Stoked! Surfing is lovelier the second time around (San Juan, La Union)

Posted by Cat Ramos

Even after a disastrous surfing trip at Normis in La Union, I have decided I still wanted to surf. Not pro level, of course. But a decent one. So this time, I decided to go to a PROPER surf school with REAL instructors. Not the ones where you just pay someone who knows how to surf and wanted to make some extra money. There is a difference between knowing how to surf and knowing how to teach someone to surf. If that makes any sense 🙂

Rein and I had booked a 4d/3n accommodation at San Juan Surf School in La Union. I’ve already read a lot of great reviews about it so I was really excited.

San Juan Surf School, Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union
San Juan Surf School, Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union

We arranged for an hour’s lesson each for P350. This includes an instructor and your own board. It is actually P400 but you can ask for a discount.

My instructor was Michael and Rein’s was Marley. Yeah, the long lost lovechild. Not.

At the beach, we did the basic stuff: parts of the board, how to position yourself on the board, how to paddle, how to stand up and basic board safety.

That last one was particularly important for me as a beginner. Obviously, newbies like me will get tossed a lot. We will lose our balance and go underwater and there is a large chance of getting hurt. But because we already know board safety, we can avoid major injuries and minimize the “damage” to ourselves and to other surfers. We didn’t have this before. Are you reading this, Normis Resort? 🙂

Anyway, we got into the water and on our boards. Our instructors did not make us paddle out into the water. Instead, they pulled our boards by the leash, and I understood why. It is so tiring for a newbie to paddle out against the waves AND then push up from the board. Sometimes, your arms would already be aching from all that paddling and you would not have any strength for the pop up.

During my first tries, I was getting flashbacks of my Normis disaster and I kept thinking I might slip again and hit my chin. Also, I have been inconsistent with my pushups so my arms and abs are not really strong enough for the pop ups. Still, I tried and tried until finally, I wobbled up…woo, I was standing! Then I was underwater again 🙂 I never even got to ride until the beach. But whatever, it was an accomplishment, nonetheless.

san juan 1

In the afternoon of the same day, I went again for my 2nd lesson. Rein stayed in the room to watch TV so I was on my own. This time, my instructor was Toto. We skipped the basics and I was pulled out to the sea right away. The waves were a little wilder in the afternoon, I noticed, and I was afraid I would not have much success.

It definitely looked like that at the start. No matter how hard I push up from the board, I would slip back or even go underwater. Toto was kind enough to replace my board with one that was lined with foam because I kept scraping my elbow. Also, a few minutes into the lesson, his words of encouragement turned into mild trash talking 😀 Not hurtful, of course. Just chiding me for losing to another learner who has obviously mastered the pop up. She was a bit on the heavier side, yet she can pop up like a pro already.

A few more tries and then I found myself standing and riding. Wow, I am really up…this is cool…what do I do? Crap. Panicking, I jumped backwards into the water. But when I resurfaced, I could hear Toto applauding. Haha. Chalk up one for me!

The second time I rode, I got distracted by an Australian cheering “Go, girl!” from the side and I jumped off again. But it was so fun. I think I am finally getting the hang of it. 😀 Now I really understood what stoked meant. 🙂 Back in the room, when I was telling Rein of my lesson, I was actually trembling with happiness 😛

I wanted to have lessons again the following day but my arms and chest hurt so bad, I had to take painkillers. The surf school does not sell pain medication so Rein and I had to find a drugstore that sells some. Luckily for me, the store across the highway has some Alaxan. Note to self: starting today, painkillers and Salonpas should go in the first aid kit in the backpack.

If you are thinking of learning surfing, I highly recommend San Juan Surf School. The lessons are very affordable and the instructors are very well trained. A lot of them have been surfing since they were young but they have also been properly trained to teach learners of all levels. They should be the standard of ALL surfing schools in the Philippines. Will be back again, for sure! 🙂

Surfing bruises and injuries are bad ass
Surfing bruises and injuries are bad ass

Getting there and back:

If you travel at daytime, it will take 5-7 hours to La Union. At night, this is drastically reduced and you can get there in as short as 3 hours. Personally, I prefer day because I love looking out my window, even if the scenery is all the same 🙂

To commute to La Union, take any bus bound for Vigan, Abra or Laoag. Bus companies like Partas, Dominion, Florida and Viron have hourly trips departing from Cubao, Quezon City (except 2am-4am). Some also have terminals in Pasay and Manila.

To San Juan, La Union (Dominion): P392 with various stopovers. Ask the conductor to drop you off at Sebay or “entrance”. San Juan Surf School is right beside Sebay.

To commute back, simply hail any Cubao-bound bus. Note that some conpanies like Partas will also proceed to their Manila terminal after dropping off passengers in Cubao.

To Cubao (Partas): P444 with various stopovers.

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