Surfing 101 at Baler

One of the things I don’t like doing is wondering what could have been. “What if I didn’t try this, will I regret it for the rest of my life?”

This has led me to some questionable decisions in the past, true. But what the hey. So to get it off my chest and out of the way, I went to Baler to try surfing. Para  wala na ang mga what if na yan.

Baler is the provincial capital of Aurora province, 230 kilometers (or 7 hours) northeast of Manila. It was put in the pop culture map when Francis Ford Coppola chose it as one of the locations for Apocalypse Now. The surfing scene was shot on Baler’s Sabang Beach. Surfing’s growing popularity has brought a lot of enthusiasts, and those who would like to learn, to the area. Surf season’s from September until February, so I was just in time.

There are a a lot of surf schools/shops along the beach. Signed up with Mahdox Surf School, owned and managed by multi-awarded surfer Rommel “Okoy” Rojo, who’s a civil engineer by profession.  Surfing is not only a hobby in Baler; it provides extra income/a source of livelihood to this coastal community. Mahdox charges Php350 an hour, which includes the tutorial and surf board rental. Php200 goes to the instructor, which definitely goes a long way.

17-year old Gilagid (nicknamed as such because his gums were a prominent feature when he was a kid) was my instructor for the day. He immediately had me on the board for my first surfing lesson. “Tita, sa may tiyan po ang balanse. Dapat po parating magkadikit ang paa ninyo.” He then shows me how to stand up properly: Raise your upper body in a push up-like position, put your right foot forward, keep the body low and raise your arms for balance.

Hmmm. Fairly simple. So far so good.

Trying it on the water, however, was a different matter.

Paddling wasn’t a problem, as all the waves were awesome. Walang tapong alon. And Gilagid was there to position the board and help me catch a good wave. I just did not have the upper body strength to get.up.the.board.

I asked Gilagid how long it took for him to learn; it took him a week to do it properly, and he tried it every day.  That’s how it is around here, me thinks; learning how to surf is what learning how to ride a bike is to suburban kids.

Some people learn the basics in an hour – you could be among them. It didn’t happen in my case.

But will I try it again? Yes.  I’d like to think that surfing, as in many things worth learning, takes time and a lot of practice.

Let me end this entry with the consuelo for my efforts – lunch at Gerry Shan’s restaurant along Quezon Street. Mixed vegetables and steamed fish with black beans. Php500 feeds three.

Getting to Baler:

Take the Genesis Bus (terminal is along Edsa, past Araneta Center) going to Casiguran. Bus leaves at 1:00 am. Php390, one way. It’s a seven-hour bus ride; get tired out so you could sleep along the way.

Where to stay:

Bay’s Inn has clean and reasonably priced rooms. Best of all, it’s along the beach, so you could get stoked to your heart’s content.


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