Cloud 9 Surf Trip

    July 1997

A Not-So-Secret Spot somewhere in the Philippines

In July 1997 I escaped the winter doldrums in Sydney and spent a month travelling in search of a tropical surfing paradise. After reading a few articles about the potential of the Philippine Islands (Surfer Mag January 93- John Callahan, Taylor Knox and Evan Slater)) I decided to see for myself. In the words of Beavis and Butthead: "Huh-huh....we scored!". Before Cloud 9 I was over at Majestic, on the Island of Catanduanes (Surfer Mag Travel Issue 1988). But I would rather forget the week there....flat spell, knee high on the biggest day, and food poisoned...but hey, I had it all to myself!

Here are some of the pics from those two weeks at Cloud 9.

Hello to Brent (Thanks for lending me your board when I snapped mine!), Eric & Liz (Hope the scars healed), Gil, Mitch, The Kiwi Chargers (Scott, Gary, Mike and Craig), Thierry the mad Frenchman, Psycho Sean (mild mannered at night, lunatic surfer by day) The two crazy Japanese- Hiro and Masaki, Stuart Cadden, Dave and Kevin who runs the Cloud 9 camp.

Hope these shots bring memories of the insane times we had at Cloud 9!

Cloud 9 GOING OFF! This is your wake up call!

Day One: 10 foot plus The Typhoon swell at its biggest. Unrideably huge.

One of the smaller days in the trip. Mona Lisa Point, La Union, Philippines.

BARRELS!!! A Cloud 9 barrel looks like this. Actually it is Sunny Garcia at Backdoor but this is close enough.

Snapped board Another Casualty. The Qantas counter guy laughed at me when I tried to claim it as damaged baggage. He must have been a surfer.

Early morning surf check The guy there doesn't look like in too much of a hurry because the tide was dead low.

More perfect waves ...and no one out!

Low tide at the reef Check out evil Mr Reef poking his head out waiting for new flesh!

More pics- the last night and the start of a new swell

Scenes from the last night. Anybody remember when these were taken???

More pictures from roll #2. The Typhoon swell's final days

How to Surf the place

Cloud Nine isn't just like any old surf spot where you can paddle out and start taking waves. This place had been compared to Backdoor Pipe in terms of sheer power and ass kicking factor. The swells roll in from a deep trench and jacks up on the shallow, sharp reef.

The only way in the world you'll have a chance at making the vertical drop is to have a longer board, preferably at least a 7' gun. You have to sit right on the peak, if you hang on the shoulder you're gonna get pitched by the lip and smeared onto the coral, as Brett found out the hard way.

When paddling for the wave you must be totally commited. If you back out on the first wave of a set chances are you're gonna get pummeled by the next few waves, dragged across the coral and into shore.

When you do bag a set then PADDLE HARD! Even if you feel that you've got the wave paddle a couple of extra strokes while you're nearly vertical looking down the bowl. It's a hairy experience seeing the coral lurking under 6 transparent feet of water but it's even hairier if you get pitched by the lip and get slammed. If this happens you'd better have your wallet out....'cause you're gonna pay.

Surfboards are a treasured commodity on the island, so bring a few of them. Good luck finding someone to lend you a board once you've snapped all of yours!

The left looks misleading in all pictures because it looks rideable. The reef is shallower there, so unless you kick out the back of the wave then you get smeared on the coral.

You can charter a boat for 100 pesos per person ($2.50) and the guy will take you to offshore islands. Check out Rock Island for starters. It is a sick right that was wrapping around an island. I scored that with 300 yard tights barreling on the inside with only 3 of us out. I still think that was the best session of my life.

Finally bring a lots of wax, lycra rash shirt, a helmet and a few leashes. You'll be glad you brought it. Good Luck.

How Cloud 9 got its Name

Whoever named this surf break "Cloud 9" had a pretty sick sense of humor. Then I got an email from John Callahan and he said he named it after the Cloud 9 Candy bar you can get in the Philippines, like a Snickers bar but way way better!

We thought of a few new names that better match it.

1. Cheese Grater

2. Smear Reef

3. The Orifice Washer

4. Enema's

5. Carnage

Every day there was a new casualty...somebody bouncing off the coral, somebody getting a good ol' fin chop or speared by the nose, surfboard(s) snapping. Actually, it's surprising that no one has been maimed or killed surfing this insane reef!

There was some Aussie guy there that got speared by his board and he was rushed to the "hospital" on the other side of the island. Nobody told him it was the hospital/veterinary, and we heard that he shared the waiting room with various livestock. We never did see him again. p>

How to Get There

Getting there is half the fun....YEAH RIGHT! Well actually it is quite fun if you're into adrenaline pumping, life threatening modes of transport, or if you would like a good chance at collecting that multimillion dollar insurance policy.

It takes about 2 days to get there from Manila. First there is a 2 hour plane trip in a sketchy little Fokker-F50. You know the ones- they seat about 30 people and if you get up during the flight and jump up and down you can probably make the plane tilt.

Then you end up in this town, Surigao City, where you stay overnight to get the morning ferry. The ferries are cool although it seems that the Captain is trying to set a new Guinness world record by cramming as many people, cargo and livestock on this oversized outrigger. We all had our boards ready to use as lifeboats when it sunk.

Then you reach the island. You then catch a "jeepney" across. Again, the Driver tries to cram as many people on board and you got passengers hanging from everywhere. But that's when the fun starts...the drivers then pretend they're Ayrton Senna and floor it across the dirt road, sending kids, chicken, goats, pigs, and pedestrians diving for cover!

Eventually you reach the town of "GL"

Finally you then find a motorbike called a "habol-habol". They are these bikes where the seats have been modified to take up to 5 adults. Before you get one make sure the driver is in a sober state. Gil and I ended up catching one where the driver drunk off his ass (we were too, so we didn't know that until the 4th time he crashed into the bushes). It was a pretty cool Near Death Experience!

Anyway after 20 minutes of dirt track there you are.....Cloud 9. Grab your board and paddle out and THAT'S when the fun begins!

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