· By Maria Nilsson
Philippines with Paris
The Philippines consists of about 7641 islands. To many people it would seem overwhelming to choose which islands to venture to, for me it was easy. Siargao Island is the capital of surfing in the Philippines. Pronounced shar-gow, it is a small tear-drop shaped island in the SE of the country. I found it difficult to research the surf before I went. I read a lot of mixed reviews. I knew I had to go there and see for myself.
I am not a great planner. I just book flights to places that I want to surf and think I will figure out the rest later but the truth is I never figure out the rest. Siargao is great for anyone who sucks at planning. I got off the plane, walked across the tarmac and entered the small shed that was the airport. I waited for my boards with the other 60 people who just arrived on the same tiny aircraft. I didn’t have a sim card, there was no wifi, I didn’t know the location of my accomodation and I didn’t have any way of getting there. Luckily for me when I got my boards and walked outside into the dense humidity there were shared taxis that would drive me 90 minutes to the main village and tourist destination, General Luna.
The island is small and has decent roads so riding a bike was no problem. There were so many places to surf! I do need to let you know that every spot I surfed was reef. I found the reef to be quite soft so if you wipeout there’s not much to fear. The bottom of my feet copped a few cuts from walking over the reef to get to the boats but maybe I am just clumsy!
As soon as I got the chance I caught a boat out to Rock Island. It is a gentle right hander that breaks off a tiny rock island (as the name suggests). Just to the left of this is Stimpy’s. It is a left hander that breaks off another small island. It is a nice set up to split the crowd. Most of the local boat drivers are surfers too. They will surf with you until you decide it is time to go. There are places to surf if you don’t want to catch a boat every day though. I surfed Cloud 9 and Jacking Horse a few times but I there are better breaks around if you are up for some exploring.
My favourite break was an hour bike ride from General Luna. My hands got so sunburnt that they peeled from riding there so many days in a row. It is a tiny village with one shop that is inside a family’s home! The first time I surfed it there was no one else in the water. It was phenomenal! I was squealing and yewing every time I paddled for a wave. It felt surreal. I am sure the boat driver thought I was crazy but maybe I am! I still think about that break almost every day still.
There is more to Siargao than just surfing. The water is perfect for diving. The landscape is stunning! There are waterfalls, palm tree forests and lagoons scattered all over the island. However, the most amazing part of the island is the people! The locals are beautiful. Everyone I met was so friendly and helpful. Some of the locals are unreal surfers too! If you plan on travelling to Siargao I would suggest doing some research to make sure you are supporting local businesses. Tourism is huge but the money should stay on the island not got to overseas investors. I stayed at Amihan Bungalowsand I would recommend it to anyone. Danico is a legend.
The locals take really good care of the island and their people. The island has a solid environmental approach to tourism. Most stores don’t have plastic bags. They encourage you to bring your own. Bamboo straws are another way the locals combat the issue of plastic on the island. Siaragao a few non-profit organisations that manage are making a positive impact;
- SEA Movementinitiates and executes environmental awareness and protection projects with the goal of making Siargao Island the country’s leader in sustainable tourism! They run a beach clean up every Saturday. The kids love it!
- Grom Nationoffers local kids free surf lessons and surfing activities in exchange for signing up to a mentorship program. Through this program, kids are encouraged to value education and their own potential by encouraging school enrolment, attendance and grades. Children are required to attend life-skills workshops, that are educating them on the most crucial issues that are not covered in school on the island.
Siargao has it all. I know I will definitely be back soon.