Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Urbiztondo Calling: Anyone Can Travel and Surf

Surfing is more accessible and less expensive than what many think. One does not need to go Siargao in northeastern Mindanao, the country’s most famous surfing area, to experience riding the surf, and one does not need to spend much on accessories and travel for it. The La Union Surfing Break, an event organized by the local government of La Union, several government agencies and private companies and slated for Nov. 2 to 4, allows low-budget travelers to have fun and get acquainted with surfing.

The La Union Surfing Break offers the province’s beach and waves in the town of San Juan, which is the nearest surfing area to Manila. Timed for the semestral break, the event targets students and yuppies from Manila, Baguio and other northern Luzon areas. It promises to be the Philippines’ version of the spring break in the United States, with camping, showdowns, competitions, surfing and swimming, bonfire and party. Moreover, the surfing break also aims to educate people on and expose them to surfing properly with its surfing clinics.

According to television host Paolo Bediones, the event’s celebrity endorser, the surfing break invites travelers and people who want to travel, introduce the youth to surfing and teach people how to backpack from Manila to La Union. After the event, it is hoped that people who have a fear of traveling will be more willing to travel. The event also serves as venue for those who want to surf to break into the emerging sport.

Urbiztondo Beach in San Juan is an ideal surfing beach for beginners along with Bagasbas Beach in Daet, Camarines del Norte, and Lanuza Bay in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. These beaches have sandy bottoms, which are safe for neophyte surfers. The surfing areas in the more famous Siargao have rocky or coral bottoms, which can injure inexperience surfers. Unlike Daet and Lanuza, San Juan is very accessible from Manila. La Union is about a five-hour bus trip from Manila. San Juan is eight kilometers from the provincial capital, San Fernando City.

The relative proximity substantially cuts down on travel expenses. If one brings a tent, one can even save money on lodging. The event invites guests to camp out on the beach, which is provided free of charge. Thus, a participant can spend only about P2,000 for three days. The expenses include bus tickets (P390 for one-way and P780 for round trip), rent for shower and toilet (P100), surfing clinic (P300, including board and instructor) and food for three days (about P500). Optional expenses include lodging, which ranges from P1,200 to P2,000, souvenir shopping (about P1,000) and “better” food and drinks (about P1,000).

Another attraction of the event is the activities to be mounted. Beach sports activities and competitions are lined up, including Frisbee and speed climbing competitions, as well as beach volleyball.

Last year, the Frisbee and speed climbing competitions were side events to amuse surfers waiting their turn to surf. Because of their success, these activities will be expanded. The contests will be more competitive and spectator-friendly.

The Ultimate Frisbee competition will have four top teams competing. Taking off from last year, the teams will have players from last years event. Prominent Frisbee players will be invited to grace the event including Kristian Guerrero, Derek Ramsey and Paolo Santos.

In the beach volleyball event, teams already formed may join but individuals wanting to play will also be invited by interactive game marshals to join a team. After three days, teams can compete for the First LUSB Beach Volley Invitational Trophy.

Of course, surfing is the star activity. From Oct. 27 to 29, surfing clinics will be open to participants. Each participant is entitled to one surfing lesson session, which is 30 minutes long and scheduled upon registration. The clinic has 15 surfboards and 10 hours per day, thus able to accommodate 500 to 600 trial surfers in over two days. While waiting for their turn at the waves, participants can join Frisbee and climbing clinics and play beach volleyball.

On Nov. 3, there will be a beach party, featuring the ska band Coffee Break Island and Dutch DJ Martijn van Baggem. On the last day of the event, there will be the finals of speed climbing, Frisbee and beach volleyball competitions. The culmination will be a showdown of the best local surfing talents in La Union. Celebrities are invited to grace the event. There will possible appearances of celebrities who surf like Jericho Rosales, Angel Aquino, Lui Villaruz and Paolo Soler, and celebrities wanting to learn like Bubbles Paraiso, Paolo Paraiso, Ariel and Maverick.

This is the second year of the La Union Surfing Break. In 2006, over 300 participants officially joined the surfing events and about 2,000 people traveled to San Juan, La Union, raving about how easy, fun and cost-effective traveling around the Philippines is. With each visitor spending about P1,000 a day, the local community also benefited from the event.

This year, the organizers are looking forward to 500 to 600 participants. Although the capacity of the beach is 15 to 20 surfers at one time, they are optimistic that everyone will have his chance on the surf.

Contact Information
One can contact the Department of Tourism Region 1 at (072) 888-2098, the La Union local government at 0921-8048338 (Art), the La Union Surf Club at 0919-7650702 (Lemon), La Union Convention and Visitors Bureau at 0918-4040368 (Ed) and Power Up Center for Climbing and Fitness at 0922-8856392 (Joey).

Published in The Daily Tribune, October 18, 2007, page 12.