la union Surfing

Surfing in La Union, Anyone?

Sunday, December 18, 2011Ryan Mach

The obvious challenge with Normi2's, the beach resort we stayed at in San Juan, was the name itself. We had problems pronouncing it. Is it Normitos or Normi-normis? It was essential that we had the name right otherwise Manong Konduktor of Farinas Busline wouldn't be able to drop us off there. We went for Normi-normis. He thought for a moment and said that he's not familiar with the place. Normitos then? Negative. I panicked a little. What if we got lost? 4am wasn't an ideal time to get lost in a place we barely knew. Granted, I had travelled to the North twice before but I had never really set foot in La Union.

"Did you print the map?" I asked my companion, Phoebe, who was busy digging some bills inside her bag. It was pay time. We had just got past Bulacan. There was hardly any traffic. Travelling late at night seemed to be the perfect option.

We studied the map. I made sure that Surf Camp was there, since staying there was the original plan. But my travel buddies who were already in Normi2's had different plans. I remembered Ariane, a friend who frequents in San Juan for her surf fix. She should know the place too well. In a text message, she told me that Normi2's was just a few kilometers from Surf Camp. Yes, we got it this time. Normi2's then! No more Normi-Normis. "Maybe it's Normi to the 2nd power?" Phoebe joked. Funny.

Turned out, Normi2's wasn't really hard to find. It's not exactly off the beaten path. The tricycle driver knew where it was. Because it was still closed (we got there at 5am), we decided to check out the place and take photos. We could hear the soft murmur of the waves from afar.

At 6am Phoebe and I found ourselves at Surf Camp Resort to inquire if they had available rooms for 8 people. We were looking for alternatives because the room our friends got at Normi2s was good for only 6 people. "All rooms are already taken," the caretaker at Surf Camp told us. "And no one's checking out later?" We tried pushing our luck. He shook his head. We could have booked online, I told Phoebe who was getting impatient. We were tired and hungry. "Let's go back to Normi2's," I decided.

The staff at Normi2's were friendly and courteous. The one assigned at the reception area was particularly cordial. She was assigned to take and deliver order. She was quick and attentive too. I forgot her name, but she's really nice. The amicability of the staff is one thing that's charming about this place.

With rates that range from 1,200 for fan rooms and 2,000 up for air-conditioned, Normi2's is a good deal. They have free wifi, they serve free breakfast and there's no corkage fee. They also have swimming pools (one for the kids, and the other for adults), Surf Camp doesn't have one. The beach lines in San Juan are not ideal for swimming so having an amenity like this is a plus for people who want to swim before or after surfing.

Of course, the highlight of our La Union getaway was the surfing experience. Seeing big waves near the resort made us anxious. Especially Phoebe who doesn't know how to swim. 'Don't be silly,' I told her in a falsely comforting tone, 'You don't need to be a swimmer in order to surf.' And that's true. The required skill in surfing is balance and agility. Swimming skills only come second. At 3pm, we were all geared up for the kill. Me, wearing the same shirt from the trip.

For 400php, you can experience basic surfing for an hour. 200 for the training/lesson/tutorial and 200 for the board. Before riding the waves, a personal instructor will teach you the basic how-to's - how to paddle, how to properly cling on board, how to stand and how to fall.

"Can we surf by ourselves once you've taught us everything?" Marvin asked one of the instructors.

"No, you can't. It's too risky."

That's a fair statement. The waves can really be nasty. Although the surf spot that the instructors chose for us had small waves, it was still hard to maneuver the board in the water. The real challenge, at least for me, was not riding on board, but braving the strong waves. It's not only the waves that you need to watch out for, you really have to pay attention to other surfers going your way as well.

The last thing you'd want is to get bumped by several approaching surfboards.

Normi2's is located at 9-10 Seaside, Taboc, San Juan, La Union, Philippines. They can be contacted at (072) 720-0519, 0927-4496934, 0928-4231-476.   

Getting There:
Take a bus (Farinas, Genesis, Partas, Dominion, Viron) bound to Vigan, Abra or Laoag. Tell the driver to drop you off at San Juan. Normi2's is right beside the McArthur highway, but it's not too popular among the drivers. You can instead get off at the Municipal Hall of San Juan then take a trike to Normi2's. Travel time is around 5-6 hours.

Waves in the background.
Waiting for breakfast to be served.
Lunch. We bought them from the market and grilled at the resort.
Ready for the adventure.
I'm so excited.
Surfing lesson - it's very important to pay attention.
Waves, here we come.
Waves are getting bigger.
Few tries and Marvin already looks like a pro!
Dramatic setting.
Meet my instructor, oh no, I already forgot his name!
Surf gang. We're planning to go back in February.

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