The Groms of Gubat

We were bound for Puraran to attend the Catanduanes Reef Break 2014 last May 2014 (now this is an entirely different story) and we decided to stop by Gubat, Sorsogon on the way there. We had never been to Gubat, and we were told that it was the off season-- there might be no waves-- but in the spirit of exploration and adventure, we went anyway.

We rode a bus to Sorsogon from Legazpi, Albay-- my mother's hometown. I lived in Cebu for most of my life, but I graduated elementary school in the land of the world's most beautiful volcano, the Mayon.

This trip was shaping up to be quite the Bicolandia oddyssey! We went from Legazpi to Gubat to Puraran, but Gubat will be the focus of this entry.

The bus dropped us off in Sorsogon City, two hours out of Legazpi, and from there, we took a 30-minute jeepney to Gubat. Here's Harold and my cousin safeguarding our surf boards on top of the jeep. 

In Gubat, we were welcomed by the best host possible! Meet Bidge Villarroya, ace surfer and founder of Surfsogon AdventoursHe looks quite like the authority figure in this picture, say, governor perhaps? Haha. He then took us around his homebreak and later, we realized, that the story of surfing in Gubat cannot take place without this man.

Add our good buddy and fellow Bicolano, Droy of Smallcommunitee, into the mix and our cast is complete!

The beach break at Buenavista.

The beach break at Buenavista.

Some places feel just like home, and the vast expanse of Buenavista was tinged with a comforting familiarity despite it being our first time there. I remember thinking about how there was so much beach in this place, and my eyes tried to capture as much of the clear blue coastline and the powdery white sand as possible. As hard as I might've tried, there was always more.

And just when I thought I couldn't fall in love with Gubat any harder, my heart sprung open when I met the kids. Over the past couple of years, Bidge has taken in more than 20 groms and juniors in Buenavista, and he has since trained all of them to surf, repair boards, and look after the place. Every day, we'd hear a different chorus of "Kuya Bidge, we need more resin!" and "Kuya Bidge! Where's the wax?" and who knows where Bidge gets the energy to entertain all of them. It was almost like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and surfing was their ultimate happy thought.

Nica makulit.

Nica makulit.

Vea, mas makulit!

Vea, mas makulit!

My heart held a soft spot for the mini wahines, Vea and Nica. Vea, who has only been surfing for a year, could perform proper snaps and cutbacks and there was just no end to her feist in and out of the water. I hope she gets the support she needs to become national champion one day.

Sweet, little Nica has only started learning but her determination is endearing and contagious. Now, these two girls insisted on calling me "Ate Barbie," and although I knew I looked nowhere near the doll, I felt like their toy as we exhausted all the children's games I knew while we were there. Haha. 

Oh, how dearly I miss them all.

We had fun-sized peelers for breakfast, and nothing could have ever prepared us for what Bidge served for lunch.

Oh man. I've been properly conditioned to think of Sorsogon each time someone mentions shrimp or crab. We had shrimp and crab for days, alternating between sweet chill sauce and native coconut dressing (gata). The pictures could never do it justice.

Harold pitched in grilled goodness of his own and we ate boodle-style. I think we might have eaten more than we surfed during that trip, but know that in Gubat, the food is as glorious as the surf.

When it was time to burn off all that we ate, we drove around to see if any of the outer reef breaks were working. We loaded all our boards and all the kids in the back of Bidge's pick-up and we rolled along nicely, false alarms included: "Kuya Bidge! Kuya Bidge! Your 5'9" flew off the truck!" 

And look, even from this extremely far vantage point, you could see the break. 

Know thy marker.

Know thy marker.

And so began the exodus which marked the longest paddle-out of my life. It was roughly 2 kilometers going to the spot, and 2 kilometers back. But the pleasant part is that, with the crystal clear water and the diverse and colorful reef around us, no one could complain.

Besides, how could one complain when the groms were paddling like it was nothing? :)

Oh, do watch out for these bad boys.

What worked as a fast and powerful left-hander during the peak season gave us a shoulder-high but just as punchy C-frame when we were there. The tide dropped really low in the middle of our session, and I would cringe each time my fins would scrape against something. Bad for the environment. It was admittedly not the wisest time for all of us to be out there so we headed home, each one making sure to pack their fill of stoke anyway. 

Back in Buenavista, everything was the right amount of chill. 

Later on, we witnessed the local community carry out an old fishing tradition. They cast a giant net out to sea and pulled at it for hours, until the net was dragged back to shore. Each helping hand was then rewarded with a share of the catch. This is said to be outdated and is no longer practiced in other fishing areas.

Through sun burn and rope burn. Come on, pull!

Our stay coincided with a small, local competition for the groms and juniors of Buenavista. It was unlike any other comp we've ever been to. No sponsors, all community. From the makeshift flags to the tally sheets torn out of school notebook paper.

Because surf shops are hard to come by in Sorsogon, the locals make the most out of everything they have. The current communal quiver of boards is a collection of old retro fishes and shorties from Japanese surplus shops, which Bidge frequents for deals.

As I was combing the wax on my board, one of the groms asked to have the old scrapings off of my board. I said that it was old wax and it wouldn't hold, but he insisted and said he'd ball it all together and it'd be as good as new. 

"We need more surfboards in this place. More rashguards and board shorts for the kids. More leashes and fins. More resin. More of everthing."

In Gubat, all the young kids are hungry for surf. And all of them have potential. I'd love to see more of these kids get exposure in the surf scene so they could get the boards and equipment they need. 

Take Vea here. She's such a cool cat that she doesn't mind competing with the boys, especially since she wins most of the time.

Now watch these kids rip on a 1-foot day!

These kids are used to surfing waves twice their size so these baby waves are easy as pie.

Spray on a very small day? But how?

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Here's Vea prepping for a cover-up and going for the nose. Again, but how?

Juniors Class A Finals: Estrelito, Zaldy, Denper and Joey

Juniors Class A Finals: Estrelito, Zaldy, Denper and Joey

I don't know who else could pull off such a fun comp like this, with no budget and practically no waves.

In the end, it was Yron, Caloy, Denper and Adrian who bagged the first prize in their divisions but everyone had a little something to take home. 

Cooking pancit bato.

Cooking pancit bato.

And of course, we all could use a bit more of crab.

We had to leave really early the next morning that I didn't get to say goodbye to the kids. Part of me wanted to wait but we had a boat to catch. Bidge headed to Puraran with us, and he competed in the Catanduanes Reef Break 2014. Little did we know then that he'd come home to Buenavista a champion. 

"For the kids," Bidge says with a huge grin on his face. 

I'd love to see Vea or Yron shred with that board so we'll definitely return to Sorsogon one of these days. Their surf season is about to pick up, starting in September until about the same time of our first visit in May. That's a good part of the South Swell and North Swell, so don't miss it.

With all these spots firing? You'd have to be crazy to miss it.


Additional photos from Surfsogon Adventours.
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