Before I go any further into this review, I have an important confession to make: I am not a surfer. In fact, I don’t pretend to be a surfer, an ex-surfer, an aspiring surfer, an up-and-coming surfer, a surfer who says they don’t surf just to be humble, or even someone who is a beginner but surfing a lot to try to get better.
In fact, I have only surfed if by “surf” we mean waddling around on a huge foam board big enough to be a paddleboard and getting up on baby waves only because there’s an instructor getting paid $20 an hour to push me.
That being said, I’ve surfed at several cool places around the world, including in Tamarindo, Costa Rica when I lived there, the beaches around San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua when I lived there, and, most recently, in Siargao in the Philippines.
For those of you not in the know, Siargao is a beautiful big island with a super cool reggae vibe in the far eastern portion of the country, as well as its informal surfing capital.
While Boracay and now Palawan become overrun with tourists, Siargao is still the coolest hot new place that’s not yet oversaturated, although its popularity is exploding and it’s getting bigger by the week.
But the main activity there is surfing, and while they tell me there are literally hundreds of places to surf, Cloud 9 is one of the most popular. In fact, they call it “Crowd 9” because that’s where most surfers and tourists and travelers go to swim, paddle, and ride waves every day. It’s also unbelievably picturesque, with a wooden dock and landing stretching about a quarter mile out over the aquamarine and corralled sholes, with a colossal three-story lookout at the very end of the dock. You can just jump in the water there, or at any of several points along the dock with wooden stairs down to the water.
The conditions vary greatly by season, and it probably is unsurfable some months, and suicidal at others. But I was there in July, and they had perfect gentle swells for faux-beginners like me. I rented a board and hired a surf instructor at one of the ubiquitous surf shops and paddled out. At first, I tried to get up on the approximately 3-4 foot waves and wiped out about seven times in the row, the momentum and wave’s power just too much for my land lover’s balance.
Frustrated as hell and ready to call it a day and just hang out at the seaside bar, my patient instructor suggested that we move a few hundred yards to the right, where waves were coming in much smaller. Sure enough, I managed to jump up my first time there, and emboldened by confidence (and his direction and pushing), I got up about six more times in a row, redeeming my trip to Cloud 9.
If you’re ever in Asia, I recommend visiting the Philippines, and if you’re ever in the Philippines, go to Siargao first before the more commercial and inauthentic Boracay and Palawan, and try your luck hanging ten at Cloud 9!