Bagasbas: More Than Just The Surf

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Barely two months after my last visit to Camarines Norte, covering the quadricentennial of three town parishes, I was again invited, this time by professional surfer Mr. Joey Cuerdo of Power Up Gym and MOJO Slippers and Sandals, to cover the 4th Bagasbas Summer Surf Festival in Daet, held in line with the province-wide Bantayog Festival (the provincial foundation day).  This wasn’t the first time I was to cover this event, having done so in 2009.  This time, I was joined by fellow Camarines Norte companion (but first timer to this event) and blogger Mark Vincent Nunez and we were both picked up by a van at Starbucks in Magallanes, hitching with co-event organizer and MOJOS Vice-President for Operations Ms.Thea Yusay and other Mojo staff also on their way to Daet.  We arrived at the town by 2 AM and we both checked in at Canimog Hotel, the 3-day home of most media men out to cover the festival.

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The 7-km. long, gray sand Bagasbas Beach, site of the surf festival, is a popular surfing destination known for its consistent waves, ranging from 2-5 ft. tall, making it one of the best sites for beginners to learn surfing (with its incomparable feel of walking on water).  In fact, it is now ranked 62 among the top 100 surfing spots in the world.

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Kiteboarding events are also held there during the November to March northeast monsoon season.  When Mark and I arrived at Bagasbas, the beach was already a beehive of fun-in-the-sun sports activity, with lots of surfers, skim boarders, beach volleyball enthusiasts and wall climbers plus sun worshippers.

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An artificial, 40-ft.-high rock-climbing wall was set up along the beach.  Many would-be surfers, mostly yuppies and college kids on summer break, were signing up (PhP800) at the registration booth at the Aquamarine Sports Center (manned by Thea and her staff) right on the beach.  Registrants are given a surf session schedule and a time slot for their 50-min.(20 mins. prep on land and 30 mins. hands-on in the water) session (normally worth PhP400), which included surfboard rental and instructor.  There are 10 people per batch.

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Registrants also had the right to join the wall climbing, ultimate frisbee, beach volleyball and dodgeball (a geek’s ball sport) clinics, each worth PhP200 and taught to you for 2 hours each.  The easy-to-learn Ultimate Frisbee, a non-contact team sport that feels a little bit of a mix of the following: soccer, basketball, American football and netball. There are no special gear needed to play it; all you need is a wide-open space plus a flying disc (Frisbee in layman’s term) to toss around. Aside from that, they were given one event shirt (worth PhP250) and a pair of MOJO flip-flops(worth PhP350). On the night of April 16, the eve of our departure, we all attended one great beach party with the reggae and ska sounds of Coffee Break Island.

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On our last day in Daet, we took time out, early in the morning, to learn surfing ourselves.  It would be my second time to try (and failing miserably on 10 tries) and a first for Mark.  Joining us at the surfing clinic was ABC TV5 correspondent Justine Santos, also a second time surfing student.  Mr. Ryan Francis V. Vito, president of the Bagasbas United Surfers Association (BUSA), was on hand to personally teach us the basics of surfing.  First, we were taught the parts of the surfboard.

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Then, with the surfboard on the sand, Ryan taught us how to lie down on a surfboard (centered along the stringer), with the toes of our feet touching the tail-end (called the tail block) and making sure that the board is not tilting left or right while we’re trying it. Next, we were taught to push up on the board, with our hands on the sides (called the “rails”) of the board, then when up, to drag one foot up under us in the center of the board and, finally, to push up on our front foot into a standing position, using our arms like legs to push it up. Sounds easy.  Well, it was easier said than done.

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Ryan assigned an instructor to each of us, with champion surfer Ms. Lolita “Mocha” F. Edusma assigned to Jasmine.  I don’t remember the names of the guys assigned to us. BUSA’s instructors were the first in Philippines to be trained by the Academy of Surfing Instructors.  We headed down the beach, away from any surfers, our surfboards harnessed to our ankles. After walking some distance from the shore, I slowly mounted my surfboard with my instructor on the lookout for whitewater, waves that are crested and broken and rolling in long even white lines toward the beach.

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With the approach of whitewater, I was told to get ready and whoosh!!!, the whitewater  slowly catches my board and lifts it up as I struggle to stand up and keep my balance while doing so.  Try as I did, I failed to do so with each try, falling each time just as I was getting my footing, getting a face full of salt water every time. I finally gave up when the board hit and sprained my wrist. I gladly surrendered my board and my instructor to ABC TV5 cameraman Mr. Amor Casiano while the other cameraman Mr. Dencio “Dennis” Suing filmed on. Then, it was Dennis’ turn to try it with Amor manning the camera.  In both cases, as in my case, the waves won with every try, with wipe outs the rule and not the exception.  The same was true with Mark and Jasmine.  Well, better luck next time.  Just, the same it was an experience we would gladly like to try again and again.   Hopefully, there will be a next time.  The waves of Daet haven’t seen the last of us.

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