Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pundaquit Zambales

First, a brief history on why I do not like Zambales.

The one and only time I had tried to go surfing at Crystal beach, it was flat. Flat as glass and not as pretty. There was a desolate air in the, um, air. As if this was a town that had been forgotten after a nuclear holocaust. It felt lonely.

It didnt help that previous to this attempt, some other friends had tried surfing other areas in Zambales only to come back to Manila with stories filled with horrific details like cockroaches that ate ciggies and waves that tried to kill you right on shore.

So when a group of Manila surfers got wind that Pundaquit was breaking I was, quite naturally, hesitant to set my hopes too high. Could you blame me?

Kaz, Christina and I piled into a car and drove from Manila to Zambales on a rather rainy morning. With us was my good friend Chino - a hobbyist photographer whom I owed an out of town day trip to. Oh, Chino also ended up driving most of the way up so... thanks Chins!

We arrived to cloudy skies... grey and heavy with wetness just waiting to fall. And fall it did. All. Day. Long.

Even after we found shelter with other friends who had arrived the night before, it was a cold and damp morning. Even when the rain let up, it still felt wet. And cold, have I mentioned that it was cold?

But hey... we were there to surf. And the break was going off. So we took a deep breath, tried to shake of the niggling feelings of impending doom and headed out towards the cliffside. And that's when the adventure really started.

See, to get to the break, one must cross a river. A smallish river that opens out into the ocean. Now, on a normal day, you can walk across the mouth with no problem. But on a day where the rain had been pouring for hours and the ocean was frothing with whitewater ... it wasnt as easy. In fact, halfway across, the current swept me out... right into the ocean. I wasnt worried about being brought out to see because one look at the waves and you could tell that at some point, you would be dumped on the sandy shore. The question was: in what shape would my body and my board be in when I got to shore? Thankfully, neither my body nor my board suffered from it. (Soon after I went on the Wild River Ride, Kaz and Kim followed... so I wasn't alone in that particular adventure).

Adrenaline pumping, we surveyed the river and decided to walk upstream and paddle across a quieter (albeit dirtier) section. I dont think I have ever paddled faster in my life than that day. But, hey, we made it across. A short walk later, we were at the break... wondering if we could handle what looked like fat, thick waves breaking in a very short section of the beach. Only one way to find out... paddle in. And even though that morning session yielded no wave action for me, it was a great learning experience. The only way to get over your fears of a new break is to head out there and get to know the water.

All the familiarizing seemed to have paid off because, after a hot lunch and a lot of laughing, the afternoon session was incredibly fun. There was one moment though when the skies just opened up and poured rain -- blinding sheets that fell into the ocean in hard pellets. I couldn't see six inches in front of me... and used the blurry image of Joncy in front of me as my guide. And while I should have been afraid for my life, part of me couldn't help but giggle at the insanity of what we were all doing - surfing in weather that would normally send us scurrying for the comfort of a mall had we been in Manila. I think a lot of us felt the same way because, even if I couldn't see anyone, I could hear them whooping around me.

The best part of the day? Catching a wave... a long ride... walling it... and seeing that my "daddy Alex" had seen the whole thing.

Save for the beginnings of a fever and sore throat tickling the back of my throat,
the drive home was uneventful. We hit Manila a little before midnight... dropping Chino off at his place (or rather, he drove us to his place) then sharing the last vestiges of the day with Kaz as she drove me home.

For photos: CLICK THIS
*there's an inside joke about the whole Alex thing... I would explain it but it was one of those you had to be there moments...


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