|That's me on the surfboard in my Chris Mullin G-State Warriors jersey. Had so much fun doing this.|
This appears in the Monday September 9, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.
Life in a Northern Town Part Three
Surfing in Urbiztondo, La Union
by rick olivares
That’s one off my bucket list – surfing.
Before I tell you all about the end of my three-day work/vacation up north, let me backtrack.
A couple of years ago, in one of my columns in the Business Mirror, I wrote a piece titled, ‘Exorcising Benchley’. In that column, I wrote about reclaiming my passion for the sea after a terrifying shark encounter off the coast of Batangas that left me shaken and since avoiding the waters.
I was in the water along with several of my cousins when one of my relatives screamed, “Shark!” At first, we thought it was one of my cousins who was fooling around. It took us a frantic several seconds before we spotted a fin from a distance. I remember feeling a wave of panic take over me but instead of freezing, I swam back to the yacht. I must have broken the world record for freestyle swimming that day.
We all made it up just in time as the shark, a huge one, circled around the boat for a few minutes, perhaps upset that it had missed its meal.
I used to love swimming in the sea sometimes even going all the way to the deeper parts. But that first hand encounter with one of the most frightening creatures on this earth along with the film adaptation of author Peter Benchley’s book, ‘Jaws’, left me with a pathological fear of the deep waters.
I started to battle my fear of the water several years ago when I accepted a invitation for a yacht ride from Subic to Manila (that was postponed because of a row the boat owner had with the Manila Yacht Club).
On a three-day pseudo-working trip up north to La Union, Baguio, and Benguet, I capped it off with surfing in Urbiztondo, considered as the surfing capital of the country.
After interviewing local surfing celebrity Jay-R Esquivel for a story and a video, I picked up a surfboard and headed out to the waters for the first time in my life.
I know that the local surfers pray for bad weather because it means higher waves but I am grateful that the waves weren’t rough or high enough as it makes it perfect for newbies like me. As I have always been athletic, it makes easier to absorb the teachings of the instructor I had. I listened to the rules on safety and perhaps the most important, finding balance atop that surfboard (I was given one of the more dangerous boards but don’t ask me why because I don’t know).
After I mounted the board, I waited for a suitable wave. I didn’t have to wait long. My instructor, named Bash, was very calm, very reassuring. He gave me the confidence I needed to go out there, get up on that board and not be afraid.
“Go. Get up.” He said.
I felt the board launch and immediately moved my left foot forward as I was instructed (I am a lefty). I struggled for a second to balance myself before I got it right including the proper way to bend and wooo. I let out a yell. Not so bad as I made all the way to the beach without falling off and making a fool of myself.
Bash waded over and said, “Very good. Not bad for a first timer. Once you do it again and again, it will become a lot easier.”
I headed out there to wait for the next big wave. There was another surge of excitement that I felt shoot up from my feet to my head as I launched out to ride the next wave. This time, I got up a lot quicker and did even better.
One of the other surfers on the beach complimented me, “Not bad. Looking like a pro for a first timer,” he remarked. I only later realized that was Luke Landrigan, the Australian-Filipino who along with his father, Brian, put San Juan, La Union on the tourist and surfing map in the Philippines. “That made me feel really good after.”
I realized on my third surf, I had tunnel vision, I could only see the tip of the board, the waters around me and the surfers nearby. I couldn’t see the beach or the people loitering about. I felt it allowed me to focus and get better at mounting the board and riding that wave.
By the noontime, I was done. Bash gave me a high five. I not at all spent but exhilarated. In fact, I felt I could do it all day. It was the perfect way to cap the three-days up here in the north.
I used to watch all these surfing competitions on television and would admire these men and women who rode these terrifying yet beautiful waves. I am of course a long way from going out to the deeper parts and riding those huge and massive waves that made surfers like Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, and Taj Burrow famous. And certainly, no way have I beaten my fear of the sea. But for one day, I took a step or a surf in reclaiming my love for it.
Here are my diaries from the past few days up here in La Union, Baguio and Benguet: