10 Local Surfers You Need to Know Now

They're #lifegoals.


(SPOT.ph) When one thinks of surfing, what often comes to mind are the glassy tube waves of Hawaii, Bali, and California. How many American movies and TV shows have we seen with the laid-back surfer spending the whole day out in the sea? Here in the Philippines, we have equally great locals who rip waves so well, that they often get recognition in local and even international competitions. This is their lifestyle and, for most of them, it has gone beyond the water and into their surf culture business, food startups, and even travel camps.


We list down some of the country's most inspiring surfers. They’re all #lifegoals.



Mara Lopez | @maralopezy

Mara Lopez followed the footsteps of both her parents—actress Maria Isabel Lopez and Japanese surfer Hiroshi Yokohama—and balanced the two successfully, with other interests to boot. When not hosting on television or acting in independent films (Flotsam, K'Na The Dreamweaver, Debosyon, etc.), she travels from one surf spot to another here and abroad. By the way, her Instagram account is also filled with photos of her Jiu-Jitsu training.


What do you love most about surfing?

I love waking up before first light! Paddling out to the lineup while it's still dark and no one’s out. It's something I did a lot with my dad who taught me how to surf. We'd wake up ridiculously early and catch the first waves of the day. Watching the sunrise is just majestic. I always feel blessed to have an intimate relationship with the ocean. I love every part of surfing—even the painful part. When I'm surfing heavy waves, the rush feels great but it can be scary out there. Every time I am out in the ocean, I am humbled.


What's your favorite surf spot?

There's a lot of breaks I love in the Philippines but you're gonna have to go and find it. It's a constant search. [My] favorite place in Japan will be in the island where we live, Tokunoshima. That's where my dad is from. Home break in Indonesia is West Sumbawa.


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Ikoy Valles | @ikoy_valles

Ikoy Valles hails from Catanduanes, which now wants to be called the “Happy Island” rather than the “Land of the Howling Wind.” Who wouldn't be happy with overhead waves day in and day out, and not too many people angling for elbow room? When not paddling out, he takes photos and creates marketing collaterals for local resort Puraran Surf Camp and advertising agency Goofy Foot Media.



What do you love most about surfing?

Surfing constantly reminds me of my dispensability, thus, keeping me grounded. It takes me back to the basics of life and be more appreciative, be more grateful, be more positive.


What's your favorite surf spot?

Majestic in Puraran, Baras and Magnesia del Sur, Virac—both in Catanduanes.


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Camille Pilar | @camillepilar

Camille Pilar's love for the surf town in San Juan, La Union is so deep that she decided to move there from Manila in October 2014. The Communication graduate now writes for La Union Soul, a community-driven eco-tourism movement in eLyU, and facilitates writing workshops—when not riding waves, of course. She's also the girl behind the now-viral Instagram account @bannedfromthebeach, which compiles photos of trash to encourage responsible beach-going.


What do you love most about surfing?

I love how surfing reveals deeper connections with yourself, with others, and with nature. They say surfing is the source and I am beginning to understand what that means: Surfing teaches you about what matters so you may truly know how to live.


What's your favorite surf spot?

I haven’t been surfing long enough to get to know many spots that well, but I have developed a soft spot for Monaliza Point in La Union because it’s the spot I surf the most. But I am looking forward to going out of this comfort zone and discovering more waves that will feel like home.


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Manuel Melindo Jr. | @manuelmelindo

Manuel Melindo Jr., fondly called Wilmar, is one of the finest tuberiders in the Philippines. After all, he takes on the barreling waves of Siargao in Surigao del Norte for breakfast. He is the president of the Siargao Island Surfers Association and trains local surfers who would later participate in annual international surf competitions on the island and abroad.


What do you love most about surfing?

Ayos ang surf dahil isa ito sa nagturo sa akin ng kaugalian para makaiwas sa katamaran at masamang bisyo. Marami rin akong nakilala na tao mula sa iba’t ibang lugar dahil dito.


What’s your favorite surf spot?

Cloud 9 in Siargao, Surigao del Norte



Lorraine Lapus-Kuit | @lorrainelapus

Lorraine Lapus-Kuit, born and raised in Manila, caught her first wave in San Juan, La Union in 2005 and has since paddled her way to a list of the top 10 women surfers in the Asian Surfing Championships in 2014. She owns the La Union Surf School and runs specialized surf camps in Bali and the Philippines. She's also the first Pinay surfer to achieve Level 2 certification through the Academy of Surfing Instructors.



What do you love most about surfing?

I love just being in the water. Surfing is a mixture of energy and adventure which is really addicting!


What’s your favorite surf spot?

I love Samar in the Philippines, and Indonesia has so many spots with such consistent surf!



Gabriel Antonio B. Sarmiento | @gab_sarmiento

Gab Sarmiento calls Manila his home but the rest of the country his playground, whether it's a secret surf spot or a skate park. He founded Filipino surf- and skate-centric Blunt Magazine, which released its first issue in 2014.


What do you love most about surfing?

I guess having that opportunity alone to be able to just go somewhere with your surfboard and a camera already "is" the best part of surfing if you ask me. You could be coming back to your daily routines from the most epic adventure of your life (or not) but one thing's always for sure, you're not coming home the same.


What's your favorite surf spot?

Destinations like Zambales, Baler, and La Union would always be favorites coming from Manila but if I were to choose which from all my travels stood out the most, Eastern Samar (Visayas) and Bali (Indonesia) are pretty hard to beat.



Noelle Hilario | @noelle_hilario

Noelle Hilario is the co-founder of Flow Retreats, a yoga and surf camp often held at various destinations around the Philippines. She also co-manages Makai Bowls, a smoothie bowl shack in La Union, and Hillside Cafe and Juice Bar, an organic restaurant in Quezon City. She often posts photos of her and her nine-year-old-son just enjoying the country's many beaches.


What do you love most about surfing?

The ocean is my happy place and I love that I get to spend a lot of time in it through surfing. The rush that I get whenever I ride a wave over and over again, sunset sessions with my friends, traveling... these moments inspire me and it is because of surfing that I get to experience these.


What's your favorite surf spot?

My ultimate favorite surf spot in the Philippines would be Carrille in La Union. Daku Island in Siargao would be a runner up. I don't really have a favorite spot outside the Philippines but one of my best surf sessions would be in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka.



Gian Carlo B. Libarnes | @bujibrownlegs

Buji Libarnes has lived most of his life in Manila but now calls La Union his home, especially after he and his wife Nikki dela Paz turned a 20-foot container van into a house. It's definitely something that only legit surfers (and cool architects) like them can pull off. He used the same '60s surf culture vibe on Vessel Hostel, a five-room dormitory they opened in December 2016. The couple also co-manages the clothing line Coast Thru Life with actor Jericho Rosales, a surfer himself.



What do you love most about surfing?

What I love most about surfing is that it is just pure joy. It's my constant source of inspiration and happiness and has helped make my life simpler yet complete.


What’s your favorite surf spot?

Carrille in La Union and Batukaras in West Java. They're my happy places!




Elaine Abonal | @elaineabonal

Siargao-based Elaine Abonal combines her passion for travel and surf through the surf-tour company Surfista Travels Philippines. These camps not only include surf lessons but also yoga sessions, island-hopping tours, waterfall and lagoon tours, and more. Elaine speaks English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Filipino and has a surf instructor certificate from the International Surf Association tucked under her belt (or rashguard).


What do you love most about surfing?

I love that surfing connects you to the ocean and has your life surrounded with everything related to nature and the ocean. This connection to the ocean also lets you be in contact with different kinds of people from all over the world and my life has changed and become better because of the ocean and those people I met.


What's your favorite surf spot?




Paolo Manuel Soler | @skwalasurfboards

If the name Paolo Soler rings a bell, that's because he hosted the sports TV show Gameplan from 2006 to 2007. Now, you'd see him every weekend teaching Manileños how to surf in a wave pool at Club Manila East in Taytay, Rizal through his surf school Philippine Surfing Academy. He also customizes and repairs surf boards 


What do you love most about surfing?

I love how surfing is so personal that it requires no audience or scoreboards. All you need is your board and some nice waves.


What’s your favorite surf spot?

I simply can't have a favorite surf spot because each place provides its own unique dose of stoke that just can’t compare to others.


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