Stoked /sto?kt/ adj – exhilarated; excited
The feeling most surfers chase after. The feeling that changed my lifestyle. How surfing became part of my life.
How it all started:
What is that one thing that you’ve always wanted to try but you just didn’t have the chance? In 2008, surfing was that “one thing”. Ever since I knew Andy Irons, I’ve always wanted to surf. Seeing him riding those big waves, doing big airs, being inside those huge barrels, I was like “I want that too!” So like a teenager, I downloaded Andy Irons’ wallpaper for my laptop, watched videos, daydreamed about surfing. Surfing was all I can think of.
Just like any dream, there will always be hindrances. There’s work, school, and the biggest hindrance: THE GIRLFRIEND. She never wanted me to try surfing. She was like “it’s too dangerous”, “It’s expensive”, and the very famous line “bahala ka sa buhay mo”. Would you still push the idea if your girlfriend says that? Would you? Really? Yeah, I conceded. But sometimes I’d still bring up the idea. Of course she still isn’t up for it. She’s so not agreed to it that she suggested that I try skimboarding first and showed lots of videos to convince me that it’s cool too. Obviously I said no to skimboarding.
In 2011, a big change in my life happened. All reasons for not surfing were gone (Yeah, we broke up. Move on, man! Even cars in EDSA have already moved on!) One weekend, I woke up and surfing suddenly entered my mind. I asked myself, “What if I go to La Union and surf?” Being objective and all, I used a very scientific way of decision making: TOSS COIN. I told myself, if it shows ‘heads’, I’ll go. If it shows ‘tails’, I won’t. Then I tossed that 5 peso coin, stared at it closely as it slowly flips in the air, slowly, slowly…then BAM! I caught it, put the coin on my forehand covered by my right hand. When I lifted my hands, guess what? HEADS! I couldn’t believe it! I was like “Is this fate? Am I finally going to surf?” Then I wanted to make sure. Tried it the second time. HEADS. Then, I told myself, one last try….you know what happened? I packed my bags and went to La Union. No one disobeys the coin! Three times, ‘heads’ showed up.
How I imagined it:
So I was on my way out, I was really excited. I was all alone, imagining how it would feel, then it hit me: I do not know how to go to La Union! So, I decided to go online for a bit, checked ‘how to go to La Union by bus’ and I was directed to Partas, Cubao terminal. So the journey started.
It was a long bus ride. But I was awake the whole time. Excited to feel the wave, to be standing up, riding the waves one after the other, thinking “I was born for this. I am so going to be good at surfing.”
8am, I arrived at Urbiztondo beach. I got off at the highway right in front of San Juan surf resort. Walked towards the beach, stared at the waves and said, “this is it!” Checked in at Sebay, dropped my stuff, went straight to the surf school.
Surfing in Baler
We had the required on land lessons, safe surfing rules, paddling and popping up. I was straight A’s during the lesson. I told myself, “I’m gonna kill it!” and so I thought.
As we (me and my instructor) head towards the water, I was required to carry my board. It was heavy! Back then, there were no foam boards yet. All are required to use hard boards or epoxy boards. It was okay, it is part of surfing, to carry your own board. As we reach the water, my instructor then told me to put the board down, get on it and start paddling. It got my face lit up. So I paddled, and paddled, and paddled, and paddled, and I got tired. Paddling was hard! Really hard! As we settle at the line up (at the back of where waves break) my instructor gave me further instructions. When he says up, I am to stand up. So, I had my game face on, looking towards the beach, waiting for his instructions, then I heard.. ”ready……UP!”
How it got me hooked:
As I stood up, everything was in slow motion. I couldn’t see other people. It felt as if it was just me and the wave, no one else. It was a great feeling.
Just like what Andy Irons said, ”Surfing, if you catch a good wave, you’re hooked right then and there. You ever heard of being kissed by God? Cause it’s pretty much what it is. It’s the closest thing you can feel, as in being kissed by God. For those 10, 3, 2, 1 seconds, it’s like God came down and gave you a kiss and then you just chase out the whole rest of your life trying to get the first wave, the first barrel, or that first turn. And you get it sometimes but you’re always gonna go back and try to do it better. Do it longer. Do it higher. And I think it’s just being kissed by God.”
I want to feel that again, that first ride. I thought, I was good at riding the waves, I think I can manage without an instructor. I rented a board for half-day. After lunch, got back into the water, started paddling out. All I could think of was riding another wave. That didn’t happen. From 2pm to 6pm, I was just paddling the whole time. I never caught a wave. I was stupid to think that I could do it alone.
I got up on Sunday morning with my arms sore. I couldn’t lift them. They were like noodles! But I still wanted to surf and obviously I will not be able to paddle and catch a wave alone. So I got an instructor again. I asked tips on catching waves, on popping up, on turning, basically I asked a lot ‘coz I wanted to learn, to get better. From that day on, I was surfing every other weekend with an instructor to teach me all that I needed to know.
How I surf now:
In total, I had 4 boards. The first board that I had was a Dalluyon surfboard shaped by Master Guido from La Union. It was an 8’6” thruster setup longboard, 22” wide, 2 3/4” thick. It was a great board, but I had a hard time brining it during travels. So, I sold it to a friend. The second board that I had was a 6’0 fish tail shortboard. Yes, it was a big jump from an 8’6” to 6’0. I thought so too, that’s why I didn’t use it that much. I sold it online. The third board that I got became my all around board. It was a 6’2”x 22” x 2 3/4” twin fin retro fish. It was the board that I use almost all the time. But because of the big jump from 8’6”, it gave me a hard time. There were times that I get to ride it for a short while just once over the weekend. I get frustrated a lot, but it didn’t make me stop surfing. Until I got used to it. Got to ride it a lot, even brought it to Siargao and Bali. That’s when I got my favorite board and 4th board, Dane Reynolds’ design after 4 attempts. The #4 Al Merrick Surfboard.
Chris in Bali
I started surfing in La Union and have been surfing there for almost a year. However, one of the issues there was that it was too crowded. There were lots of people surfing. It’s as if there’s always a party wave. (Party wave: where more than 3 people are riding a single wave). It was annoying, but I just had to move to an open water space. Until a new spot was introduced to me. On the northeast side of the Philippines, it was perfect for me. They said: “Welcome to Baler!”
Waiting for the wave
Baler became my home break. It is where I now surf all the time. The coastline is long, there were few people. If ever there’s a surge in tourists, there are other spots. I forgot about La Union. I knew that Baler will be where I’ll be surfing for the rest of my life.
Surfing in Bali
There are other spots that I surfed as well. There’s Crystal beach and Liwa in Zambales. Great locals, nice waves, long coastline, few tourists. PaRK at Real, Quezon is another option if you want to surf but do not want to spend a lot of time on the road and money on the accommodation. The waves are not as consistent, but when it’s good, it’s really good. And my favorite, Siargao. If you could wish for a place where there are waves everywhere, then go to Siargao. There are spots almost everywhere, even in the middle of the ocean. It’s a reef break so you will need to be extra careful, but because of that, the waves are better! The place is paradise. Lots of foreigners, lots of great surfers, and the waves are so good, you don’t have an option but to become better.
Testing the Waters
I was also given an opportunity to surf outside the country. I went to Bali, Indonesia. 8 days weren’t enough. There are lots of places to go to, awesome spots but you will need more than 2 weeks to fully enjoy it.
Not all the time there will be waves. Not all the time your weekends are free. Not all the time you will have money. Because of those times, you will be stuck here in Manila. For someone who surfs, that’s torture. Thinking, ”how can I get better at surfing if I don’t surf?” However, it didn’t stop me. Other than the normal push-ups and pull-ups, I found a way to practice my balance. I started using an indoboard. It is a small board that you put on top of a cylinder and you balance yourself while riding the board. Easy? Hell no! I dropped a lot of times, sprained my wrist, ankle, and hip. It took me some time before I get used to it.
Another workout that I used is through skateboarding. It helps you with turning, balancing, even positioning of your feet. You will fall a lot as usual, but it helps strengthen your muscle memory. And yes, it replicates the wave riding feeling. All these, I do every day. Why? Because I love surfing. Surfing is my lifestyle.
How it changed my lifestyle:
Surfing is fun, but challenging. It is breathtaking yet, dangerous. Surfing is a lifestyle. You need to commit to become better. The workout is one of the ways to be better, but discipline is what’s important. Waking up 5 in the morning to check the waves and catch those glassy ones. Working out so that you’ll paddle harder, longer, faster. Keeping your mind sharp so that you can have focus and better awareness while in the water. And lastly, keeping in mind that surfing is a fun sport, most specially if shared with someone. Through surfing, I met a lot of important people in my life. I also get to introduce surfing to people who haven’t tried it yet and now have been enjoying it.
Chris and his favorite Surfboard
Just like any sport, if you love it, you work hard for it. The more you work hard, the more you get better. And the more you get better, the more you enjoy it. Keep in mind that the best surfer out there is the one having fun the most.