It was February 12 when I received a message from my best friend, Raine, with “Surf?” as its subject, and a photo attachment of the 2nd Billabong All Girls Surf Camp poster. We’ve wanted to go on a “just-us-girls” trip to catch up and reconnect, and we thought that this camp would be a perfect time to do just that.
I’ve actually been to La Union years ago, back in 2007, and I’ve always considered San Juan Surf Resort as my home in La Union. It was then that my interest in surfing began. There’s truly something magical about being able to ride a wave that makes you braver and lets you crave for more, sand-full of hair and all. Plus, seeing the head instructor and pro surfer, Luke Landrigan, everyday in the surf shop sure made it even more memorable!
So fast forward six years later to this year’s Billabong All Girls Surf Camp. I arrived at the pickup point quite early, feeling anxious and excited at the same time. I was excited because I’ll be able to spend time with my best friend at the beach, surf, and meet new friends, but also anxious because I thought that the camp would be for younger girls, and I might be the oldest one in the group (turned 30 this April). It was such a pleasant surprise though to find out that teenage girls to accomplished professionals were part of the camp. Raine and I first met Tin and Anna, who were already second-timers, joining the first camp last year. I figured I must have made the right decision to sign up because it must be a lot of fun that they wanted to do it again.
After eight hours on the bus (mostly because of several stopovers for lunch and pit stops), we finally reached our destination, the San Juan Surf Resort in San Juan, La Union around 2:30 p.m. We were greeted by Luke Landrigan, who besides owning the Billabong San Juan Surf School was also a regionally sponsored athlete of Billabong Asia, and Charl Sapina, the marketing manager of Billabong in the Philippines. We were briefed on the activities for the next three days, assigned us to our rooms to freshen up, and were asked to come back after a bit so we can meet our camp buddies and start surfing. Before we were divided into groups for the lessons, we all got to introduce ourselves, and it’s quite refreshing to hear the reasons why some of the girls joined—some of them really want to learn to surf, some wanted to meet Franco who was performing an acoustic set over the weekend, some wanted to learn to DJ, and some of them just really want to meet new people and have a good time. Whatever the reason, we all were very happy to be there, and were even happier when we were handed out our goodie bags with some really cool stuff.
Since our day started pretty early, I was feeling pretty tired even before we hit the water, but the waves, the cool wind, and people excitedly screaming to stand and keep your knees bent was too much of a lure not to lather on sunscreen, put my rashguard on, jump into the water, and surf!
The rest of the day went by so fast and soon enough, the girls and I were having dinner while being relaxed by Franco’s acoustic set. His smooth vocals totally made the girls coo and drool non-stop! The night went on sharing drinks with new friends at the bar, but mostly at the beach, listening to the gentle crashing of the waves and staring up at the starlit sky.
The first day was so far awesome, so we were even more excited about what the second day would bring. After a quick shower and breakfast, our team headed to the beach for our session. The waves were a bit bigger and it was more challenging to paddle out but luckily, my instructor, Jeff, was very patient and he really helped me get my confidence up and pushed me to get some good waves.
Surfing all day was both exhilarating and exhausting, and as the sun was setting, we were again preparing to learn something new. Niki Rojas and Joey Santos, our DJ instructors for the weekend, were getting ready to teach us a few tricks, and the Billabong team was also putting together a bonfire by the beach for some smores and drinks for our last night at the camp. Mixing and blending music together was no easy task, but Niki and Joey made it seem so easy, and having some yummy smores by the beach truly made that night one for the books.
Our last day was fun and sad at the same time. We still had one session to go and the waves were gentler, as if the sea was saying, “Here you go, have fun, you deserve it.” As I went out to the balcony and sat down, I looked out to the ocean and was amazed at the view that was laid out in front of me: clear sky, vast blue ocean, rippling waves, and surfers, both new and old, enjoying the water.
The bus ride home was different. Everyone was talking, laughing, taking pictures. All of us were making the most of the time that we had left to spend with each other. And during that bus ride home, I realized we are never too old to learn and try new things, and that friendships don’t have age parameters.
Billabong youth culture brand is available in the Philippines through Billabong concept stores located in Trinoma and Power Plant Mal, and in all Aloha Boardsports stores. For more information, log on to www.billabong.com/asia
About the Author: Mhayzel N. Salas is a 30-year old businesswoman and travel bug who participated in the 2nd Billabong All Girls Surf Camp in San Juan, La Union.