Pagudpud: Hidden surfing haven up North

When the dry season comes, more and more people are getting antsy. Partly because of the overstaying COVID-19 pandemic but mainly due to the hot climate.

SURFIN’ PAGUDPUD – A surfer rides the waves in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. (Contributed photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

Maybe you haven’t heard of this, but for some, the dry season heralds the beginning of a season of adventure and fun in the seas. Surfers begin flocking beaches and ride the waters as it begins to swell.

But somewhere, deep in the northernmost edge of Luzon, lies a gem for surfers of all levels searching for a peaceful yet intense experience – the bliss of getting kegged by roaring waves.

More than 500 kilometers from Metro Manila, and a ten hour-long ride, the serene beaches of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte welcome you with its crystal-clear water, fresh breeze, and white sands. Moving towards the deeper part of the municipality lies Barangays Balaoi and Saud – home to the famous Blue Lagoon, and Saud Beach, respectively.

Pagudpud, while technically hidden, has its own share of surfing history. In fact, Mike Oida, a professional surfer who now lives in Palawan, used to surf around the beaches of Pagudpud, across a resort he owns. While at it, he also taught several locals the art of surfing, and enjoyed crashing the waves with them.

With Oida gone, locals are now taking his hobby of training interested surfers.

Karl Murphy, owner of the Ikani Surf Resort sitting just across one of the main surf breaks in Blue Lagoon, shared some highlights of the underrated Pagudpud surfing spots.

The municipality boasts several surfing spots. Barangay Balaoi, where the Blue Lagoon is, has four surfing spots, while a 25-minute ride to Barangay Saud will introduce you to more, varied spots and breaks aside from award-winning beaches.

Murphy, who made surfing with the locals his hobby due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, said this is the perfect time for catching the waves.

“Nag-uumpisa nang magkaroon ng consistent na alon (Waves are becoming consistent),” he said. “This will continue to get better as the ‘habagat’ (southeast monsoon) comes in, pagpasok ng mga ulan at bagyo mas malalaki yung alon (when the wet season arrives and tropical cyclone come, the waves will become bigger).” This, said Murphy, meets the ideal condition for intermediate and pro-level surfers until the month of September, where waves could reach two to ten feet.

Murphy said the spots, come typhoon season, produces an A-frame they fondly call “heartbreak” – a peak breaking both left and right. “When heartbreak barrels during the ‘big days’ in the season, kasya ang isang sasaskyan (one car can fit in),” he added.

But that is not all the beaches and lagoon have to offer. Another area, called “vista,” is ideal for learners. The beach break has sandy bottom, making it ideal for newbie surfers.

Other Pagudpud beaches offer varying lanes where surfers may move according to their preferred difficulty.

Murphy said Pagudpud beaches being underrated, make it even better.

“’Yun ang charm ng Pagudpud (That is the charm of Pagudpud). More remote, kaunti ang crowd (fewer crowd), mas nasosolo mo, mas naeenjoy mong mag-surf (the more you will enjoy if you are alone),” he said.

Earlier, Department of Tourism (DoT) Ilocos Regional Director Jeff Ortega, with Ilocos Norte Gov. Matthew Manotoc, began discussing how to push Pagudpud as a surfing hub in the far North.

Manotoc plans to conduct organized competitions soon. This way, the beaches will become more popular, and will legitimize surfing in the area, to the point where local surf instructors would be certified to train. “They are going to invite someone to certify them, hopefully soon,” he said.

Ikani Surf Resort is currently undergoing renovation but tourists and surfers may still enjoy its lodging.

“If they want to experience surfing and try a new spot, Pagudpud should be on top of the list,” he added. “It is a beautiful place, with world-class wave, and nice people.” So buckle up, take your negative swab test result, and hit the gas to Pagudpud.

Manotoc meantime said the province is accepting tourists with any type of antigen test results as long as it comes from legitimate laboratories.