Friday, 23 March 2012 17:25
Before we get down and dirty with our latest adventure tale, I would like to apologise for the mammoth delay since our last update. I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that Facebook has been keeping us busy as our main marketing tool, but our latest trip to the undiscovered territory of Pagudpud, The Philippines was so good that we felt it deserved its own blog re-entry! Kiteworld Magazine/Oceansource team rider Brad Symington tells us why…
“When the go-ahead came that I was getting on a bird to The Philippines I must say it filled me with the excitement of adventure as well as a little niggle of concern as this was my first trip to Asia. Being a rookie at seeing the far side of the planet it was with an open mind that I boarded the flight and got ready to relax for quite a few hours. The time zone I was landing in has 22.5% of the world’s population making it the most populous time zone on the planet. Getting out of the airport into the shuttle for the short trip to terminal 3 you would think that they are all based in Manila. ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ is the most densely populated city in the world as the almost 2 million inhabitants do so in an area less than 40 sq km.
The most amazing driving I have ever seen, but noticeably on my entire stay in The Philippines, I saw very few cars with signs of bumper bashing. Arriving in the most Northern province of Ilocos Norte takes you far away from all this and also away from the usual beaten track down south. This is evident right from leaving the terminal and getting the shuttle, tuk-tuk or taxi from Laoag to Pagudpud. The place is clean and the jungle surrounds start taking over when coming into Pagadpud itself. The rice paddies that have been seen on the way now really become prominent but the mountains with ever-present clouds now add even more texture to the landscape.
When disembarking from the plane the air was noticeably humid but moving, with palm trees continuously bending backwards all the way to the resort to welcome you. A super warm place with super good wind is something I live for and as Mon the resort owner assured me with a confident smile the wind is good and strong. The last section is a dirt road that is continuously wet but in good condition giving me a feeling that this was not going to be a place where McDonald's would be freely available, and thank god I was right. The buildings of traditional-style huts as accommodation look welcoming and even two larger units with ensuites for this remote area are very impressive.
Right through the middle of the bungalows, you walk out onto the coral sand beach where the lagoon stretches out 100m and is met by a beautiful curling wave that broke from 1.5 – 6m during the majority of my stay – I had ARRIVED! The wind was blowing North East which meant side on from the right at 18-25 knots. Guests were sitting on the verandas of their bungalows very mellowly chatting and looking out over the water.
To my surprise, there was hardly anyone one out! The boys were having a break and waiting for the tide to come in a bit. This was a good chance to catch up with them and find out what they thought of their stay as they were leaving the next day. Coming from Thailand, New Zealand, Russia, Germany and Poland they all had come for the same reason – the wave, wind, warm water and remoteness of the place.
The place had delivered for them so far and they were very impressed. Twenty minutes later had us all out on the water and still, it did not get crowded. With the entire resort riding there were only 7 of us out and still plenty room to ride. Fabrice Beaux, the centre manager and pro rider for Neil Pryde and RRD, has actually been coming here 5 years earlier and returning every year since and has decided that this place is so good that he has now based himself here for the season which runs mainly from November to April. He has a wealth of knowledge and is exceptionally good at the inevitable rescue that happens periodically with the various levels of rider that Kingfisher can accommodate.
After two days of riding Kingfisher, an excursion was on the cards and this was done by Fabrice himself who has discovered and ridden all these spots. With the resort shuttle packed with the gear, we headed west along the coast and once over the mountains, the main agricultural backbone became evident with the expansive rice fields being tended by the locals. 5 Bags of rice gives them one of their own and the Filipino worker is a proud and hard-working one.
Along the route, Fabrice and our driver Tin Tin became a wealth of knowledge about the area and culture unique to the province. Part of the reason that the roads are in good order and the place is litter free with good amenities such as the Hospital and clinic is that the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos was from the area.
Today however we were reaping the rewards that came and the first step was Bangui above the wind farm. The spot could easily be driven past without a second glance and even if you did get out and try there would be nothing special about it. Fabrice showed me upwind how the wave runs at a gentle slope and breaks into the sandy bottom. Because of this, the water is a light brown along the shore but nevertheless the wave is good quality and easy to connect three or four together for a ride of over 1 km long. The background has the other side of the large bay with palm-lined beaches and to the left, there is the 20 strong wind farm making it great for photos.
Session two was at the lighthouse following a brief lunch stop at the local bakery in Bangui village and the sight that greeted me was one that is simply riders heaven. I say rider as a kiter, windsurfer and surfer alike would be loving the fact that they had rocked up to the beach with all the toys in the back. This is a right-hand point break that peels in sections and then reforms continuously in the little bay.
The water is crystal clear and royal blue against the white of the slowly turning wave. It looked like a volcanic rock that had formed this little inlet and rust had set in with pitted rocky headland jutting out to allow the wave to wrap around it. A deep channel on the left and cleaner wind made the launch relatively ok or the tiger line straight of the beach between the ‘Banka’ outrigger fishing boats with the gusty winds another option. Fabrice joined me on this session and kiter and windsurfer had some fun tearing it up in the waves.
It must be said that the wind was strong as I was on my 7 and well gusty would be an understatement. Definitely a spot for very experienced rider this one and an eye-opener after the easy beach break that we had just come from. Stop three for the day was by far the most surreal location I have ever kited in. This was back up to the wind farm but this time right underneath the turbines.
These graceful giants have a base wider than the minibus that we were travelling in and the blades travel at 60 kph making a tangle with them while kiting something to avoid. But fortunately, the freshwater riding lagoon situated right next to the sea put ou safely away from that. The huge sand dune in front keeping you safe and allowing for an easy walk back if the wind did decide to slow down, which my entire stay it only got marginally less than 20knots. Shooting here is a dream as the sun sets in front of you as you ride and the little dune makes the perfect spot for lining up the camera.
A late drive back to Kingfisher with some cold Red Horses (local lager) along the way as the sun dipped and the greens became darker and the day was quite simply exhausted. I say the day, as everything that could be done from beach break to flat freshwater freestyle and even reef break, had been done and this all within two hours from the awesome right-hander of Kingfisher. Evening dinner of grilled pork, Papaya and vinegar with Filipino spices and local rice during a de-brief of the day and a few more Red Horses and sleep has never come so easily!
The last day produced some classic conditions that have made this a place that Fabrice and Mon had kept secret for over 5 years. One to two-metre waves with a perfectly steady side shore 20knots and a good 0.7m tide. All of 7 kites out again and totally chilled in the line-up. Switchblade 8m kindly pumped (as every session was my whole trip) by Emmanual, one of the beach guides, and I was on it for flatwater freestyling mixed in with some classic wave riding for almost 4 hours. The seaweed bottom and odd bit is dead coral reef posing no issues with anyone while I was there and the friendliness of the people coupled with the beauty of the surroundings, making me reluctant to come in and put the kite down for the last time.”
Special thanks to Mon, Fabrice, Pepe, Nenette, Cabrinha Kites and everyone at Kingfisher Resort for looking after us – we WILL be back!!