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+ World-class reefs
+ Plenty of uncrowded spots
+ Tropical conditions
+ Cheap living costs
- Generally small surf
- Long flat spells
- Long transfer journey
- Political instability
Blue Tomato

Stormrider Guide to surfing Siargao


Phillipines, EAST ASIA


Siargao surfing at Cloud Nine, John Callahan

Surf Spots

 
Pacifico
Caridad
Pilar
Stimpy's
Tuesday Rock
Jacking Horse
Quicksilver
Cloud 9
Tuason Left
Horseshoe
Barrio
Pansukian
Mabuntok

Surf in Siargao

Siargao surfing spots are perfectly positioned close to the plummeting depths of the Philippine Trench, representing the highest concentration of good surf to be found in the 7,107 islands of the Philippines.

There are a number of world-class waves on the east-facing coastline, where many of the 32 documented spots are outside reefs and islets that can only be accessed by boat, while others break closer to the beach on a fringing reef. Cloud 9 is the most famous spot, located in General Luna, which is a good place to be based during the SW monsoon, while just up the coast, Pilar is a better bet during the NE trades.


Near San Isidro is Pacifico, a long, hollow and consistent left that likes N in the swell to stop closing-out. Long walk over the weedy reef lagoon best done in booties. Further north, Burgos and Alegria also have empty waves and pristine beaches. On SW winds with a good swell and full tide, Caridad reveals a perfect left with a low crowd factor. The place to be based during the NE trades is Pilar, only 7 miles from General Luna, but a long boat or car ride. The Pilar area is generally not as crowded as the General Luna region and the deep bay holds a selection of good left reefs that can be surfed during NE storms. Get a boat to explore the coral reefs and rocky outcrops on the southern side of the bay. Stimpy’s can be a ferocious, unpredictable left barrel that wraps around the coral heads and explodes with board-breaking power on overhead swells. Can also be mushy, fun walls and shoulders on smaller days when the regular NE blows, but there is usually something at this consistent, advanced spot. Take a longer board to make the drop and plenty of water and sun protection in the boat. These outer reefs get invaded by stinging jellyfish so a long sleeve rash vest can be a good idea. Tuesday Rock, Rock Island and Pancit Reef have all been used to describe this long, consistent, soft-peeling right that breaks in the shadow of a rocky islet, across the deep channel from Stimpy’s. N-NE swells hit it perfectly and the SW monsoon is dead offshore, so it can hold double overhead waves and is best at lower tides when cutbacks can transform to cover-ups. Boat access only so crowds are variable. Improvers at high, intermediates up at low. Jacking Horse offers some relief from the crowds and an easier righthander, peaking up at the end of the reef as it turns a corner and faces NW. Can be a left out the back but its short. NE swell and SW winds are ideal and lower tides link the sections better. Proper paddling channel and variable size makes it popular with intermediates while beginners surf the inside section called Little Pony. Quicksilver is Cloud 9's neighbouring reef peak and generally works at the same time. Short and fast peak, favouring rights and safer at higher tides. Good crowd relief valve and may offer more chances for those unable to get waves 150m down the reef. It takes about an hour to walk from General Luna to Cloud Nine but most of the established surf camps are located a lot closer to this classy, world famous keg-fest. Tuason Point is a seriously heavy left that breaks hard and hollow down the fringe of exposed reef about 400m south of C9. On it's day it is a fast throaty barrel for experienced surfers and low tide is sketchy. Despite its quality, Tuason is rarely crowded compared to its noisy neighbour. Horseshoe is a wedgy, high tide peak then multiple peaks and corners pop up all the way along a 2km fringing reef leading down to General Luna. It's difficult to assess size without making the 1km paddle, which many take from the cemetery at higher tides. It's a bit more forgiving and rarely crowded, but blows out easily. General Luna itself is too sheltered, but is the best place to pick up a pump boat out to Daku Island, home to a long, fun right called Barrio that breaks out in the channel. There are lots more sectiony rights on the islands northern fringe of reef that are offshore in the SW monsoon, plus plenty of potential on the exposed eastern tip. Across the channel in front of Guyam Island there are a number of low to mid tide rides if there are too many boats at Barrio. Pansukian was one of the original waves ridden on Siargao, but these days is usually empty despite having some clean peelers over the obligatory coral shelf in NE winds and E-SE swells. Daku blocks the NE swells. Short ride out via the bright white sands of Naked Island. It’s a much longer boat mission to surf Mabuntok, which is close to the islands of East Bucas, Casulian, La Janosa, Mamon and Antokon. These waves aren’t really suited to beginners but they’re not especially critical. On the south side of Antokon there are various reefy peaks that are offshore in a NE'er.

When to Go

Seasonally, the Philippines is fickle and difficult to predict, because the only real groundswell generator is from irregular typhoons travelling W-NW towards Japan. They may form at any time but July-Dec is the prime time, peaking through Sept-Oct. There is an estimated 15-20 swells in each season, that provide several days of E-NE swells between 3-8ft with occasional 12ft days. The best time for clean conditions is during the SW monsoon from July-Oct when the wind is predominantly offshore but both swell height and consistency is low. After this the wind switches around to the NE, bringing onshores and much bigger NE windswells that peak in Dec/Jan. Oct/Nov should bring the best chance of swell and some lighter winds. The calm May-June transition period sees low winds blowing from a E-SE direction, while swell is almost non-existent. The tidal range is minimal, but most shallow reefs are better surfed from mid-high tide.

SURF STATISTICS
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell N -E N -E N -E N -E N -E N -E
swell size (ft) 7-8 4-6 2-3 2 2-4 6-7
consistency (%) 94 86 23 6 39 97
dominant wind NE -E NE -E E -S S -W SW -W NE -E
average force F4 F4 F3 F3-F4 F3-F4 F4
consistency (%) 85 80 67 59 56 65
water temp (C) 24 24 24 25 24 24
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts
Population
General Luna - 13,385

Coastline
Siargo - 122km (76mi)

Timezone
GMT +8hr

Travel Information

Weather

The Philippines is hot and extremely humid year-round. The Pacific side of the Philippines is subject to two monsoon patterns, the NE monsoon called amihan from Nov to April not only brings onshores and small windswell, but also huge amounts of rainfall. In July the SW monsoon habigat starts blowing, this brings less rain and better wind patterns. Typhoons rarely make landfall this far S, but if they are going to then July-Dec is the risk period. The water is warm all year, so take boardshorts, a rash vest and booties for the reef walks.

Nature

The SUP, kite-boarding, kayaking, diving, snorkeling, fishing and jet-skiing are all excellent and many camps/hotels arrange hire and tours. Jump in a banca boat and go explore. Siargao Island has some natural hot springs near Lake Mainit, giant caves on Hikdop Island or whirlpools in the Surigao straits. For night-time entertainment go to General Luna.

Hazards

Siargao is hard to get to. There is a growing band of competitive local surfers and quite a lot of foreign surfers, but everyone is spread out over plenty of different spots. Rain, intense heat and malarial mosquitoes are present.

Hints

Bring all your own surf gear, including a semi-gun, although rentals and essential kit is becoming more widely available. Filipinos are usually very friendly, but there is the occasional bit of localism at Cloud Nine.