You know how I know that I’m a kook? I’m writing a blog on my first time getting barreled! Forget this fact for a second though and if you are a seasoned barrel slayer, I apologize for my amateur descriptions.
It was my last day on the island of Siargao, a small island in the Southeast Philippines that is famous for the surf break, Cloud 9 (also the name of a delicious chocolate bar). I’d been surfing for the past week and the swell had picked up in size. My mate Aaron, whom I had been traveling with would only say it was 3-4 foot, however since this is measured from the back, in reality there were probably some 8 foot faces.
I woke up at 4:40 AM
and took off on a boat with my mate Aaron, a couple foreigners and a crew of young local Filippino rippers. Within minutes we were at the break and without hesitation we waxed up our boards and plunged into the sea.
The morning started out rough. I was in the impact zone on a few waves and took them on the head. This spot was notoriously shallow, so the poundings usually consisted of getting rag dolled against the unforgiving reef and then desperately paddling out of the death zone to the channel.
I kept at it, paddling into a few smaller waves, popping up, making a few turns and feeling comfortable.. I had been watching the locals all week and had finally learned how to get in the pocket of the wave and pick up speed. Despite my progress, my goal on this trip was to get a big barell ride. For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, this is when you are on a wave, in the pocket, you get back deep and the wave temporarily engulfs you, only to be spat out seconds later.
Some time went by and I watched the horizon, thinking of how amazing this trip had been. As I peered out, I noticed a set of larger waves coming from further out; four distinct lines. The wind had calmed and the waves were beautiful. I instinctively, paddled hard; working to get past the first couple waves of the set. The final wave was rolling in and it was the largest. I turned around and started scraping as hard as I could. Several locals nearby yelled, “go!” “paddle, paddle!!” Using the last of my energy, I dug my arms into the water and felt myself being caught by the wave.
The wave started to crest and I jumped to my feet, dropping into the beast; feeling momentarily weightless. Immediately I made a big turn and maneuvered myself high up, in the pocket of the wave. I was flying, but this thing was quick and caught up to me. I crouched down; gently dragging my hand in the face of the wave, slowing myself slightly. All of the sudden, the smooth wall of water to my right started jacking up getting bigger and bigger. Before I knew it the wall was overhead and I could see a waterfall of turquoise water to my left. Suddenly thoughts raced through my mind, ” shit, this is going to close out on me! I’m going face first into the reef! Get out, get out!!” However in this split second, I thought, “fuck it, just go with it!” So I continued to tuck as the wave sucked me into it’s barrel, covering my body entirely.
My view through the tube to the outside world disappeared, mist slapped my face and I closed my eyes; prepared to be tossed over the falls and into the unforgiving reef below. However, to my amazement I felt a huge spray of water against my back; literally being spat out of the tunnel. The view of the coconut palms and white sand beaches reappeared. I made it out! Immediately after realizing what had happened I threw my hands in the air, still standing on my board, as I slowed and sunk into the waters below.
To this day I think the grin I had on my face paddling back in was the biggest yet. What a way to end a trip. Many more barrel rides to come and next time I won’t be a kook!