The vast potential of surfing in the Philippines is only starting to be realised. In fact, the 'wave-land' is gaining international repute for what's being called world-class surfing.

"If there's any location on the planet that's holding world-class, unchallenged waves in a phenomenal tropical setting, I would say it's the Philippines."

That is how internationally-recognised US action/sports photojournalist John Callahan describes surfing in some of the best surfing spots in the archipelago.

The vast potential of surfing in the country is only starting to be realised, says Callahan.

Catanduanes, La Union, Zambales, Baler, Daet in the northern island of Luzon and Siargao Island in the southern island of Mindanao, offer spectacular beach break barrels, powerful coral reef tubes and long, empty point breaks which surfers travel the world over to find.

Lying off the northeastern tip of Mindanao, the second largest island of the archipelago, is the surfer's paradise of Siargao.

It is a wave-land that is gaining international reputation for world-class surfing.

The Pacific surf that rolls into the island's southeastern white-sand beach towns of General Luna and Pilar sends up spectacular swells that create some of the best surfing conditions anywhere in Southeast Asia.

Beyond the outlying islands, the sea shelves steeply towards the Philippine Deep, the world's second deepest trench (after Marianas) at more than 10,000 metres below sea level and 80 kms northeast of Siargao.

I like the remoteness of Siargao. The island is relatively isolated and undeveloped.

But it is precisely the isolation that makes it a quintessential nature lover's tropical paradise. And right here in my parents' hometown of General Luna, is where I had my first surfing lesson, naturally, on the most famous wave of them all - Cloud Nine.

An outer reef break world-class righthander, Cloud Nine is best known for its machine-like barrelling perfection, which has been compared to 'Backdoor Pipe' in Hawaii.

"We've had incredible waves in the Philippines, at Cloud Nine and other places on the Pacific Coast," said Callahan, who went back to the island during the recent Siargao Surfing Cup.

The powering surge is rated as the best right hand barrel 'tube' in the world.

Cloud Nine is just one of a series of spectacular surf breaks up and down Siargao's east coast which was discovered and christened by Callahan and his fellow surf explorers on their first major surfing expedition in the early 1990s.

This was followed by the First International Surfing Competition held at Cloud Nine.

Since 1996, the Siargao Surfing Cup has become an annual event, enabling surfers from around the world to get together in the fun-filled sport.

There is cause for optimism that island's eastern coast can achieve its huge potential for surfing and other high-adrenalin water sports.

It was late October, prime time for surfing in Siargao when the southwest monsoon from July to November blows, producing clean swells and offshore winds that create beautiful conditions for wave surfing.

The sea was calling and so early one morning, we walked out to the reef where the waves were breaking and found myself and two of my female friends sitting up on long boards each.

With legs hanging over the water, we bobbed up and down the billowing 2–8 foot waves among an all-male crowd of surfer-tourists in Cloud Nine for our very first lesson in wave surfing.

Local teenage surf champs were our instructors.

We learned how to paddle, practice balance on a sitting up position on the surfboard while chatting, much to our amusement.

Once, we got wiped out as powerful waves crashed into us and knocked us off underwater!

I thought it was going to blow the daylights out of me but I was tied to my leg rope and as soon as the board floated on the surface of the water, I emerged from the depths, laughing at myself.

Huey, the god of Surf, must have smiled down upon us that fateful day for we came out of Cloud Nine unscathed by the jagged coral reef.

Although I wasn't able to pop up or stand up on the surfboard, I tried a little shortcut called kneeboarding.

I did it on one knee first, sliding my front foot up the board, pushed my body backwards until I was in a crouching position.

It was a euphoric sensation to ride on turquoise water as the wave picks you up and accelerates your speed in the water. It's amazing how the mind, body, surfboard and wave all work together perfectly.

Surfing, they say, is the perfect marriage of self-expression, sport and working with natural forces.

I have befriended surfers from all over the world - Guam, Japan, California and Australia, and all of them have affirmed the same belief - the essence of surfing is an intimate relationship with nature. Surfing is about seeking a connection with life. Ocean is a life source and surfing is a gift from an ancient culture which loved the sea.

Back in my room, when it's all very quiet, I can hear from the large window the distant sound of the waves from the Pacific rolling like liquid thunder, pounding the barrier reef. It filled me with a sense of the timeless riches of mother Earth.

Imagine, since the dawn of time, those long lines of tubular waves have been peeling endlessly into the beautiful beaches and breaking perfectly onto rock and coral reefs of the island.

One-time Quicksilver Siargao International Surfing Cup Champion Dave McKinley from Sidney, Australia, described the feeling succinctly, when I asked him what he liked most about surfing.

"Escape. You walk off the beach...paddle...ocean... ocean...escape..."

Siargao is a soul-refreshing escape from the ordinary in the wild and remote.

Siargao Island

Getting there
Siargao Island lies 800 km southeast of the capital of Manila, in the province of Surigao del Norte in Caraga - Region 13, northeastern Mindanao.

Siargao is accessible from the capital of Manila and Cebu City by plane and by ship (SuperFerry 12, 4 times a week). Seventy-five–minute daily flights on Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines or Cebu Pacific from Manila to Cebu. From Mactan Int'l Airport in Cebu, take a 55-minute ride on a 20-seater Seair plane ( to Sayak Airport in Del Carmen, west of Siargao where a vehicle will take you to your resort.

A longer alternate route to Siargao is through the provincial capital of Surigao City, four hours by SuperFerry twice a week. Then, two hours by fastcraft to Dapa, the main town/entry point of Siargao. The surfing town of General Luna is only 14 kms. by land from Dapa.

Where to stay
A resort of charm par excellence and highly recommended in Siargao is the French-owned Pansukian Tropical Resort ( which offers activities such as kayaking, island-hopping, surfing, deep-sea fishing (marlin), trekking, mountain biking, village tours, etc and also arranges chartered flight or helicopter for guests.

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