Years Surfing: I started in 2001 but didn’t really get serious about it until 2005 then switched from trying to go shorter to longer in 2008.
Fave Board: My 9’4 single fin log shaped by Ian Zamora
What/who got you started surfing? It was through a freelance writing assignment that I discovered surfing. I had always been interested, because I have been a beach baby since I was literally a baby. I just didn’t know I could surf here (the Philippines). People have to remember that this was back in the day. Waaaay before Google become a household word. The internet was new and there really wasn’t a lot of stuff online about surfing in the Philippines. Anyway, a travel magazine sent me on assignment to Siargao in 2000 to cover an international comp and it was through that trip that I found out all about surfing in the country and began this journey. I met locals from all over the country, met people who organize surf events, and in one trip, just had all these doors open for me.
What is your philosophy on surfing? Surfing is at once the most individual and most communal sport I have ever been involved in. Each wave is yours. Each session is yours. But you aren’t surfing alone. The line-up becomes this homogeneous being that feeds off each other’s energy. Each wave you take might be yours, but you shouldn’t be taking every wave that comes your way. Someone’s stoke is just as important as yours and it isn’t for me to say that a beginner taking off on whitewash isn’t as happy as the person that just got shacked at the peak.
Long answer short: I believe surfing is for everyone but that if you’re going to go out there, do so with respect for the ocean, for the beach, for everyone else sharing that sacred space with you.
Best wipeout story? We were at this reef break, one of those deals where a boat takes you out then sets anchor just off the break. I was using a 6’0 fat fish and I was adequate on it. Not great, but I knew how to use it. A friend of mine was shooting in the water and asked me to hang on to his board for him. So there I am, sitting so far off the shoulder, it was practically the elbow of the wave, on my board, with his board strapped to my arm. And then it happened. Rogue set. Coming straight for me. I paddle, dragging a board behind me, and barely make it over the first wave. But of course, there’s one right behind it. My friend is yelling “Ditch my board!” and so I do. But it’s too late. The second wave breaks right on top of me and pushes me down. I keep my eyes open so I can see which way is up. And because my eyes are open, I see my board spinning towards me. I get nailed on my hip by my board at the same time my friend’s board slams into my, um, tender region. I am still spinning around (apparently the third wave closed out immediately after I was dragged under). The force of all this water rips my board shorts and bikini bottoms off me. Then, stillness. I swim up, lungs burning, clothing dangling off my leash. I break the surface, gasping for air, also painfully aware that now I am giving serious Winnie the Pooh and need to get my bottoms back on. The boys are paddling towards me, frantically asking if I am okay. And I remember yelling “I’m fine but I’m half naked so turn that camera off.”
I eventually paddle back to boat. And it wasn’t until I was sat there, reaching for water, that the adrenaline wears off and my hands start to shake. I bore some fairly large bruises for a few weeks, but thankfully, didn’t break any bones. It did, however, take me over a year before I paddled out to that spot again.
Most memorable surf moment? I wont pinpoint one particular one but I will say that the ones burned in my memory all carry the same feeling of “too tired to paddle, too stoked to stop.” You know those sessions. The ones where you catch a fun ride and, as you paddle back to the lineup with a grin on your face, you watch your friend make the drop on yet another really fun wave and you just know how stoked your friend is, so that adds to your own personal stockpile of stoke. And it just keeps going on like that until it gets too windy or dark or high tide or low tide to surf.
Too tired to paddle, too stoked to stop. Then you rack the boards, pile in, drive back to wherever and almost fall asleep cos you’re just that exhausted. And you know your body is going to be mean to you in the morning but you don’t mind. It’ll hurt… but it’s the good kind of hurt. Those twinges in your back and shoulders that silently remind you of the session from the day before. And you cant wait to do it all over again.
What do you love/hate about surf culture as it pertains to women surfers? This is very hard for me to answer on a global scale because I have been fortunate to be a woman learning to surf in the Philippines. I never went through the nightmare of aggro men in the lineup that I hear about from other women. The local boys here are generally really supportive and nice. They look out for us in the water, encourage us to learn, and are a little more forgiving than they maybe should be. I don’t know if it is cultural because I can only really speak for myself, my female friends, and our anecdotal experiences. But yeah, it is very rare to hear of a Filipino guy hassling a Filipina in the water.
How has your surfing life in the water affected the rest of your life on land? I say this a lot and I know it sounds trite but surfing saves me over and over again. From myself, mostly, and all the noise in my head. It has taught me so much about patience, about pushing myself past my comfort zone, and about the fine art of letting go (I have control issues, very closely tied into my anxiety). It has given me a sense of priorities about what is really important, what isn’t, and sifting through everything to figure out what falls into which category.
In a very direct way, being able to travel for surf has introduced me to so many different types of people that I may not have met otherwise. And the range for this runs the gamut of the human spectrum; from a fisherman’s son, surfing a beat-up, 4th-hand board that seems more ding repair than actual board to professional surfers that get paid to look good inside a barrel. In that way, surfing has also taught me how to interact with different kinds of people… and how not everyone you meet, you need to like. But the ones you do, they become part of your tribe, long after the tan lines have faded.
In a really roundabout way, it’s also taught me that while surfing is for life, there is so much more to life than just surfing.