Longboards and Magic Swells: A Look Back at Lanuza

First published on My Life On Board on February, 13, 2014.

Whenever people talked about Lanuza, there was a special glint in their eyes and a sweet nostalgia to their voices. It was like recounting a love affair: the picturesque paddle out, the solemn courtship of waves. La-noo-za, often said with a smile. Being giddy about all things romantic and the sea, we booked a flight to the small municipality in the seaside of Surigao del Sur, to experience this great surf mystery.

The mystical swell

It was the week of the 11th Lanuza Surfing Festival and they were hosting an open longboard competition for men and women. Unlike in previous years, they did not hold a shortboard division to deepen the emphasis on longboard styles, may it be classic logging or progressive riding. An assortment of single fins and high performance epoxy niners lined the cobblestone shores, and the waxing of boards up to the nose became a regular sound. Lanuza was ready to showcase this year’s cross-step kings and hang-fivin’ females.

But then the world’s strongest super typhoon decided to drop in.

Weather warnings called to suspend all water activity due to Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), and the surfing festival had to be postponed. We gathered in front of a small TV and watched in shock and silent prayer as the storm surged over helpless cities. We were lucky to receive only a bit of howling wind, and a lot of rain.

And this is where Lanuza’s mystic appeal reveals itself: the storm swell pushed in our direction perfect waves.

Team LU in Lanuza: Jefferson Dela Torre, Daisy Valdez and Anthony Valdez

Team LU in Lanuza: Jefferson Dela Torre, Daisy Valdez and Anthony Valdez

Guilty as we were, we paddled out before it was light out and came back only when it was too dark to see. The nearest lineup was cobblestone-laden Castor and it delivered playful but powerful A-frames as if on a conveyor belt. Paddle a few meters more and you get Dawis, a drop-tube left-hander waiting for the highest air. The next few towns were alive with breaks: Habag’s rolling beach break, steep drops at Punta Left and Right, and Badjang’s peeling wave, rumored to be long enough to take you to the next town. 

We prayed for safety and sparked the stoke for those who couldn’t. 

The 11th Lanuza Surfing Festival

The wahine finals

The wahine finals

When the weather warnings were lifted days later, a new tension filled the air. And we were worried about exactly that: air. Or to be more precise: wind. The super typhoon packed itself with record-breaking winds that lingered in the islands long after the eye of the typhoon left the country. We faced blown out waves as early as 8:00 in the morning, and the competitors had little choice but to surf as best as they could in those conditions.

In the end, it was still a competitive display of fancy footwork and roundhouse cutbacks, and the following loggers emerged victorious amidst less-than-glassy waves:

Longboard Open – Men

Champion: Jefferson Dela Torre (La Union)

1st runner-up: Hiram Ariate (Lanuza)

2nd runner-up: Joey Saliva (Lanuza)

3rd runner-up: Philip Joie Sobreviga (Lanuza)

Longboard Open – Wahine

Champion: Daisy Valdez (La Union)

1st runner-up: Winnie Fuller (La Union)

2nd runner-up: Karen Faith Garces (Cebu)

3rd runner-up: Stephanie Claire Chua (Siargao)

Maybe we could give the beauty pageant a go?

Maybe we could give the beauty pageant a go?

Aside from the longboard competition, residents of Lanuza also held an Agri-Aqua Trade Fair, a festive market for local food and native products. That night, the Ms. Surfin’ Lanuza 2013 pageant entertained guests and locals with musical numbers, acting skits, and a bikini contest.

But it was still the surfing that people talked about the most. 

“We are very thankful for surfing. If not for surfing, we would not have as many visitors or as many festivals,” says Hon. Salvacion S. Azarcon, the municipal mayor. Indeed, Lanuza might become just another sleepy provincial town if not for the gift of waves.

We stayed in the small town for ten days but it still felt like Lanuza had not fully revealed herself. Or maybe this was her spellbinding mystery, that once you’ve surfed any of her breaks, you would only wish to get stuck there, suffused in her quiet charm.