Baler in Aurora used to be just an obscure fishing village in Northern Philippines when Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s war classic, was filmed there during the 70s. In one iconic scene in the movie, some soldiers were riding out the waves amidst the ongoing gunfight around them.
It is said that when the film crew left, they left behind a few of those boards. The locals then taught themselves how to surf with them and thus began what could probably be the beginnings of a surfing culture in this side of the world.
I haven’t watched that movie though when my friends and I recently went to Baler. All I knew back then is that it is one of the few surfing destinations in the country where neophytes can safely try their hand at the sport. Sabang beach is the perfect place to start since its sandy bottom serves as a cushion especially during a wipeout or that priceless Kodak moment where you are overturned from your board.
My good friend Mike surprisingly had only a few of those moments that afternoon. In just an hour or so, he has already mastered the technique of balancing on a surf board while a gentle yet unpredictable wave carried him back to the shore. I watched his steady progress from afar and occasionally glancing at how the rest of the eager and equally determined people around him fared.
While observing all of them seemingly having the ride of their lives, I deviced a strategy as to how to effectively stand on a moving surfboard. “It sure looks easy,” I thought to myself. And the instructions that I overheard from Neil, Mike’s instructor that afternoon, were quite straightforward as well. He was in good hands too since we would later find out that the young and unassuming guy has won a handful of surfing contests already.
But I remember too well the stupid ankle injury I sustained last summer. And my embarrassing attempts at wakeboarding also flashed before me like an angry ex-girlfriend on your wedding day. So despite my friends’ encouragements, I chickened out, crafted an excuse and declined the opportunity that time.
That I passed on what could be my only surfing lessons in my life is something that I would look back someday either with nostalgia or with regret or both.
Maybe I should just watch Apocalypse Now and then post an intellectually sounding movie review in Facebook afterwards. Maybe there are adventures that I am not destined to overcome.
Or maybe someday, I will never know.
There are many shops that offer surfing lessons at Sabang Beach. They usually charge Php300.00 an hour which already includes the lessons and the board rental fee.