Surfing is one water sport that's very hard to master because it requires some basic knowledge in swimming, balancing and waves spotting that will drain your endurance of countless of times you tried to stand in the board. Most importantly you can only do all that in some rare beaches in the world that caters your need for tsunami-like waves and this is where this tear-shaped island directly facing the Southern Pacific comes into play. Siargao stands out the most in the whole country and also the world because of it's reputation of the infamous thick, hollow tubes waves known as "Cloud 9" it is one of only a few waves which is easily accessible without a boat, leading to overcrowding and thus some surfer calls is 'Crowd 9'. Siargao is now coined as the best surfing spot in southeast asia surpassing even Thailand and on par with the best surfing spots in the world like Hawaii, Australia etc. all because of Callahan's photography publicity that puts the island in the international map that drawns thousands of surfers and tourists to this once solitary island. The surfing season kicks off in October with an Annual International Surfing Cup.
Siargao's famous "Cloud 9 Break" is conveniently located in General Luna where the local gives it a cool name now as 'GL'. The biggest and best months for surfing are in November and December where the waves are powered by the typhoons that pass GL to the north sea and they bring huge waves from the deep water. The reason for those great waves around Siargao is that the sea bed drops down to 500 meters, then 1500 meters just a miles off Tuason Point and the reef. Thirty miles from GL is where the gigantic drop down begins at around 10,000 meters deep that's like Mt. Everest + 3000 feet.
A little history lesson ...
The foreign influence is remarkably visible in Cloud 9 that has slowly transformed the place's culture to that of the westerners even the traditional traits has slowly waning. It really feels like you're in a stranger's land with some foreign retirees choose to settle down there and most of the guests are Caucasians.
This is one of the many must experience that I have in the back of my mind when I go to this island. The town is completely equipped with bars that caters to the party goers. I expected to observe a bustling night of partying but that was not the case. The town is as silent as an isolated island in the middle of nowhere. My newly meet travel buddies wanted so badly to have some wild night so we scour the small town but just couldn't find any. Maybe we're just at the wrong time of the year but instead I observe lots of Filipinas flirting with the foreign guests. It's sad we've lost that traditional trait of Maria Clara even in a rural town as this one.
- Surfing. The main lore in town. For experts you get to enjoy Cloud 9 waves infinitas usually after 2pm. For novice, go hire a trainer and rent a surfboard for Php 500 per hour (P250 for trainer + P250 surfboard) you get some basic surfing lesson and if you're skilled enough you get to stand on a surf board and be like a surfer for a brief moment in time but it doesn't really count much. You'll only get the experience not the skill. It takes years to gain the bragging right of becoming full-pledged surfer. Almost all resorts offer surfing lessons with a standard rate of Php500 per hour.
- CLOUD NINE. A barreling right hander that is the most well-known break but only one of the many surfing spots on Siargao Island.
- TUASON POINT. Easily accessible. There is a pier and tower located on the shore looking out at the break which makes life easier for paddling/walking out to it. The reef isn’t as brutal as one may think, it’s more mossy reef with the odd rock. Booties aren’t a necessity, just go easy. Best at high tide, pretty dangerous to surf at low tide it gets pretty shallow in places. A very hard breaking left that jumps up 200 yards off shore and comes in and runs down over a shallow rocky reef, with great big holes. This is a very powerful and hard breaking wave. Wave selection is crucial at this break, 4ft and over is the best.
- JACKING HORSE. A jacking peak that explodes on to a shallow reef, then tapers off and then reforms on the inner reef, mainly breaks right, with a short left, good to surf at 2 – 7 ft, medium to high tide is about the best time to surf.
- STIMPYS. A first class lefthander which wraps around a small island into a cove. Fun under 4 foot, but becomes a lot harder breaking over that size but still perfect breaking. Great tube and will handle large swells. Accessible only by boat, viewing distance from shore with binoculars.
- ROCK ISLAND. An excellent right hander that peels and barrels for 200 yards off Rock Island. Best with no wind, low to medium tide and can hold swells up to double over head. Accessible only by boat, viewing distance from shore with binoculars.
- SHIFTY'S. A right hand reef break just south of Pilar inside the river mouth of Pilar, near Santa Fe, best at low to medium tide, south to south west wind. Fun right hander at 2 – 4ft but will hold larger swells.
- PILAR LEFT HANDERS. There are 2 left breaks; one breaks in front of the wharf of Pilar and the other breaks close to the township of Pilar.
- CARIDAD LEFT. This awesome left barrel breaks on a jagged reef ledge, east to north east swell is the best, protected from north west to south west winds which are off shore.
- PACIFICO. A world class left that breaks down and along a reef & rocky ledge. This is a long barreling left and towards the end a hotdog section.
- CEMETERY. A left and right that breaks between a gap in the reef, directly in front of the General Luna cemetery. Northeast to southeast swell is the best for this break with a southwest to west wind. Best at low tide and possible to walk there on the reef during, careful of the tide change to high – it’s a fair old paddle back to shore.
- GUYAM ISLAND. Right in front of General Luna is Guyam Island. There are many breaks right behind Guyam Island. You pick and choose your own wave. No competition there to fight for the perfect ride. There is a mellow left hander off the island with a sharp reef north east to east swell with south to south west winds. 5 minutes by boat from General Luna.
- PANSUKIAN REEF. Needs medium to large swell direct from the east to southeast with light, southwest to west wind. This wave looks like an up side down tear drop shaped barrel that runs down a reef. The wave jumps up out of the ocean from nowhere.
- LA JANOZA. MAMON, ANTOKON. ANAJAUAN ISLAND. There are another 4 or 5 perfect breaks and many others around these islands. Mamon Island has a beach break that can give you rides of more than 150 meters.
- Island Hopping. 3 islands to choose from - Naked Island, Dako Island, Guyam Island - and you can explore all of it in a day for Php2000 for a boat with a navigator for one day. Resorts rate may vary and you can haggle it down to Php1500 if you're good like we originally did.
- Relax, contemplate and unwind. The island is very solitary during off season of surfing.
- Party wild. It's best when there's an ongoing competitions to have more people in the island.
- ANNUAL COMPETITIONS SCHEDULE:
- APRIL (Siargao International Game Fishing Tournament)
- MAY (Siargao Girls International Surfing Cup & Siargao National Surfing Cup)
- OCTOBER (International Surfing Competition)
- Explore the whole Siargao Island by renting a motorbike for Php600 for the whole day use if you know how to drive or go kayaking. Must visit Taktak Falls and Magpupungko Beach in Pilar.
I'd definitely be back here someday to explore more the spots outside Cloud 9.