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There are few places in Asia as exciting for surfing as the Philippines. This country possesses some genuinely world-class waves, yet the fact that many I them are in remote areas which, until recently, were off limits because of guerilla activity, has kept the country's riches a secret from the international surf¬ing community. But over the years a few hardy surf travellers have passed through, leaving behind old boards and fresh inspiration, and as a result a gen¬eration of committed Filipinos have had the opportu¬nity to take to the waves. Now the country has five significant surfing enclaves. Last year-1997 —was seminal in the development of the sport, with organ¬ized competitions in all of the five main surfing dis¬tricts, as well as the Philippines' first competitive surf¬ing circuit.

The biggest group of Filipino surfers are the 50-plus "Baler Boys" in Aurora. The group is noted around the surfing circuit for possessing a very strong ca¬maraderie. Their appetite for competitive surfing wasshown when last September's inaugural Aurora Surfing Cup rallied the community, who put on a quality event. The standard of surfing amongst the group is evidenced by the fact that Mendoza, the winner, went on to win the Daet surfing com¬petition and the Quiksilver Philippine National Title

Undoubtedly the rising star amongst Philipinne surfing destinations is the beautiful island of Siargao, home to the already-famous Cloud 9. Since 1996, Cloud 9 has been the venue for the Siargao Interna¬tional Cup — fast emerging as one of Asia's better surfing events — which in 1998 will be part of the ASP Australasia Tour. Siargao has dozens more classic breaks, all of which are accessible by boat from the town of General Luna.

Pururan Bay on Catanduanes Island is the site of the famous Majesties, a lightning-fast barrelling reef break which is great when it's happening but notoriously inconsistent. The surf camps here offer cheap and basic accommodation. The charming town of Boras, to the south of Pururan, has two good reef breaks, and 30mins from Virac, the provincial capital, is another good, small reef break. Despite its remote location and poor economic conditions, Catanduanes has a 30-strong surfing clan.

Daet, on the east coast of Luzon, is relatively convenient to Manila, and has some reasonableshore breaks. The waves here aren't as good as the reef breaks of Siargao and Catanduanes, but they're also not as intimidating. There's a growing surfing community, but they've yet to develop the same strong group identity as some of the country's other surfing communities.

La Union, on the northwest coast of Luzon, the venue chosen for the inaugural Philippine National Titles in December 1997, has a range of point and reef breaks. Foreign surfers — especially American servicemen and Australians — have been coming here for two decades, but now the waves are increasingly dominated by a band of enthusiastic young locals. The waves here are good but not great, and tend to De periodic - the best time is September to November - but the convenient access and accommodation make it a worthwhile destination.

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