Surfing Puraran: How I Got Over My Fear of Reefs

First published on My Life On Board on June 29, 2013.

All reef.

All reef.

Admit it, I am not the first to do a double take at the thought of surfing a reef break. For those starting out like me, wiping out at a beach break’s soft, sandy bottom is nerve-wracking enough. Now think of sharp, jagged rocks jutting out of the seabed, live coral stretching far and wide and the assortment of spiny or slimy things that crawl or swim in their crevices. And then here comes a wave, its full force pummeling you down to the ground and locking you there in close contact with marine biodiversity. No thank you.

But we all have to get over our fears, whether in or out of the water, because we are shaped by our struggles and strengthened by what we can overcome. As we were traveling to Puraran in Baras, Catanduanes, I was a cold, frigid mess. If I wanted to surf during that trip, I had no choice but to surf my first reef break. To add to my apprehension, I couldn’t buy surf booties in time and the board I borrowed was some two feet shorter than what I was used to. All I had with me were five months of board time and a carpe diem kind of courage waiting to be tested.

Chasing Majestic waves

That courage trembled a little at first sight of Puraran’s waves. They didn’t name those world-renowned and barreling right-handers “majestic waves” for nothing. While it was flat or blown out in most spots, Puraran was giving us clean overhead sets that broke so beautifully you’d want to watch a couple of sets sweep by before attempting to ride.

Harold getting some.

Harold getting some.

Chris getting all covered up.

Chris getting all covered up.

And perhaps that’s when the shift happens: fear turns into excitement and you momentarily forget that these waves could crush you if you get distracted. I then thought about the hours we spent traveling and the long paddle out just so we could be in that lineup. I was surrounded by water so clear I could see the reef bed beneath me, and the mountains that sheltered these islands basked in a sunlight that made green leaves gold. “I deserved to be here,” and that single thought gave me the force to paddle and stand.

I didn’t get it the first few times; I repeatedly did cartwheels underwater, my arms and legs getting “cheese-gratered” as the wave dragged me along. And yet I only wanted to paddle back and start over again.

Internal timing

Surfing good is surfing in peace.

Surfing good is surfing in peace.

Not all new surfers have to hop on the next boat to the nearest reef break. Courage is molded by one’s internal timing. Puraran is a picturesque retreat, an island that’s been called a paradise far too many times without diminishing its charm, and one can simply stay there. Surf or no surf, Puraran is a place for tuning one’s connection with the self. When the tide was too low, we carried our coffee cups to the beach and marveled at how the ocean never looked the same from different shores no matter how many times you see it.

Sure, not everyone can wax poetic at the sight of a sunset but anyone can get over their fears for something they love. When one’s heart is not into something, the easy things become hard. But when one truly loves something— as when one truly loves surfing—the hardest things become easy. This is why we leave the comforts of our urban spaces and travel for hours on end. Weekly. This is why we risk forecasts, paddle out to the unknown, and finally forget fear. And this is why I surfed Majestics and the taste of that tiny victory will never be forgotten. The next time I am paralyzed by my fear, I only need to look at the scars on my feet to remind myself that I can.

The parking lot.

The parking lot.

 

Planning to go to Puraran? Best experience its pristine beauty by staying at the Puraran Surf Beach Resort. Choose from their array of cottages fitted with the comforts of a modern home. The resort has free wi-fi. Surf lessons, snorkeling trips, cave exploration and boating expeditions are also available.

Like Puraran Surf on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/puraransurf