A virtually flat sea is not welcoming sight. Particularly when you’re arriving in Baler with surfing in mind. So I was really disappointed to see teeny tiny waves lapping against the Sabang Beach and I thought to myself, “Oh no, I will be surfing baby waves in Baler yet again.”
Despite the initial disappointment, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because those baby waves were what I needed in order to progress to the next level. On the seventh hour of surfing (in my life), I reached several milestones:
- paddling all by myself
- catching a wave by myself
- using a gun surfboard
- angling on a wave
I started out with a 9 ft. 3 in. fibreglass longboard. My first wave was a success and I was feeling really cool. After about the third wave, I was asked to switch boards with one of my colleagues who was having a hard time with her shorter surfboard. This colleague was a real beginner and I wanted everyone to have a good time. So even if I am not a fan of soft tops, I began using an 8 ft. soft top board on a few waves. Then another one of my colleagues said she wasn’t feeling her gun surfboard and since I have been itching to try shorter boards since March, we agreed to swap boards.
And there I was, using this gun surfboard that was only 7 feet long. Guns have narrower noses and tails than most surfboards and are intended to be used in big waves. But even if I was surfing baby waves, I was still able to have fun with it. My first wave with the gun was an unexpected success and I was able to ride to the shore. It was faster than using a longboard and since it was narrower, I felt like I was wobbling the whole time. Then I started practicing my paddling and I was able to paddle back to my instructor all by myself, successfully avoiding being toppled over by oncoming waves. That in itself felt like a really big feat!
Then my very cool instructor Jayjay from Mahusay Surf School, who was very acquiescent in all my surfing whims let me try to catch a wave by myself. Of course he still chose the waves that I would ride but instead of just telling me to go and stand up at the right moment, he let me “feel” the right time. So, as I felt the wave lift me and my board, I paddled as hard and as fast as I could and then I stood up. And there I was, catching my first wave and riding it with my gun surf board!
Jayjay was super proud of me so we went on to try angling on a wave. I am regular footed (left foot forward) and I have a natural tendency to ride to the left. And on this one wave, I was able to paddle and catch a wave all by myself then later on angle to the left as I ride to the shore using a gun surfboard. It was a super fabulous feeling!
The only problem was that since the waves were tiny and so far in between, I always have a go at the same time that my officemates did so there were times that we would collide. Because of that, it was time to try angling to the right. I wasn’t very successful with that one and I wiped our several times. But it was still fun! The hour ended with me on a great surfing high which extended to the next day.
My 8th surfing hour was all about a funboard. Due to this (over)confidence that I gained from the previous day’s successes, I immediately dismissed the longboard and opted for a 7ft funboard. The funboard is different from the gun because it had a wider nose and tail. Plus, the board I got felt lighter. My instructor for that round was JokJok because Jayjay had been assigned to one of my colleagues already. It was a real shame because Jokjok seemed like he wasn’t really into teaching that day. It was really evident from the first wave because he positioned me in the middle of the others and in direct line with my colleagues who were blissfully swimming. After I almost crashed into another student and into my swimming colleagues, the other instructors were cursing at Jokjok and we had to relocate.
So there we were on the rightmost end of the line up and it still wasn’t a good idea because since I have a tendency to angle to the left, I kept crossing paths with my other colleagues. And since the funboard was easy to maneuver, I kept crashing into them.
One more milestone that I was able to reach that day was that I was able to turn my surfboard while I was sitting on it. I mean, while waiting for a good wave, my instructor made me straddle the board while I was facing towards the open sea and I made these slight paddling motions with my hands and managed to turn my board towards the shore. Then came the catching of a wave, then a fast ride then paddling back to my instructor. It was pure fun with my funboard!
Now, I’m thinking that the only thing that remains to be achieved in order to graduate from beginnership was to learn how to read swells. I am yet to tell one good wave from the other and I have to learn this in order to surf by myself. My instructor already gave me a go signal to surf by myself but I have no illusions yet of the veracity of this statement (given his state of being and the size of the waves that day). I’m still hesitant to go surfing by myself and I still need the assurance that someone is nearby to rescue me (from panic) when I need it.
Thus the surfing weekend ended and I left Baler on cloud nine like I rode one.
10-11 August 2013
***Some of the photos are courtesy of Edison Reyes.