Surfing a Secret Spot in Catanduanes

Surfing Ctanduanes-00020After I had split with Dolf and Chris, I decided to extend my stay in the Philippines and go back to Gubat, Sorsogon. During our stay there for Holy Week I had made good friends who were proposing to host me for a while. Life in Gubat is relaxed and laid back and the best about it is that you can surf a good variety of surf breaks. And that is exactly what we extensively did for the following few days after my return. We surfed the local reefs in the mornings and the beach break in the afternoon or vice versa. So good to get that needed water time and practice after not having surfed for quiet a while. However, after a while the waves slowly got smaller and smaller and the so called flat spell was starting to take its toll on us. Everyone was getting nervous and imbalanced, anxiously awaiting the next swell. So what to do?

After surfing one of the local reefs. From L to R: Me, Bidge, Momo, Coco, Ayie, Marco

After surfing one of the local reefs. From L to R: Me, Bidge, Momo, Coco, Ayie, Marco

If you don’t get any waves, you have to go to a place which has waves. My friend and local surfer Bidge Villaroya suggested to go to the island of Catanduanes, East of the Luzon Mainland, which features one of the Philippines best waves – the infamous “Majestics”. The forecast looked promising, costs for the transfer would be moderate and the outlook of five days with good friends on a remote island surfing some great waves made the decision easy. It was off to Catanduanes!

An odyssey to Catanduanes
It was Bidge, May Glenda and two french guys, Momo and Coco, who had come to visit Bidge for a few days and myself. We all started our journey early in the morning at 3 am in order to catch the first ferry to the island. All in all the journey was hectic with long lines at the ferry terminal, an overloaded ferry to Catanduanes, two jeepney rides which were even more overcrowded. Not to mention the tricycle ride with all 6 of us. And all that with 6 surfboards and our baggage in the blazing heat.

Off to to Majestics with an overloaded tricy. Hang Lose!

Off to to Majestics with an overloaded tricy. Hang Lose!

Odysseys like that are still fun if done with a group of friends. So we all laughed it off and were just happy when we got to our destination – Aireen’s Majestic Beach Resort. Aireen was super friendly and hooked us up with nice bungalows in their relaxing and lush garden. Her and her family run the place since the 80s and they still managed to keep its low key charm. Everyone of her family and literally everyone on that island seemed to surf. At the same time all of the locals were friendly and humble and not like those super hip and stylish surfers you find in other surf spots around the globe. We instantly felt welcomed and at home.

Aireen, the owner of Majestics Beach Resort, talking to local surfers.

Aireen, the owner of Majestics Beach Resort, talking to local surfers.

Surfing Majestics
The only downturn was, that even the great “Majestics” didn’t seem to work properly. The wave, which breaks over a very shallow live reef, was very small and weak. Not at all what we expected and what the forecast had projected. We still hit the wave on our first two days and made the best of it. It wasn’t actually too bad. Just seeing how that waves breaks, how shallow it is, imagining how it is like on big days and seeing how the locals still rip in the small wave was very inspiring.

Majestics on a very small day seen from the second floor.

Majestics on a very small day seen from the second floor.

Surfing Ctanduanes-00016

Meet local Inton. Such a happy guy and already such a good surfer. Inspiring.

Local grom Wawa slicing a wave over the shallow reef.

Local grom Wawa slicing a wave over the shallow reef.

The secret spot  and great waves at last
We still wanted to get the waves we came here for and were pretty disappointed until we got a hint from one of the locals to go check out another spot which you only reach by boat. It sounded like a slim chance but we were willing to take it. With rather low expectations, in the end the whole country seemed to be more or less flat, we loaded the small banka with our boards and took off to that secret spot.

Loading the boards and off to catch some waves. Finally.

Loading the boards and off to catch some waves. Finally.

It took about 20 minutes until we made it around a little cliff and there it was. The secret spot with fat and shoulder to head high waves rolling in from the open sea and breaking perfectly over a rock and coral reef. Every one of us was cheering and enthusiastic at the sight of this beautiful phenomenon. After days of flatness without any noteworthy waves this was heaven and we couldn’t wait to jump into the blue. We paddled out in excitement but also with a lot of respect since we have never surfed this break before and some of those waves appearing huge and threatening. After watching the locals confidently hitting one wave after another, we also got a little braver and tried our first attempts. It worked! The size of the waves was nice, not too big not too small, fast but not too fast and with a face to practice maneuvers on.

Me sticking a nice one to the sunset.

Me sticking a nice one to the sunset.

It was great and best of all, we had it all for ourselves – no one else out there. We cheered whenever someone got a good wave and the locals were encouraging us  to hit those big ones. At the same time it was so impressive to see these guys do all kinds of smooth and radical maneuvers and making them look so easy. It definitely pays off to live close to one of the best surf spots in the Philippines. And even though they are probably used to waves like that, they still had fun, enjoyed themselves while screaming and shouting whenever someone else got a ride. The atmosphere was great out there that day.

After the sun had begun to set behind the cliffs, we paddled back to our boat and slowly chugged back to our resort. Everyone was exhausted but happy with big smiles on their faces. It was a great day and we instantly decided to come back the next day.

Happy Inton and Wawa after our first session at the secret spot.

Happy Inton and Wawa after our first session at the secret spot.

Last Thoughts …
Catanduanes is only a few hours away from mainland Luzon but it is still wild and rugged. I think part of this is due to the rough journey you have to take upon yourself to get there. This keeps the masses away which, especially in terms of surfing, is such a valuable asset.
The wave “Majestics” already looked imposing with a small swell and I can only imagine how it’ll look during September and October. It is surprising how this place kept to stay off the mainstream radar with all the crowds being attracted to Siargao and their signature break “Cloud 9”. According to our friend Bidge who has already been to Catanduanes several times, the place never gets really crowded, even when the conditions are right. And the fact, that there is a swell magnet close by which can throw picture perfect lines when the whole country is flat, makes the place even more attractive. I will definitely come back sometime when I have improved my surfing some more to surf “Majestics” when it’s big, that secret spot and maybe even some other hidden jewels which have not yet been discovered …..

View down the coast of Catanduanes from the Cliffs.

View down the coast of Catanduanes from the Cliffs. Are there more secret spots out there?

PS: Props to Bidge Villaroya for shooting the action pics in the surf and providing them for the blog!

Categories: Destinations, Surfing, The Philippines, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Surfing a Secret Spot in Catanduanes

  1. Beautiful landscape. It will definitely be on my list of places to visit in the Philippines.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Mikaela, it’s nice there and still remote. And even if you don’t surf, there are few nice things to do. Hope you can check it out sometime ….

  2. Obet

    hi Philipp,, seems you explore more than in our in country than we do.. me and lala will definitely include this in list… glad you maximize your stay here in Philippines.. it’s really indeed that.. “It’s more fun in the Philippines…” you me make me feel so proud.. keep it up… loving your blogs…..


    • Hi Obet, thanks man. I really appreciate your feedback. How are you doing back in Manila. Hope everything is good. I will be there for a day on the 10th. Unfortunately my computer broke down and I have to get it fixed quickly. Do you know a good place? I have a Lenovo and the store should be familiar with that I think. Thanks bro!

  3. I was also in majestics when you were there.Me and my gf got a picture with your friend coco with his board. Such a nice place huh?

    • H Ronnel,
      thanks for stopping by and what a coincidence that you were there as well and found my blog. How cool is that. I really liked it there. Especially the low key and laid back charm of the place. I hope the Tanael Family can keep it like that for a bit. Greetings and thanks again for your comment, Philipp

  4. Gregg

    Phil, great write-up! I’ve not been to Majestic since the early 90’s when the resort was even more modest. I’m glad to hear it’s being kept casual, low-key and welcoming. One tiny correction: Catanduanes is EAST of mainland Luzon, not west

    • Hey Greg, thanks for stopping by and your feedback. The atmosphere at Majestics is really great and I hope they can keep it that way for a bit longer. I will definitely return once the waves get bigger. I can only imagine how the place must have looked like in the 90’s. Thanks for the correction as well….will change that right now. Greetings, Philipp

  5. wesley

    Thanks for visiting our town..The Majestic is really a secret place not only for the locals like me who’s always in the big-city, but also for the tourist like you..Soon the place is like a “Crowd 9″ like in Siargao and we and you don”t like that..We want to have a simple place like Baras.
    Come visit the place during month of October, you will experience the real Majestic

    -Wesley of Baras.

  6. Pingback: Majestic Puraran Surfing Cup 2013 – Catanduanes, Philippines

  7. great insights! cant wait to get in catanduanes this march!

  8. Qstix

    If the place is such a secret, why are you posting such detailed information?

    • Hi Qstix, I know where you are coming from. Tourism, as I experiences in many places I have traveled, is a double edged sword. On the one hand it can bring new sources of income to rather undeveloped regions and improve living conditions of the local people. On the other hand it can endanger local customs and take away a region’s charm if tourism is managed in sustainable way. This is a conflict I encountered many times and thought about a lot and it’s hard to find the right solutions. In this special case, I got to know many of the locals and also the owners of the only resorts present there. They were definitely supporting an increase in tourism to better support their families and the community itself. They were even trying to actively market their destination. I figured that my article might help those people in their efforts. At the same time I am hoping, if tourism picks up, that it will be in a slow and sustainable way. The fact the Catanduanes is still hard to reach and that it attracts only a certain kind of people, namely surfers and rather adventurous tourists, makes me think that there a good chances for a good and balanced developed. But yeah, you never know and it’s always a fine line. But thanks for raising that question… like I said, it is something that has been accompanying me my entire trip. Cheers, Phil

      • Qstix


        Thanks for your reply.
        I have been surfing around the world for many years now. I’ve seen “secret” spots completely getting ruined by mass tourism. And i also know there are still alot of “secrets” spots around.

        Honestly i think there is nothing wrong with providing information about a spot, just don’t provide too many details. This will attract the tourists these spots deserve: the more adventurous tourists (as descibed by yourself).
        If you write a complete guidebook, you will end up with “the- lonely-planet-book-type” tourist. You should know what i mean, since you’ve been in Bali and experienced the crowds. Do you really think living conditions improved there thro the years…?

        As you wrote ealier in your blog, during your travels you like to “really get off the tourist trek”. Just be aware you are creating one yourself. Maybe keep a low profile and stay far away from the fine line.

        Enjoy your travels bro’

        P.s. You don’t know where i’m coming from or going to

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