We were starting to go nuts halfway through the summer of 2012. Flat spell was definitely upon us because no doubt the waves were officially on vacation.
Our desperation grew with each day that passed; and when we couldn’t take the boredom, we solicited the ideas of the Baler locals on how to possibly get by during the surf off-season. The locals proposed that possibly waves were still present deep in Aurora province, but questioned whether we were willing to travel for 7 hours (Additional to the 6 hours Manila-Baler travel time).
Certainly we were up for it, given that our surf itch has already developed into a bad case of surf pox. So we went to the Bayan (city center) in search of vans we can possibly hire. We figured that hiring two vans would be enough to bring as many fun-loving Baler locals along with us to Aurora.
(Our Baler Surf Family bringing as many surfboards as possible)
(One of the vans with a unique roof surf rack)
The road to Aurora is not just long but also very rough. Even with cushioning on our seats, we were helpless to prevent our asses from getting beaten by the impact of the tires passing by large rocks.
Our journey was a slow and night was upon on us, when we arrived. Darkness was all around since there was no supply of electricity in our location. Thankfully, the residents of Aurora gladly guided us to our accommodation (a small abandoned kubo [hut]) where I decided to pitch my tent beside.
(Our premium Aurora accommodation)
The silence was deafening, but listening keenly, we heard waves breaking from a distance. As a result we instantly found ourselves holding shots of lambanog (fermented coconut alcohol) in front of a bonfire, drinking and celebrating optimistically that in the morning we would be surfing. The mood was so festive it didn’t matter that the lambanog we bought tasted like gasoline, besides there was no need to fret because we brought beer anyways.
(Simplicity of the outdoors at its finest in Aurora)
When morning came no hangover could stop anyone from enjoying the early morning surf. Like a rare eclipse, everyone was up early prepping their own surfboards, surprisingly even after a heavy drinking session the night before.
(Good morning. Everyone is awake early for surfing preparation.)
We walked for a kilometer before finally arriving at the reef break.
And God, the surf spot was a mix of all things heaven and hell.
The white sand mixed with the sharp edges of dark rocky beach floor.
Waves were glassy perfect, but surfing them posed its own danger due to the shallow reef and the presence big boulder one had to avoid colliding with.
(Nature unspoiled is really the most splendid)
(The “crowd” sitting on the sharp rocks)
The mix of emotions I was feeling at the time was weird. I was both in awe of the beauty of Aurora and at the same time fearful in knowing the place can bite anytime.
Surfing Aurora for the first time can be describe by three words:
Temptation, hesitation, and possibly satisfaction.
1. Temptation comes from seeing the glassy wave approaching you.
2. Preparing to catch the wave, you turn to face the beach. Hesitation would certainly come upon you, after seeing the reef’s sharp jaws opening to swallow you. You then pull your board to back off from your attempt deciding to just try again the next wave.
3. You attempt as many times possible but find yourself repeating #1 and #2.
(TIP: Don’t surf Aurora if you still don’t possess the necessary abilities to do so. It can really lead to an unpleasant accident. Better refine your skills first on a safer beach break, than be sorry in the end. )
Catching a wave in Aurora can be described as taking a swipe on the bait and hoping that the trap doesn’t snag you.
It would take a tremendous amount of courage to catch your first wave.
(Looking back, this definitely was risky)
In my case, it took hours for me to muster the necessary courage to catch my first wave.
It came to the point that my buddies decided to leave me alone in the lineup after deciding to just try again in the afternoon.
Not wanting to waste the 7 hour journey for nothing, I decided that not even the low tide can discourage me.
It was not until I decided to COMMIT and put my trust on God that I forgot all my fears.
Up to this day, I remember my first Aurora wave like it just happened a few seconds ago.
4. Satisfaction, that finally you conquered your fears.
5. (Extra): Stupidity. I got carried away with my satisfaction and forgot the reef was shallow, carelessly letting myself fall from my surfboard which resulted to me being ground by the sharp reef.
(Satisfaction! Finally catching a wave)
Although the wounds in my body were painful, they were not enough to remove the smile in my face.
Once you catch that first wave it will be easy to catch another.
After buying fresh seafood from talipapa (micro-market) and the Baler locals cooking a hearty lunch we had nothing to do while waiting for the afternoon surf.
(Fresh Lapu-Lapu (Grouper) fish for only 200 PHP (5 USD))
Until Jonnel, who decided to stay in Baler, called informing us about a nearby waterfall that can be found hidden beyond the hills.
Our quest for the waterfalls brought us to Aurora’s highest point from which we were able to further see the Aurora’s splendor in its entirety.
(View from one of Aurora’s hills)
Searching for this hidden falls proved to be longer than expected. We had climbed two hills back and forth, got lost in the woods, rock climbed etc. and still we haven’t found the falls that was supposedly just nearby.
A small cave with water dripping from its ceiling was the closest we got to finding a waterfall.
The difficulty made us think Jonnel was playing a prank on us.
(Water Falls? Water drops from this cave was all we were able to find)
Even the hot noon summer sun was not making our search easier. Most of us were exposed to nature’s elements as we opted not to wear shirts and slippers thinking that this was just going to be a short walk.
When we finally decided to give up, Ian summed it up perfectly:
“Buti pa ang mountaineer may gamit, sponsored, tayong mga surfer wala. Ni tubig t-shirt at tsinelas wala. Tapos magtretreking sa matulis na batuhan naka bilad sa araw [The mountaineers are blessed for they have equipment and are sponsored, unlike us surfers. We don’t even have t-shirts and slippers. How dare we trek a rocky sharp path while under the steaming sun!]
(SUN BURNT! Climbing the hills under the noon sun, terribly under-dressed, wearing only beach attire.)
(Dangerously descending a rocky slope in search of the hidden falls)
(Emil even shirtless and sandal-less trekked the rough Aurora terrain in search of the hidden falls)
We were laughing hard on our horrible situation, finding comic relief in our exhaustion, sunburn, blisters, wounds and rashes.
But somehow we had to thank Jonnel if it wasn’t for his hidden falls we wouldn’t have seen Aurora’s other wonders.
As surfers we decided that it was better for us to stay in our own element, which is the sea.
We gave up any idea of half nakedly climbing hills, trekking and definitely looking for hidden falls; deciding to just focus on surfing for the rest of the trip. It was all we did until we left.
Surf to our hearts content we did.
Leaving Aurora we felt that we were stacked with enough stoke to last until surf season finally arrives in two months.
Within two weeks the stoke was gone.
Why did God create the seas to behave this way? I guess God was not yet a surfer then.
(What God created when he realized surfing was fun)
(Nicco Lampa visited Aurora, Philippines on May 5, 2012 until May 8, 2012)