With over 7,107 islands and endless miles of reefs and open ocean, one might assume that the Philippines would be considered a world class surfing destination. Well, the truth of the matter is this; the Philippines as a surfing destination is decent, not great. If you want “great” waves in this part of the world you have to go to places like Hawaii, Indonesia, Fiji, and Tahiti.
The Philippines has its share of quality surfing waves but perhaps the main problem here is consistency. Surfers refer to this country as The “Fickle-pines.” More than a few hardy souls have spent life savings to come surf in the Philippines during the known surf seasons only to be left high and dry with at oceans.
There’s a silver lining in all this, however. Said one Japanese surfer who loves the waves in the Philippines; "The key in the Philippines is that it is not so crowded with surfers. It is just not that well-known compared with other places. There are many empty big waves. When waves come we really enjoy it." Said a British surfer, "I'd rather have a second rate wave to myself, than a first class wave with twenty people on it."
But even this happy state of affairs is changing. Fueled by the internet and adventurous youngsters with money, surfing’s going through a bit of a boom in the Philippines. Where once only a handful surfed, now crowds are lling the waters. Luckily it’s not completely out of control yet and you can still enjoy the sport, no matter your competence level.
Here then is a brief guide to some of the more popular surf spots in the Philippines. There are many more good surfing waves than listed here, and we know of a few secret spots that have
yet to make it onto the tourist maps. We don’t, however, want to be responsible for ruining anyone’s secret paradise. Anyway, if you are new to the Philippines surfing scene, we have no doubt that you will soon find others who just may turn you on to their own private surfing heaven.
Have fun and enjoy the ride!
SAN FERNANDO, LA UNION
270 kms north of Manila on the South China Sea, the area around San Fernando, La Union offers up to nine surf breaks, most of which are suitable for even intermediate surfers. The most popular spot is called Monaliza, which breaks just off a nice stretch of beach about three kilometers north of the city of San Fernando in the district of San Juan.
Monaliza is a right hand breaking wave which rarely gets overly big. Monaliza generally appears from October through February especially when a low pressure system is traveling through the South China Sea. The other good waves are up and down the coast from Monaliza. Ask the locals for tips.
Resorts abound in this area and accommodation is no problem. Be forewarned: this wave can get crowded, especially on weekends when a swell comes in, and during surf competitions.
SIARGAO, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
Stunningly beautiful Siargao island is located in northeast Mindanao. The island faces the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Deep, the second deepest water in the world, at more than 11 km below sea level. When this deep ocean water surges toward land and over near-shore reefs, it creates amazing waves.
There are many surf spots on this island that offer waves of varying dif culties. Easily the most popular wave is a spot called Cloud Nine, a powerful right hand reef break which is accessible from the beach. Cloud Nine, which hosts many of the country’s top surf competitions, could be the best wave in the Philippines and is recommended for experienced surfers only. The waves can pick up starting in June but August to November offer the best odds.
20 years ago nobody knew about Cloud Nine but these days, after years of relentless publicity, the wave can get overcrowded. There are several other decent waves nearby which can be surfed by novices and beginners. Hardy souls can hire boats to take them to more remote surf spots with nobody around.
Plenty of development has followed the hype of Cloud Nine so there are lots of reasonably priced places to stay. Siargao is accessible by air from Cebu City, and by sea ferry from Surigao City.
Located in the far reaches of the Bicol region, Catanduanes is a rather out of the way island, but when the surf is happening, it is worth the massive effort to get to. Catanduanes is also an amazingly beautiful island with super friendly people.
The best known surfing wave on the island is called Majestics, located 200 meters off a gorgeous beach in the village of Puraran, which is in the middle of nowhere, two hours drive over curving mountain roads from the capital of Virac.
Majestics is a powerful right hand breaking wave that gets raves from surfers. The fast moving bowl slams down onto the jagged reef below and can be extremely dangerous. There’s also a powerful riptide coursing through the area. The lesson? Only those with experience should attempt to surf this wave.
The best months are during the southwest monsoon, July to November, but even then it’s very unpredictable. The island is also regularly walloped by massive typhoons which are not pleasant to be in. There are several cottage style places to stay on the beach which won’t put you too much out of pocket.
Baler arrived on the Philippine surfing map when the lm Apocalypse Now was filmed in the Philippines in 1975. Remember the famous scene with American GI’s surfing while bombs were being dropped around them? (“I love the smell of napalm in the morning!) That was Baler. The film crew left a few boards behind and the locals took it from there.
Located along the Pacific Ocean, along the northeast coast of Luzon, Baler offers a myriad of spots to surf for all levels of surfers. The relatively difficult accessibility of the province means you will rarely find crowds here. Beginners should check out Sabang Beach with its sandy bottom and shore break. A few minutes walk north of Sabang is Lindy’s Point, which is mostly for experienced surfers. A bit further on is Charlie’s Point, suitable for intermediate surfers. Experienced surfers also rave about Cemento Beach, which requires a short trike ride from Baler proper and a ten minute banca ride to the reef.
The best surf season is from October to March, although the intrepid can surf here year round. There’s plenty of reasonably priced accommodation in Baler, but the province is not always easy to get to. Even the provincial government advises driving a sport utility vehicle over the curving mountainous roads, or taking a public bus. If you’re looking for a variety of good known waves without the crowds, Baler could be your best option.