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Stormrider Guide to surfing Siargao

Phillipines, EAST ASIA

Siargao surfing at Cloud Nine, John Callahan


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

Perfectly positioned as close to the plummeting depths of the Philippine Trench as possible, Siargao (pronounced Shar-gaw) represents the highest concentration of good surf to be found in the 7,107 islands of the archipelago. 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.

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 Spots

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 E-NE 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 seven 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 like Salvation, Philippine Deep and Shifties. StimpyÕs 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 StimpyÕs. 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 itÕs 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 9Õs 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 9 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 Cloud 9. On its 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. ItÕs a 300m paddle out to Horseshoe (aka Hawaiian Jack), a wedgy, high tide right that shoulders off in deeper water and is best in headhigh swells. Multiple peaks and corners pop up all the way along a 2km fringing reef leading down to General Luna. ItÕs difficult to assess size without making the 20min walk/paddle over the low tide reef, which many take from the cemetery, or pay for a 5 min boat ride from town. ItÕs 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 (or Inside Dako) that breaks out in the channel. The reefÕs position cuts some swell size and the slower speed and deeper water make it a favourite with improvers. Dako Point has more challenging, sectiony rights on the islands northern fringe of reef that are also 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 challenging 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. ItÕs 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 arenÕt really suited to beginners but theyÕre not especially critical. On the south side of Antokon there are various reefy peaks that are offshore in a NEÕer.


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

Travel Information

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 constant windswell, but also huge amounts of rainfall. In July the SW monsoon habagat starts blowing, this brings less rain and better weather 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.

Lodging and Food
There are 40 surf camps/resorts around Cloud Nine and General Luna from basic to full luxury; choose from Ocean 101 ($18-135 dbl), Sagana Resort (fr $80/p/n dble full board), Turtle ($36/n/dbl) or upmarket villas at Kawayan Resort (fr $120/n/dble). Closer to General Luna is BuddhaÕs Surf Resort (fr $55/n/dbl) and Isla Cabana Resort (fr $100/n/4p) plus dozens more surf/guest houses. In Pilar try Lucod Beach Resort, Jafe Surf in Pacifico and White Sands in Burgos. Food ranges from cheap market stalls and street BBQÕs to expensive resort restaurants; $5-10 a meal upwards.

Nature and Culture
The SUP, kite-boarding, kayaking, diving, snorkelling, fishing and jet-skiing are all excellent and many camps/hotels arrange hire and tours. Jump in a banca boat to the small outer islands. Explore the mangrove systems of Del Carmen or Pilar, natural hot springs near Lake Mainit, giant caves on Hikdop Island, Magpupungko rocks, Tak Tak waterfalls or whirlpools in the Surigao straits. For night-time entertainment go to General Luna and the videoke bars.

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