracks happen even to the best boards. After silently weeping, you can perform a “first aid” to save your session until you get your board properly repaired. Use your hands to feel your board through. Once you find the ding, dry that part with a towel. Cut/tear off a section of foil tape and fully cover the ding. This layer temporarily waterproofs the crack. Then, cut off a slightly larger piece of duct tape to stick over the foil tape as foil easily tears. If in La Union, you may seek out Aki San for his board repair expertise.

Dings, broken boards, injuries are always part of the surf adventure. Be prepared!

6. First Aid Kit (for yourself)
We love our boards but we’ve got to love ourselves too! Remember, safety above all else. A little scratch here and there is inevitable, but fin cuts and deep reef cuts require professional medical attention. And NO peeing on jellyfish stings. Just no.
5. Wax
Because otherwise, shame on you.
4. Dry Bag
Getting in that last surf session right before heading home is totally worth it. But that leaves your clothes with no time to dry. Bring an extra bag made of canvass to store your wet stuff in.
3. Treats for the Locals
This entire list is written under the (duh) assumption that you already have your own board. Which means that you’ve been surfing for a while. Which means you KNOW the locals. Never forget those who pushed you into your first wave. The guys who cheered you on as you dropped in on THEIR wave. The people who shared their food, their beer, and their secret spots with you. Chips and drinks are always welcome. Sometimes, I bring them free stickers and shirts I get from surf brands I support. :)

Locals love stickers!

2. 90s Music
If I’m driving and you’re not, you better start singing.

It’s always good to have good vibes and good music with you on your trip.

1. Underpants
This item makes the bottom of the list, but important still. You are expected to bring at least one more pair apart from the ones you’re already wearing on your way there.

We know you don’t need to wear a lot to go surfing and the hot weather makes us want to take our clothes off, but yes… bring extra underpants. ;)

The best tip I can offer is to keep everything together as much as you can. I have a bag that’s dedicated to surfing and nothing else. This way, I simply have to return all of my gear in the same bag after they dry. Best of all, I don’t have to pack and unpack for every trip. Do yourself a favor and spend more time surfing and less time looking for things. See you at the line up. :)


Check out our TOURS & PACKAGES.




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Top 10 Reasons why Surfista Travels is the BEST!

by Moireen Espinosa

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to surfing, but I’ve been meaning to try surfing for ages. When I started learning how to surf and did my share of research, I stumbled upon Surfista Travels Philippines.  Here are the top 10 reasons (because I could list a whole lot more) why for me, Surfista Travels is THE BEST!

Moi has always been a fan of Surfista Travels and last year, she finally made her dreams come true and joined a Surfista trip! ;)


Surfista Travels makes sure that each trip has a touch of love and care! Aside from the surfing itself, each trip is filled with activities suited to maximize the trip where the group is in. For example, if the trip is in Baler, the group gets to visit the Oldest Balete Tree and the Mother Falls. If it’s in La Union, there are waterfalls called Tangadan Falls.  There are mini-ice breaker activities per trip that will be conducted such as a kris-kringle which I experienced during the La Union Surf Trip I attended last December 2013. Elaine Abonal of Surfista Travels keeps everyone involved and excited, which I love.

Island hopping with the Surfistas who went to Siargao! Every trip and group is PERSONALIZED, which makes every Surfista experience memorable!

 2. They make sure of the QUALITY of everything.

Surfista Travels works with surf schools that have certified instructors, resorts with quality service and amenities, and sponsors that provide products geared towards a safer surf environment. All these are important because the aim of Surfista Travels is to help groups of people to get to the best surf spots, surf resorts and surf schools while making it easy, convenient, and fun!

Surfista Travels only works with the BEST. Here is pro surfer Luke Landrigan personally giving surfing basics to Surfistas.

 3. They’re actually LEGIT!

Elaine Abonal of Surfista Travels is based in Manila and has been surfing, traveling around the Philippines and bringing friends to different surf spots for the past 10 years. She is currently a brand ambassador for GoPro Philippines, Hurley Philippines, VMV Hypoallergenics Philippines, Breo, Lightwater, Vitaminboost,  Nalgene Philippines, Sea To Summit Philippines, Zem Gear Philippines and Agos Pilipinas  and has also recently received her First Aid Certification from Philippine First Aid. How’s that for being legit?

Surfista Travels Founder Elaine Abonal with Moireen Espinosa

 4. COMMUNICATION is the key for Surfista Travels.

From pre to post surf trip, all you’d worry about is the #SEApanx and you’d be eager to join the next Surfista Trip. Elaine Abonal, the owner and founder of Surfista Travels, always makes sure that every detail of each trip is well-coordinated.  Surfista Travels has a website and social media accounts where Elaine posts updates about trips, deadlines, merchandise and such. She also makes a point to send reminders via email and SMS to participants regarding the trip they signed up for.

Elaine Abonal is known for and remembered by Surfistas as very organized and friendly – it’s as if you’ve known each other for a long time and are hanging out with an old friend.


People from different parts of the Philippines and other countries book with Surfista Travels because the process is simple and is hassle free! Surfista Travels takes the on the “spirit of surf travel” and makes it just pure FUN and STRESS FREE for ALL participants – from finding a place to stay, transportation to and from the surf spot; Surfista Travels takes care of everything!

No worries. Just join a Surfista trip and your main job is to HAVE FUN!

 6. They’ve got PASSION: Commitment to the Environment.

Elaine, through Surfista Travels, spreads her love of surfing. Surfista Travels is not just a surf tour company but it is also focused on the promotion of eco-surf / sustainable tourism . Surfista Travels has been an inspiration and a way for participants to reachout through activities such as Beach Cleanups to keep the environment safe and clean for both humans and mother nature.

Surfista Travels makes sure that we never leave any of our trash whenever we go on surf spots. We also heave beach clean ups to teach Surfistas the importance of showing the locals that we care for and respect their beaches.

 7. You’ll always be with GOOD COMPANY.

Being part of Surfista Travels is more than just the surfing experience per se, but being around people who you would share the same stoked feeling –regardless of the skill level in surfing. You’d likely meet people from different walks of life but at the end of the trip, you’d find yourself with a bunch of new found bffs.

Moireen Espinosa with her Surfista Travels group to La Union

 8. TRAVEL – what else!?

Surfing here would need to take hours of travel time – so this would also feed you’re your craving to travel! Surfista Travels offer different packages to different awesome surf spots such as La Union, Baler, and Siargao. Surfista Travels will surely bring you to the best surf spots at the right time for both beginners and intermediate surfers.

From beginners to advanced surfers – such as this TV crew from Montreal Canada who did a TV show called OuiSurf – Surfista Travels can provide you the service and information you need – especially when it comes to surf travel.

 9. Surfista Travels really live the SURFING LIFESTYLE.

Unlike what other people think, surfing isn’t a cliquish sport. Since you spend time with people and met new people at the same time, in the long run it’s a very welcoming community – and Surfista Travels takes this into account. But surfing is not just about getting in the water and riding waves, but it’s about relationships with Surfista Participants, the locals, and the environment.


10. Last but not the least – SURFING!

Of course! Why join Surfista Travels if surfing isn’t in the list? Add to it the stoked feeling after you ride your first wave. Oh! And those muscles you didn’t know existed? They will surely ache but it’s worth it! Sooner you’d be ripped in no time! Once you start have that first ride on a wave, it is feels awesome! And since every wave is different, you’d get addicted to it!

Moi’s game face is ON! Learning how to surf with Surfista Travels is one of the best experiences you can give to your family, friends, and especially yourself.


Check out our TOURS & PACKAGES.




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SUR-FLAIR-STA : Surfista Travels La Union Video with Flair ;)

One of the many awesome things about Surfista Travels is the many awesome Surfistas that we get to meet and the videos that they make after every trip. We love this video by flair bartender and Surfista Larry Guevara because he shows his adventure and adding a touch of his flair too. Check it out! ;)


Surfista Siargao by Nette Guevarra

Over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to live by three things: 1. Get out of my comfort zone 2. Let go of things, situations and people I cannot control 3. Listen to my intuition and let it lead the way. It wasn’t easy at first.  But once I learned to do these, my world totally changed.

All these Surfistas actually travelled solo and went home with a set of new friends!

Our first day and first meal at the Sagana Resort in Siargao: Nette, Frances, Jannelle, Camille and Jovanne

Because of these three simple mantras, with the help of a positive attitude, the Universe hurled me into situations and people that made my heart sing.  And SURFING is definitely one of them.

Siargao is a surfer’s paradise!

I have pretty much engaged in different sports and extra-curricular activities since childhood, but I must say, SURFING takes the cake!  I have a tinge of regret I didn’t learn this sport sooner, but as they say, it is never too late.  Traveling solo on a remote island for 6 days to try surfing (on the reef breaks at that) sounded like a bold and unconventional sabbatical to some people.  But to me, it was the BEST thing I have ever done for myself this year!  I have always wanted to surf, and I really think that the Universe was kind enough to make it happen. I stumbled upon the Surfista Travels Philippines page on Facebook, then saw cheap airline tickets to Manila & Siargao, and realized it was a public holiday/long weekend in Malaysia during that Surfista trip.  Thank you, Universe!

So glad to have stumbled upon Surfista Travels Philippines on Facebook!

Soooo much freebies from Surfista sponsors!! Every peso spent on this trip was worth it!

I thought about it for a few days and I cringed at the thought of me falling off my board and hitting my face or head on the reefs, rocks or other people’s surf boards. But despite my daunting thoughts, I listened to my gut.  You’ll never know until you try.  So I went.  Carpe Diem, baby!

Carpe diem! THIS is what my decision has brought me to: paradise, beautiful waters and beautiful people.

It was my first time to visit Siargao Island and I totally fell in love with it!  The clear blue sea, the inviting waves and Cloud 9 tower alone was just magnificent.  I speak for all beach lovers out there when I say that there’s definitely something about the sea that calms people down, humbles them, heals them and puts things into perspective.  To me it clearly explained why the Siargaonons exuded nothing but genuine warmth, kindness and compassion. Working and living in a busy raucous city in Malaysia, I greatly appreciated the simple island life and the kindness of its people.  Our surf instructors were patient, happy-go-lucky and by far, the most humble mentors I have met.  They were quiet and gentle with us, but these people are fearless in the water and even charge epic 10-foot barreling waves in international surf competitions! Amazing!

Nette and her instructor and also champ Filipino surfer – Carlito Nogalo

Each Surfista instructor was handpicked because Surfista Travels only works with the BEST! All these Siargao surfers are amazing – both in and out of the water.

The six days spent surfing taught me a lot of things as compared to other sports I’ve engaged in.  It taught me the value of patience and resilience.  It constantly reminded me to go with the flow, to let go, to rise back up, and repeat.  I was so tense in my first 2 tries to ride the waves with my 9-foot soft top longboard, struggling to stand up and all.  “Keep in mind that it is okay to fall off your board.  It’s okay.  Just let yourself fall.  What matters is that you quickly rise up on that board to strike that balance with the waves.  It will be all over in a matter of seconds, so you have to be quick to rise and feel it.  When you fall off, paddle back up here and then repeat.”  Those few words from Carlito, my surf instructor, and for some reason it got to me because it not only referred to surfing, but those words reminded me so much about life. 

Finally surfing!!!!!!!!!

True enough, the next few rides after that were absolute FUN.  I couldn’t get enough of it!  I found myself paddling around the impact zone, braving those sets of crashing waves one after the other, and paddling back to the lineup to catch more waves.  The surf stoke is pretty much an amazing and overwhelming feeling, that I didn’t mind paddling back and forth, even if my arms felt like jello and even if I was so freakin’ tired from all that paddling (yeah, I’m outta shape haha).  In our last 2 days, I was having so much fun that I lost track of time and didn’t notice I was surfing for 2 hours straight.  

Photo shoots, island hopping, new friends, good vibes, eating freshly grilled seafood – other highlights of the surf and island life.

Surfing isn’t always competitive.  It is also something that you do just for the fun of it; It is something that gets you on a natural high (a.k.a stoke) which only the ocean and the waves can give you. It is something you do on your own, and yet you feel so connected to everything and everyone. It is a sport which very much resonates Life’s metaphors.

Playing volleyball and soccer when not surfing – how beautiful is our playground?

IMG_0040 Not only did I enjoy the surfing in my trip, but I loved the company. I had no idea that the rest of the group were solo travelers, like me!  The Surfistas were a diverse group – everyone was open to anything and despite our varying backgrounds, professions, ages and races, we all found ourselves laughing and enjoying each others company.

At night, we tried different restaurants around the island. Here we were having the best pizza  in the island – probably in the Philippines – haha at the Kalinaw Resort.

Here’s what else I loved: those warm “Good Morning” greets, at ANY time of the day.  Hopping to Dako, Guyam and Naked Islands.  Crazy photo and video shoots everywhere we go.  Volleyball and football games on the sand.  Climbing limestone rocks.  The medium-sized green snake we met along the way during our trek.  Making that proverbial jump into Magpupungko’s tidal pools.  Fun habal-habal rides to and fro Cloud 9.  Elaine’s crazy pickup lines.  Those long refreshing walks in Boardwalk before surfing.  Red wine and five enormous pizzas, over good conversations and hearty laughter in Kalinaw.  Yummy 15-peso bulillit burgers. Yummy pancit and veggie burgers in Sagana Resort with Sue.  Early morning surf lessons with our surf heroes – Carlito, Piso, Chongky, Manette and Marama.  Jangol juice and disco-dancing at Jangol Disco.  Gianni’s sumptuous pasta and sun-dried tomatoes.  Complimentary wine and Tanduay rhum shots in Kermit.  Hearty post-surf breakfasts in Kermit.  Eloy’s famous Kinilaw.  Hammock snooze sessions.  Relaxing body massages after surfing.  Yoga classes with our Lagu blankets.  Sentiments, chikas, laughter and random life stories shared on the island.  Hermit crabs of different shapes and colours.  Bahay kubos. Dream catchers. Siargaonons’ genuine kindness and compassion.  Humble surf champs as our instructors.  The simple laid-back island life.  My first surf.  My first time to jump off a huge limestone rock formation (wearing a bikini).  My first tattoo.  

The trip and surfing left such an impression that a tattoo had to be made!!

Enjoying local life by having 40 peso burgers by the boulevard – they were pretty good too! :)

So what happened when I followed my intuition?  I got back home more suntanned, bruised all over, with jelly arms and an aching body from all the surfing and traveling.   Despite those things though, I couldn’t care less.  What mattered is I went back home rejuvenated with a surf stoke that would last me til my next surf, a smile plastered on my face and precious memories of surfing, Siargao and all those free-spirited new found friends I have met along the way.  Frankly, I would not have done it any other way.  And I will definitely go back for more ;)

All smiles at the Kermit Surf and Dive Resort with owner Gianni – where we stayed

with Surfista Travels’ Elaine Abonal, my certificate and PROOF that I surfed, and Gianni of Kermit Surf and Dive Resort in Siargao

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By JJ Ferrer

The day before my flight to Siargao, I spent an entire afternoon at work deciding how I would write my out-of-office email message. I considerately decided that Thank you for your email, I will be out of office to go surfing on a beautiful island for six glorious days and do awesome things that awesome people do on an awesome vacation with my fellow Surfistas would be a ruthless thing to send to anyone who would read it while they’re at work. I leaned towards simplicity and just wrote that I’ll be out of office and will respond to their mail when I get back.

Dreaming of Siargao even before getting there!

By midnight, sheer excitement has prompted me that I will not get any sleep. I’ve already checked my bags twice. I’ve went over my Surfista goodies and tried to fit all the shirts, accessories and baller bands to pass time. Hmmm… maybe I’ll just drink one of those hot chocolate freebies while I do swimsuit inventory.


Our Surfista group for August 2013 and our local instructors – who are also the best surfers in the country!

The major element of the Surfista Siargao trip would definitely be the everyday surf. That’s good vibes on a daily basis! And if that’s not cool enough, we got partnered with super-skilled instructors who were as pleasant to surf with as they are to watch while they do surf tricks. (Note to self:  Learn the specific names of those surf tricks so I wouldn’t be mentioning “tricks” repeatedly!) They were also such warm and fun people who were so helpful in sharing their expertise. It feels so unreal to have surfed at Siargao with those legends.

with my instructor Eloy – big wave surfer, boat man, kinilaw chef, super awesome surf instructor and all around nice guy!

We’ve also explored other nearby surf spots and it was a quite an excitement. But I’d say it was pretty intimidating, too. For someone who just started surfing early this year, I’ve never really had that much experience on varying waves. Add to that the fact that I’ve never surfed on a reef break before. (Thank goodness for reef shoes!)  There were spots where the waves are bigger than what I am used to. Frankly, I think I grew solid guts because of this entire surf experience.

Surfing in paradise!!!!!



Siargao is well-known for surfing but there are other cool things to do there. One of our sunny mornings was spent jumping off rocks and dipping in the clear waters at Magpupungko Rock Pools. That one’s rather memorable because I somehow confounded my height fright that day. Awesome feeling.

Siargao is beautiful and there are so many places to visit!

Heading to the Magpupungko rock pools with fellow Surfistas

Jumping into the rock pool!! We all did it and dedicated to something we all needed to let go of! ;)

We also had a free day so we decided to use up a couple of hours to go carabao-riding. Chelle, one of the Surfistas, and I decided to add a dash of fun by wearing our dresses to this happy occasion. If you’re gonna do it, do it with flair, right? I consider this one of the many amusing highlights of the trip.

Carabao riding in style!

Kevin riding the carabao like a boss!

And how could I forget the trip to three islands in one day? We started the island hopping in the morning and as we walk through the woodlands to get to the dock where our boat was waiting for us, one of our local guides casually instructed us to watch out for snakes. Uhm, what?!? Did she say snakes? I thought that was a fairly good reason to faint out of terror but then I also thought it would be a good story to tell if we did encounter snakes. We didn’t. But there’s still the interesting story about the three islands we went to, the hearty lunch we enjoyed together, the glorious nap underneath a tree, the ukulele jam session, the good swim we had, and the golden tan that I’m too happy to have gotten so I cannot stop boasting about it up until the present time. (Sorry, jealous friends. #sorrynotsorry)

Freshly grilled seafood, mangoes and banana, rice for our simple island hopping lunch – it was SO GOOD.

More tropical fruits for dessert – watermelon for a hot hot day.

Chill lunch!

Of course we had to have that jump shot in Guyam Island.


I’m just so glad to have met people who were as ready as I was for whatever the island had to give. The very first night at the place, we heard about Jungle Disco (aka Jangol Deesco). It wasn’t part of the trip’s itinerary but we were so game for the island life and we were ready to roll! So what if we haven’t slept the night before? We excitedly waited for midnight and went to the disco! I actually pictured it to be in the middle of the jungle because it was called Jungle Disco, right? But no, it’s not literally on a jungle, but yes, there was dancing. And the finest part — Jungle Juice — the yummy drink that established the birth of our group’s name the Nutty Jangol Juice Surfistas.

My awesome group the Nutty Jangol Surfistas (missing Niko in the photo!)

 Some nights we spent looking up at the sky and watching countless stars. It was beautiful and that’s definitely something you can’t do in the city. On starless nights because of rain, our group always found a way to do something fun and hilarious.  We had game nights and some nights were just spent talking — one minute were talking about our odd future plans (keyword: mermaid), next minute we were discussing books and another minute were singing Saging lang ang may Puso remix version. We were nuts!


 The skies were dark on the day we were leaving. All of us Surfistas were just silently sitting on Siargao Airport’s waiting area, bracing ourselves for our normal city lives. We were waiting for quite a while when someone announced that our flights got cancelled because of the weather. We all looked at each other, wordless, emotionless. (Another version of this story is that there was a resounding YAY heard in the entire airport but this has yet to be confirmed).  There was so much work to do in the city but who are we to fight the forces of nature, right?? ;) Maybe the island wasn’t ready to see us leave.

One of our extra days was spent going to Sohoton to check out the caves and lagoons. It took hours to get there but the view, the encounter with stingless jellyfish, the caving experience and the chance to jump off a cliff again were definitely worth the time. The rest of the days were dedicated to added crazy talks, even more food and of course, more surf time.

with Gianni of Kermit Surf & Dive EcoCamp and Elaine Abonal of Surfista Travels

On the whole, I can absolutely say that the SURFISTA SIARGAO trip I signed up for falls under the Awesome Surf Trip category. Every aspect of the surf experience was terrific, the other activities were fun, the people I’ve met were amazing, the resort (Kermit Surf & Dive Resort, check them out!) and the folks there were so cool and Elaine did a lot of awesome work to make sure that our trip goes smoothly. I would definitely do it again. Definitely.

I would totally go back. I’ll never forget this Surfista in Siargao experience!!





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