Siargao: FINALLY Learning to Surf in the Philippines

Both times I tried to learn to surf, I’ve failed miserably. The first was in Florida, where my friend basically left me to teach myself. Not only did I almost drown, I also got hit in the face with my own surfboard. Not a great start…

The second try was a slight improvement. I took a lesson with a real instructor in Taitung, Taiwan, and managed to get up on my knees. However, the waves were weak and way too close to shore to allow me to stand up. When I went back out that evening, the surf completely exhausted and frustrated me. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get up on my own!

Now I know I’ve been doing it all wrong. ALL WRONG. Thank you Philippines for finally showing me the light. 

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Siargao Cloud 9

I sure didn’t hate the weather here

Typhoon Problems

I haven’t had a chance to write about this yet, but a giant typhoon really messed up my plans in the Philippines… that, and monsoon rain. After getting stuck on the island of Cebu and drenched in a constant torrential downpour, I was starting to regret my decision to visit the Philippines in the summer.

I had no idea what to do or where to go. I thought about doing more scuba diving, but the visibility was so horrible in Moalboal, I didn’t want to risk it again. After chatting with other travelers I learned that El Nido was basically a ghost town, and Boracay’s beaches were flooded wind turbines. Where could I go?!

Siargao Cloud 9 Pier

The Cloud 9 Pier: So pretty!

My Savior Siargao

Thankfully my Filipino hostel mate had a brilliant suggestion: Let’s head down to Siargao! Siargao is so far south that it has a completely different weather pattern than the rest of the Philippines. The overnight slow ferry to Siargao was still running, and with a week left of my travels I figured I had nothing to lose.

The only thing stopping me: Siargao is a surfing island and I’m horrible at surfing.

Surfing is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, but after two unsuccessful tries, I had convinced myself that I was hopeless. Did I really want to push myself to try again? Did I want to travel all night and day to get to an island where everyone would ditch me to constantly surf? It sounded like a terrible idea.

While a part of me wanted to run for the hills, another little voice reminded me that I had heard of Siargao before. How did I know that name?! Then I remembered: Sabrina from Just One Way Ticket wrote an epic post about why she loves Siargao. The best part is? She doesn’t surf!

Okay… I’m convinced.

Giving Surfing Just One More Try

Surfing is one of those things I always thought I should be good at. I never understood why I couldn’t get the hang of it. I’m super comfortable in the water, I have great balance and decent upper body strength… I should be great! But for some reason, both times I tried I felt frustrated and exhausted. I hate giving up, so I pushed myself way too hard, berating myself for not being able to stand up when others were popping up all around me.

While I was originally perfectly content to never try surfing ever again, surrounded by new surfers on the island of Siargao, I couldn’t help but think surfing deserved one more chance. Third time’s the charm right? Let’s hope so.

After doing some research I found Kermit Surf Resort, a surf school and resort which happened to be just down the road from my hostel, Paglaom! I noticed Kermit has week-long surf packages, as well as private surf lessons for 500 pesos ($11) an hour. At such great prices and a convenient location, I figured it would be a shame not to give surfing another chance.

Kermit surfing Siargao

Babal and I after a successful lesson

Surfing Cloud 9

When I arrived at Kermit, I met Babal, my Filipino surf instructor. I was shocked when I learned he had been teaching for six years! He must’ve started teaching as a teenager, because this guy was definitely not a day over 25.

I hopped on Babal’s motorbike with my board in hand, and we zoomed down the road towards Cloud 9, the most famous surfing beach in Siargao. Cloud 9 is a reef break, rather than beach break, meaning you have to walk out over the shallow reef to catch waves. Thankfully Kermit lent me water shoes, otherwise I would have killed my feet!

Getting out past the waves was much easier than I had experienced in the past, and I barely had to paddle because the reef is so shallow! The lack of endless paddling definitely helped me save energy and enjoy my experience more. It was perfect for a newbie!

Siargao Cloud 9

Famous Cloud 9

When it was time for my first wave, I hopped on the board and almost immediately stood up. Wait…. What?

I thought I was supposed to be bad at surfing. What is this??!

After a few more tries of standing up for a half second and falling in the water, I finally got the hang of it. I was constantly popping up, and I even rode a few long waves until they ran out of steam. According to Babal I’m “a natural.”

I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face. I was laughing, joking with Babal, and giggling at my hilarious wipeouts. What is this? Am I enjoying myself? How is it possible that I’m actually decent at surfing?!

Apparently my problems with surfing were never my fault. I was just trying to learn in horrible conditions.

Cloud 9 surfing Siargao

Expert surfers catching waves

The Magic of Siargao Surfing

The great thing about Siargao is that the waves are amazing and consistent year-round. There are so many different surfing beaches near General Luna (the most popular village on the island), there’s always a good spot to surf.

The first few times I tried surfing, the waves were either too strong and frequent, or too soft and close to shore. The waves on Cloud 9 were perfect, and according to the locals, they’re like that all the time.

Siargao is honestly the perfect place to learn to surf. Whether you’re a complete beginner like me, or a surfer looking to hone your craft, there are so many different beaches and types of waves, you’ll be sure to get a million times better.

Private lessons are so extremely cheap, so you can afford to take a few before you try to go out on your own. Then when you want to give solo surfing a try, you can rent a board from your hostel for as little as 400-500 pesos ($10 USD) for the whole day!

Cloud 9 Siargao sunset

Siargao sunset

I Need to Stop Underestimating Myself

If there’s one thing I learned from my trip to Siargao, it’s that I need to stop underselling myself. I have this horrible habit of convincing myself I’m bad at things I haven’t even really tried! Whether it’s attempting to ride a semi-automatic motorbike, learning to surf, or solving math problems, I often convince myself I’m horrible at things I don’t immediately excel at.

The funny thing is, it’s not just me! I see so many girls underselling themselves and their capabilities. Even some of the strongest, most independent women I know do this on a consistent basis. Girls: we need to stop.

I’m done with making self-deprecating jokes about how I’m horrible at surfing. Because guess what? I’m actually not half bad! 

I’m honestly so glad I gave surfing another chance on Siargao, and I thank Kermit for making me love a sport I used to run from in fear! I guess the third time’s the charm after all.

Siargao Cloud 9 beach

Cloud 9 Beach

Getting There

If you’re in Asia and want to try some amazing and affordable surfing, I 100% recommend taking a trip to Siargao. You can take the overnight slow ferry from Cebu City to Surigao, and another short ferry to Siargao the next day (what I did on the way there), or you can fly from Siargao or Surigao to almost anywhere in the Philippines (what I did on the way back).

Kermit Surf Resort Siargao

Kermit Surf Resort!

Kermit Surf Camp

As I mentioned before, Kermit offers private lessons, board rentals and a week-long surf camp. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend their camp, because you’ll leave the island with the skills to surf almost anywhere on your own!

Kermit offers “Learn to Surf” and “Eat, Sleep and Surf” packages depending on your level. Prices vary from 32,000- 22,500 pesos ($690- $480 USD) per person depending on your accommodation and number of people.

Kermit restaurant Siargao

You have to eat here!

This price includes:

  • Airport/ferry harbor pickup
  • 7 nights accommodation (three different price point options)
  • A HUGE breakfast every morning
  • One or two private surf lessons a day
  • All surf equipment
  • Free wifi
  • Free 1.5 hour massage
  • Free water refills
  • A bicycle to get around town
Kermit Resort Siargao

Kermit bungalows

Honestly, if I had more time in the Philippines I would drop everything for this camp. I guess there’s always next time right??

Do any of you ever undersell yourself like I did with surfing? How did you discover you weren’t as horrible as you originally thought? 

Looking for a cheap, beautiful place to learn to surf? Siargao was by far the best and easiest place I've ever tried to surf. 3rd time's the charm!

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Thanks so much to Kermit Siargao for hosting me on a two-hour surf lesson. Not only did you guys teach me to surf, you taught me to stop putting myself down for no reason, and for that I’m forever thankful! 

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

22 comments on “Siargao: FINALLY Learning to Surf in the Philippines

  1. I’ve tried surfing exactly twice and those experiences were very similar to yours. I got hit with my board so hard the first time I had a GIANT bruise on my hip for weeks. It was not pretty. That being said I’ve always wanted to give it another shot. I am dying to go to Siargao anyway, but now that I’ve read this I kind of want to go there for the sole purpose of learning to surf. It sounds like the perfect place for a beginner! And congrats on standing up…I’ve never gotten that far ;)

    • Haha yeah we’re definitely in the same boat. Siargao is the perfect environment to learn how to surf. No judgement, a lot of newbies, and more advanced waves for people who know what they’re doing. Surfing aside, there’s so many other things to do in Siargao: island, hopping, motorbiking around the island, rock pools, blue lagoon… it was awesome! I spent a week there and didn’t want to leave.

  2. Hey RIchelle, long time no see! So you’ve learned how to surf? Great! I wouldn’t even attempt to step on that board. However, I learned paddle boarding. Does that count? I heard Philippines is beautiful!

  3. Such a nice story, I’m glad it finished at the point that you know how to surf now ;-) I also wanted to learn surf in Hawaii but it wasn’t windy and they suggested to try another day or try stand-up paddle boarding first. I started to do SUP boarding when we came back and literally fell in love! I can’t wait to learn to surf now, hopefully it should be easier..we’ll see :-D

    • My brother learned to surf in Hawaii when we were kids but I chickened out. I’ve heard it’s great there, but I’m sure paddle boarding is just as fun. I bet it will definitely help you with your balance when it comes time to try surfing again :)

  4. Sounds of the pounding surf, bungalow, palm trees, sun, fresh onshore breezes: I’d imagine that surfing is a beautiful cherry topping on one fine tropical sundae …

  5. Hi Richelle,

    I’m new to your blog, and have really been enjoying your writing. I have been dying to try surfing, so this post definitely spoke to me! I was at TBEX Asia this year and had a ball – I’ll be back for sure. So with Manila hosting in 2016, maybe I’ll make my way down to Siargo as well – you’ve definitely sold me! Looks like a gorgeous spot.

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    • I didn’t actually do the official island hopping but I heard it was amazing! I did go to the lagoon and Suhoton which are equally amazing! Five days wasn’t even enough, I could’ve stayed there for weeks!

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  9. I love this post. I recently returned from a surf trip to siargao – and I got stranded there due to a typhoon! I had previously learned to surf in bali (after failed attempts in the southeast US and hawaii). I didnt think i’d ever consider myself a “surfer” and doubted my ability…but my instructors in bali, and again in siargao changed that. I stayed at Siargao bleu (way overpriced!!!) due to booking the trip late but surfed with Manie from Kermit…I also ate almost every meal at Kermit. I can’t wait to go back and stay at kermit!

    • Oh wow I almost got stranded on Malapascua because of a typhoon! Then I was stuck on Cebu for a while because no ferries were running. I’m so glad you enjoyed Kermit and surfing in Bali. I want to go back and do the week-long surf camp. I always thought I could be a surfer but I doubted myself because I was kind of scared of the big waves. It’s definitely on my list for something I want to really do in life!

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