A few months ago, we watched the movie Soul Surfer, a biopic film about the life of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton who made a remarkable comeback in the surfing scene after a large tiger shark ripped off her arm. While the inspirational movie mainly focuses on her determination, perseverance, and no-quitting attitude, it’s the film’s magnificent surfing scenes that significantly stirred the fans of excitement in us. Seeing the Soul Surfer actually made us thrilled to try out this adrenaline-pumping watersport. And what better place to try surfing than in Siargao, the country’s surfing capital!
The surf breaks in Siargao have put the Philippines in the global surfing spotlight. Siargao is now one of the venues for international surfing competitions. There are several beautiful breaks in the eastern side of the island facing the Pacific Ocean, but the most popular is Cloud 9, located north of the town of General Luna. Cloud 9 is globally known as a great, affordable surfing destination. Needless to say, that is where we were headed after our island hopping, caving, and cove exploration in Sohoton, Bucas Grande.
We woke up at 5AM so we could catch the first trip back to Dapa in Siargao. After taking a shower and packing up our things, we checked out and headed to the pier where we heard blaring disco music. Well, it turned out to be an early-morning Zumba session where everyone in the community was invited to join. Truly, a fun and healthy way to start the day!
A short while later, we boarded the ferry that will take us back to Siargao Island. We cruised for two hours in calm open water while enjoying the cool morning sea breeze. At around 8AM, we were back in Dapa.
We anticipated a big day coming up so we ate a big, hot, traditional Filipino breakfast before riding one of the comfortable tricycles that would bring us to General Luna. We can definitely hire a habal-habal or wait for a van, but riding a tricycle is cheaper and more fun.
It took more than an hour to reach the town of General Luna. Along the way, we enjoyed beautiful, quiet, and pastoral scenes. We remembered seeing scenes like these when we were still children, when our large, busy cities were still small, peaceful towns.
At around 9:30AM, we finally reached General Luna, a quiet town that acts as a gateway to the world-renowned surf breaks of Siargao. The most popular break, of course, is Cloud 9, aptly named because it’s a surfer’s paradise and its beautiful barrel waves shaped like the number 9. And oh yes, it is named after a local chocolate bar.
Cloud 9 is still a few kilometers away from General Luna. To get there, we had to take a habal-habal. Now, check out this cool habal-habal design! It has a roof to protect riders from the glaring heat of the sun. Metal-frame step boards are welded to each side so passengers can ride in comfort.
That’s Filipino ingenuity indeed!
Half an hour later—with sore butts, we might add, we arrived at our temporary home in Cloud 9, a cozy budget accommodation and humble restaurant called Ocean Pacific Inn. The surfing area is just a 3-minute walk across our accommodation!
We can safely say that Siargao wins the award of having the Most Ingenious Simple Vehicles in the country. Check these out! That’s a simple motorcycle with a padded metal brace attached to it. The brace holds a couple of surfboards in place. You can rent one like this for a minimum price.
The modified off-road bicycle in the lower photo is even more ingenious! It has a surfboard brace as well as a baby seat at the back! Wow!
It’s now time to surf! We were able to hire a young surfing instructor while on the way to the beach (he owns that cool modified motorcycle). However, don’t worry if you can’t find one loitering around the beach. You can simply head off to one of the several surf shops along the road and ask for a surfing instructor to help you out.
You can rent surf boards of all shapes and sizes from these shops. If you want, you can even purchase boards from them!
Forgot your surfing or swimming stuff? Don’t worry! Surf shops sell rash guards, swimsuits, shirts, surf board leashes, and everything in-between!
This cool, solid, tribal wood sculpture welcomed us to the surfing area.
That’s a beautiful beach but actually devoid of beachgoers. Most people here come to surf and to pump up some adrenaline to their system, not to laze in the sand.
Lovely, sandy beach, isn’t it? Well, that wonderful fine sand stops just a little beyond the waterline you see in the photo below. What follows next is an expansive field of extremely sharp rocks!
Near the shore, this brand-new platform was still being constructed when we visited Cloud 9. The workers explained that it was for the hundreds of spectators, judges, VIPs, tourists, and competitors for the upcoming 2014 Siargao International Surfing Cup in September.
Sweetie and I felt our hearts quaking as we strolled the length of the iconic Boardwalk, one of Siargao’s most famous landmarks. Not only will we be surfing for the first time, but we realized we were also walking on the same wooden planks that many world-renowned, champion surfers like Alana Blanchard, Paul Fisher, Chris Zaffis, and Piso Alcala walked on.
These sun-baked local boys and pro surfers are everywhere! Any one of them can teach you the basics of surfing.
Different races, one goal—to ride the perfect wave! There are plenty of foreign surfers and backpackers in Cloud 9. One pleasant thing we observed: virtually all foreigners here don’t act like tourists, who are more like observers and outsiders. In fact, they sleep in humble accommodations, eat simple native food, and freely mingle with locals. During our stay, we haven’t come across any foreigner who got drunk or rowdy.
The surfer culture enables everyone—regardless of race, age, gender, or religion—to experience and fully indulge in real Siargao life.
Don’t be deceived by his simple looks! Although he may not look much, he is actually a very skilled surfing instructor.
At the end of the 100-meter Boardwalk is this 3-story structure on stilts. It is a nice observation deck where surfers can relax after a hard-day’s practice and watch their fellow surfers riding out the waves. It is a place to while the cool afternoons away.
In the coming months during the 2014 Siargao International Surfing Cup, this observation deck becomes laden with colorful banners of different surfing-related brands such as RipCurl, Stoked, Fluid Surf, and Billabong.
Surfers of all ages, genders, and nationalities were just enjoying the waves. It didn’t matter whether they were beginners or professionals—everyone was having the time of their lives.
The waves may look small in the photo below, but they’re actually quite big and powerful. Locals said that August was the beginning of the surfing season, and the waves were just starting to pick up.
Our instructor, Joel of Hippie’s Surf Shop, wasted no time in showing us how to surf. As beginners, we started out with a wide, large longboard.
He taught us useful techniques on how to paddle, stand on the board, achieve better balance, and everything needed to basically ride Cloud 9’s waves.
After half an hour of coaching, it was time to paddle out to the waves.
Sweetie seemed really stoked! By the way, you do know that she doesn’t know how to swim, don’t you? Well, Sweetie’s in no danger of drowning. The water around the surfing area is just chest-deep.
Paddle battle? Paddling on a board that is wider than your body is really quite strenuous and painful on the shoulders. But, heck, it’s part of the fun!
While there were lots of beginner and amateur surfers like us, there were a number of professional surfers too. As early as August, they were already practicing their moves and getting ready for the international competition on September.
Well, we’re definitely far from competing anytime soon! Hehehe! We wiped out several times; trying to balance on the board that is constantly moving with and rocking on the waves is definitely not easy!
Every time we wiped out, Joel shared with us some practical pointers on how to stay on the board or how to cruise longer on the waves.
Wohoo! After several tries, I was finally able to catch and ride a wave! At that moment, I suddenly felt what surfers feel when they successfully catch the perfect wave—it’s simply pure joy!
It was Sweetie’s turn! Just look at that intense concentration on her face!
Several times, Sweetie tried to stand up on the board but initially couldn’t get her balance. Nevertheless, she surely enjoyed the experience.
But after several tries and wipeouts, she was finally able to ride a powerful wave, and what a long ride that was!
We have to tell you, the rush that we felt as we rode Cloud 9’s powerful waves was simply exhilarating! Check out the video below, and see what you’re missing if you fail to visit Cloud 9 in Siargao.
We had so much fun surfing that we didn’t notice we exceeded our instructor’s time by half an hour! Well, that was okay because Joel was very considerate. He didn’t really care a lot about strict timekeeping; he wanted us, his clients, to get hooked on surfing.
Now, if only there’s a good surf spot here in Cebu…
At 12 noon, the tide began to recede, exposing Cloud 9’s lethally sharp rocks that could endanger surfers. We called it a day and paddled back to the Boardwalk.
That’s Sweetie with our cool instructor. Thank you so much, Joel! You definitely got us hooked on surfing.
We never thought that surfing can whip up our appetites big time! So we ordered generous servings of pork and chicken adobo and chopsuey for lunch at our accommodation’s in-house open-air restaurant. They serve really good food!
This restaurant is not just a place where we could fill our hungry tummies. It was a place where we chatted with some foreigners, joked around with the staff, and watched a teleserye (soap opera). Best of all, we met an ultra-cool Bisaya-speaking dude who actually knew us! Yes, we kid you not! It turned out that Carlo was not just a surfer but also a rock climber and mountaineer like us! See you in Cantabaco, Carlo!
A nice hammock just in front of our room at the second floor! Now, this is definitely the way to relax! Indeed, the way of life in Cloud 9 is so slow-paced, easy, and relaxing that you’ll actually get bored by simply resting!
We had a relaxing nap and woke up around 4:30PM. Too relaxed and lazy to surf, we simply went to the Boardwalk and observed surfers enjoying the waves.
There was a slight drizzle, but that didn’t stop them surfers from having fun.
An Uneventful Rainy Day
We were supposed to go island hopping around Siargao the next day. However, we woke up to a dreary, windy and rainy day. Sweetie initially suggested we stick to our original itinerary, but I explained that any island hopping photo that we’ll take will be dull and gray. Additionally, the winds have generated larger-than-usual waves which will make our trip potentially dangerous. So we decided to wait out the rain.
Having nothing else to do (the gray day affected our surfing mood), we just strolled around the neighborhood. Check out the street. It’s empty except for a few surfers.
Sweetie, you look great with that pink surfboard. Hehehe!
Although the rain slowed down to a drizzle that afternoon, the winds didn’t die down, and the clouds didn’t unveil the sun. So Sweetie and I decided to take a stroll down Cloud 9’s beach.
Surfers who have money to spare can stay in these rental bungalows. These bungalows are located right in front of the surf break. Obviously, they have larger spaces and better amenities than budget accommodations.
The tide was exceedingly low, making the surf break hazardous for surfers. In fact, there were very few surfers that afternoon. Sweetie and I decided to venture out into the mudflats and rock beds that stretch out towards the break.
Even the dull, gray afternoon didn’t dampen the spectacular view of Cloud 9.
Farther down the mudflats, we came across this small, interesting patch of spiky rocks. Wiping out here would definitely be painful to say the least.
Since the tide was not conducive for surfing, we decided to just head back to Ocean Pacific Inn, had dinner and interacted with other guests. After a short night walk, it was time to turn in early in anticipation for tomorrow’s island hopping adventure.
You should definitely try surfing! The sport is exciting and addicting. It definitely got us stoked, and we can’t wait to visit other surf spots in the country.
By the way, this is our 100th post and WordPress sent us a congratulatory trophy!
5:00 AM – wake up, freshen up, pack up
5:45 AM – head to pier, board boat for Dapa
6:00 AM – depart Socorro, head to Dapa
8:00 AM – arrival at Dapa, breakfast, look for tricycle going to General Luna
8:30 AM – tricycle ride to General Luna
9:30 AM – arrival at General Luna, habal-habal ride to Cloud 9
10:00 AM – arrival at Cloud 9, check in, look for instructor
10:30 AM – surfing
12:00 PM – lunch time
Thereafter until the next day, we basically did nothing but just relax and melt our stress away.
Budget (per person)*
- P 100 – ferry from Socorro, Bucas Grande to Dapa, Siargao
- P 30 – tricycle fare from Dapa to General Luna
- P 30 – habal-habal fare from General Luna to Cloud 9
- P 500 – one-hour surfing including board rental (P 200) and instructor fee (P 300)
- P 500 – per night rate, non-aircon room at the Ocean Pacific Inn (good for 2 pax, no free breakfast)
General Rates You Might Want to Know **
- P 300 – half-day motorcycle rental
- P 500 – whole-day motorcycle rental
- P 500 – whole-day surfboard rental
- P 500 – one-hour instructor fee with surfboard rental
* Except where indicated, all rates are on a per-person basis. We did not include our expense for meals, snacks, souvenirs, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, miscellaneous transportation, and sharing scheme from us. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.
** These may change per service provider.
1. Contact Joel at 0908-7437709 if you need a surfing instructor. He also hangs out at the Hippie’s Surf Shop, just across the street and adjacent to Ocean Pacific Inn.
2. Don’t worry if you can’t find Joel. You can head off to any surf shop or resort in Cloud 9 and ask for a surfing instructor. Virtually all these establishments have a couple of qualified instructors.
Also, surfing instructors typically hang out at the entrance of the Boardwalk. They can recognize visitors and will approach you if you need surfing lessons.
3. As far as we know, surfing instructor rates and board rentals are standardized (see above). Be wary of providers who charge significantly higher rates.
4. There are no low-cost carenderias in Cloud 9. Most meals range from P 120 to P 250. Additionally, sari-sari store merchandise seems to cost one and a half to two times higher than those in more populated areas.
5. Cloud 9—and Siargao in general—is an extremely simple, laid-back place even during the onset of peak surfing season. So leave your sense of urgency, perfectionist ideals, and first-world service-quality expectations back home. They don’t have a place here.
6. Stores, restaurants, shops, and other business establishments in Cloud 9 open late in the morning, sometimes as late as 9 or 10AM. Except for a few bars, they close early at night, around 7 or 8PM.
Thus, if you plan to surf, have breakfast, go somewhere, or do business before 8 AM, make sure to arrange your request with the concerned establishments the day before. Also, stock up on supplies (e.g., drinks and snacks) if you plan to stay up late since stores close early.
7. Life in Cloud 9 is so relaxing that you actually get bored of it. The best remedy is to do something—surf, walk around, rent a bike to tour the island, etc.
8. For females, walking around in bikinis and swimsuits around Cloud 9 is perfectly acceptable. For males, walking shirtless is fine. However, if this is your first time here, it is best to wear a tank top or a shirt.
9. When surfing, wear booties to protect your feet from sharp rocks.
10. Expect bruises and aches as you learn to surf. But, hey, that’s part of the fun!