Swelling from the Surf: Realizations from a Non-Surfer
I honestly have no idea what the buzz is all about. I mean, they’re just a bunch of people on a surf board.
This was my exact thought while gazing out to the coastline of Urbiztondo, San Juan. Of course, I’m a city girl. I’m sheltered and chauffeured. And I’m not cut out for too much sun. How can I possibly see the point of a bunch of people on a board? I just went to La Union for a break from the toxic city, just to have some sort of distance from Manila, and of course, the beach. I stumbled into San Juan and the moment I enter the resort, surfers started to get their boards, and they’re excited. What’s with all the excitement?
The inquisitive mind in me started getting curious. What drove people to surf? I got my laptop and started searching. In an instant, googling seemed to transform in a different level entirely. I didn’t know that using the laptop while facing the beach was that awesome! There’s a cool ocean breeze and the blue sea serves as my foreground. The soft tune of ska music hummed in my ear, and I read on.
Wikipedia served all sorts of information in a sardine can and these new words flashed in front of me– tubes, swells, Polynesian origins, body boards, long boards – the list is endless. I read articles on surfing competitions, non-professional surfers, and a lot of merchandise. The surfing circuit is a sport anyway, and sure, big money is involved. Since I’m not so interested in buying a surf board, I scroll down some more. My curiosity began to overlap.
Among the many surfing spots in the country, La Union is one of the more promising spots. This is because any kind of person can surf here. From beginners to advanced surfers, La Union waters seem to be the most accommodating. Not to mention that it’s only 5 hours by car with the TPLEX extending all the way to Rosario, Pangasinan.
Then I saw two young girls in their bikinis and boards, with the same sun stricken gleam on their faces and a young tan man with long dreads. I overheard their conversation. They’re going out for surf lessons apparently. There’s a surf school here. Could there be hope for me too?
The next day, equipped with information and newfound bravery, I went to my first surf lesson. The lessons were fun, but not easy I admit. Trying to get on the board was a major feat for me as it was, and I spent more time falling off the board than riding an actual wave. I couldn’t even catch a wave. But in the process, I got addicted to it, and became more involved, lessened control, waited for the waves. I was on the surf till noon. It was truly one hell of a workout. Exhausted, I grab a quick lunch and took a nap. The long, sleep deprived hours in Manila has caught on such poison, and the surf just broke it off. By the time I woke up, the sun was starting to set.
So this is what surfing does to a person it seems.
I headed out the beach again and saw the same surfers from that morning, and I was just watching the colors on the horizon shift from brilliant yellow to orange to purple. I felt a transformation coming. It was more of a newfound tranquility, or maybe that feeling of rejuvenation, that light feeling and sense of non-urgency.
A group of people started to hang around the bamboo house by the resort. One guy started strumming a guitar and the others started to bring beer. They called me to join them, and started talking about how the south swell will be better in October. They were busy making travel plans for the next surf break as well. More singing followed. I was surprised to learn that they were from Manila too, and lead lives as busy as mine, but still managed to be in La Union at least twice a month.
“What makes you come back so often?” I asked.
“It’s the surf,” one guy answered. “When we’re here, we just let go and ride the tide. Nothing else matters.”
I began to understand why people were drawn to surf. And my newfound surf brother answered simply. People come here not just for the excitement of the sport. Not even to show off.
What drives people to surf? Surfing is a sport as well a guide to life – and a reminder to just let go.
Surfing taught me that I should just take a board, wait for the swell, surrender to whatever the sea throws at you, and ride the wave the best way you can.
Guest blog by Ana Janecek from visitlaunion.com