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Surfing in La Union, riding the waves

A boy surfer doing his thing at San Juan, La Union

Surfing in La Union is ideal. It’s the closest one to Metro Manila, ample public transport system, good roads and the waves cater to all levels from beginners to well seasoned pros. It even has an inviting night life.

Last January 2010, I was invited by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau to join a media tour of travel writers and bloggers to experience North Luzon for seven days starting in Cagayan province all the way to Pampanga to sample the various local cuisines and experience the attractions offered by the various provinces along the route. When one speaks of surfing, the mention of San Juan in La Union is never far behind, specifically the long stretch of sand that is Urbiztondo Beach. This municipality has been a popular venue for riding the waves ever since the Japanese Aki Naga started the surfing trend in 1981.

During that time, he taught the locals how to surf and to this day, these locals have been reaping awards and accolades and Urbiztondo Beach has become the surfing mecca of La Union, the surrounding provinces and of Metro Manila.

San Juan's best surfers

The surf here is said to be ideal, good enough for the president of the Philippines! Not only is this place blessed with two surfing seasons, July โ€“ October and November โ€“ March, quite a rarity in the country, the waves here are said to be standard, which is good, and is of consistent quality. It’s also suited for beginners as swell size starts at less than one meter. The coast here also has a sandy bottom and on a good day, wave length is at 50 -150m.

The popular Luke Landrigan giving the basics of surfing to would be surfers. I'm not sure if the girls are learning or distracted with the gentleman.

For newbies or those who want to start surfing, there are surfing clinics available offered by the various resorts. In one, the popular multi awarded icon, Luke Landrigan actually gives out instructions. An hour’s demo is enough and one can spend a few hours practicing.

The best time to hit the waves is early in the morning until 10 AM when the sun just gets too hot and later in the afternoon starting at around 2 PM. Surfing season in La Union can get the beach crowded but if you’re one who enjoys the nightlife, that would be a welcome as there are nightly events during the La Union Surfing Break.

A local surfer riding the waves

You stand, you fall and stand back again.

San Juan is quite accessible. It’s just 5 – 6.5 hours by private vehicle or bus, respectively, from Metro Manila where several bus companies pass en route to Ilocos. It’s two hours from Baguio City and 30 minutes from San Fernando, the capital of the province.

When in Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan Surf Resort (+63 72 720 0340, www.sanjuansurfresort.com.ph, [email protected]) is the best place to learn surfing when you’re just starting as Luke Landrigan and his team are there to assist you. The resort also offers accommodations.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

13 Comments

  1. journeyingjames
    May 5, 2010 @ 15:22

    pre, did you have a chance to try the waves? lotsa fun man! hmmmm, better than running..

  2. estan
    May 5, 2010 @ 17:02

    james, uhm, hindi e. hehehe… i was busy shooting the surfers ๐Ÿ™‚

    next time man ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Paige Flores
    May 21, 2010 @ 11:44

    Surfing is one of my favorite sports eventhough i got a bad accident last year because of very high surfs.:’;

  4. Gabriella Adams
    May 21, 2010 @ 13:25

    Surfing is really the best sport out there, i love the adrenaline rush when surfing on big waves.-,’

  5. Happy Trails
    June 8, 2010 @ 1:30

    i have to try this. thanks for the info ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. fetus
    June 26, 2010 @ 16:07

    i wish it was near cebu. i want to learn to surf. i’ve been to siargao twice but all i gained where cuts and bruises; the reef was very unforgiving. looks like this place is for beginners… ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. estan
    June 26, 2010 @ 17:56

    fetus, they say that La Union is really ideal for beginners. Siargao is too rough.

  8. Angel Baker
    August 2, 2010 @ 1:42

    i broke my arm on a freak surfing accident but hey, surfing is a nice sport”-*

  9. estan
    August 2, 2010 @ 9:25

    angel, i hope you’re okay and do enjoy surfing. just take care ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. » Ilocos Norte & La Union: Northern Exposure | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    April 8, 2012 @ 22:57

    […] Aki Naga started the surfing trend in 1981, Urbiztondo Beach in San Juan, La Union has been a surferโ€™s mecca for the past three decades. Of course, there are comparable, and perhaps better surfing spots […]

  11. Reydan Duldulao
    May 13, 2014 @ 16:40

    I’ve tried surfing once in Baler last weekend, now I am eager to try surfing in La Union anytime soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. nicole
    May 20, 2015 @ 10:34

    Hi just want to ask if there’s waves during april-june since you only mentioned two seasons. Thanks!

  13. estan
    May 20, 2015 @ 14:45

    Nicole, I think its possible naman to surf all year round but some months are better than other months ๐Ÿ™‚

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