When is the last time you did something for the first time? One of the things I love about traveling is that it provides many opportunities to try something you’ve never done before. In San Juan, I experienced a first for me…SURFING!
San Juan is considered to be the surfing capital of the Northern Philippines. There’s no snorkeling or scuba diving here…it’s all about the surf. Resorts are dotted along the coast’s western facing shore. We arrived in the afternoon and went for a walk up and down the coast. There’s a long stretch of wide beach for miles on end.
The next morning, we went for a run along that nice, long stretch of beach.
During our run, we passed by small groups of fishermen pulling in large fishing nets from the sea. All the nets were still out quite a ways and the pulling in looked difficult and slow. It made me wonder how long they spend pulling in each net and what they typically catch. We did not stick around long enough to find out.
Later that morning, we headed to the designated “surf zone”, which is a surf area for the less experienced and for first-timers like me. A few winters back, Jay took a solo trip down to Costa Rica for a week of surf camp, so he already had surfing experience. He opted to just rent a board for the day and go out there on his own. As for me, being the newbie, I opted to take a lesson.
I was a bit afraid about surfing being painful with all the body contact with the board. I was also afraid of losing a toenail in the process (I had one about to fall off on my right foot). But, I decided that I couldn’t let those fears hold me back. I was at a premier spot for surfing and there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to try it. My lesson started with an overview of the basics while still on the beach. I learned the proper positioning on the board, the different ways to pull yourself up to standing position, the correct way to jump off the board so it doesn’t hit you in the head, etc.
After a couple run-throughs, I’m assigned an instructor and we head into the water. But first, a picture…don’t let the smile fool you, my stomach is all butterflies. On the other hand, my instructor looks like he’s ready for business.
Surfing turned out to be more of a workout than I anticipated. It takes quite a bit of core strength. You start by laying on your belly. Then, you paddle hard with your arms (the smaller the waves, the harder you need to paddle). Once you feel the momentum of the wave behind you, you pull yourself up. I used the method of stepping with my right foot then left foot to get to standing position. Once up…you just stay balanced and enjoy the ride.
The instructor was out in the water with me throughout the lesson. He helped me spot when a good wave was coming and to know when to get into position and start paddling. He gave me pointers in between waves. I was getting up on nearly every try, I could hardly believe it! In full disclosure, I was on a beginner board which was really long with a padded grip lining on top. But, at the same time, maybe I was channeling some long-lost genetic inheritance from my dad who was surfer back in his California days?
I can see why people fall in love with surfing. It’s a unique rush to ride a wave. It didn’t take long before I was itching for some bigger waves. The surf wasn’t very powerful that day, so a lot of the waves were pretty small – but maybe that was better for me since I was just learning. Much to my surprise, the surfing wasn’t painful to me. And, at the end of the day, I still had all my toenails. (I was, however, pretty sore in my ribs/abs and neck when I woke up the next morning.)
After our day of surfing, we enjoyed a nice sunset followed by dinner at a restaurant on the beach. We would head to Manila early the next morning.