I’ve always had the impression that kayaking was a relaxing sport. Maybe it’s because I’ve always tried it on still waters before – like rivers or really calm seas. But for some people, the point of kayaking is to chase the waves.
Kayak surfing (also known as surf kayaking) is basically surfing ocean waves with kayaks while using paddles to maneuver the watercraft. If you’ve never tried surfing, I think this could be a good introduction to it, as you learn how to maneuver the kayak properly against the waves and keep your balance so you don’t wipe out. While it can be quite intimidating at first to see a wall of waves rushing towards you, the adrenaline will soon take over and you’ll find yourself wanting to keep kayaking further and catching bigger waves.
We got to try this rising watersport on Baybay Beach in Mercedes, Camarines Norte. The Mercedes group of islands in Camarines Norte in the Bicol region is said to be comparable to the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, another famous kayaking location, and kayaking is being offered as a new leisure sport in the area. The shallow seabed, strong sea currents, and winds produce good waves which are ideal for the watersport, even for beginners. Since the water is shallow and the sand underneath smooth, it doesn’t hurt at all if you take a spill.
We were partnered with locals who have been trained as kayaking instructors by the local tourism department to promote the sport in the town. My guide instructed me to paddle through the crests and troughs of the rushing waves, and when to turn the kayak around before we catching a big wave to ride all the way to the shore. If you don’t maintain your balance, it’s easy for the rolling waves to just topple the kayak over and spill you into the water.
Though beginners just get to try it out near the shore, last year a kayak-surfing competition was held in Mercedes, where teams paddled 15-kilometers from Caringo, an island barangay to the coast of Mercedes. Those who take the sport seriously need to have a lot of stamina and a strong and agile upper body to endure hours of paddling and going against the waves. Even a short session can be quite a workout to those used to sitting at a computer the whole day.
Locals say that the trick is to paddle the kayak straight into the waves and avoid paddling whenever the waves are coming towards you. You also have to time your turn properly, to avoid getting caught sideways since the probability of capsizing is greater when the kayak isn’t straight. Another tip: If you fall into the water, cover your head immediately before emerging from the water, so you don’t accidentally hit your head on the kayak.
It was really fun to meet the waves head-on and ride it all the way to the shore. There’s a thrill similar to white-water rafting and surfing that you get whenever you succesfully ride the waves. Kayak surfing is a great activity to try out this summer, and I suggest you try it if you’re heading to Camarines Norte!
Kayak surfing lessons and kayak rental costs P200/per hour. For inquiries, coordinate with the Provincial Tourism Office in Daet at Come2camnorte@yahoo.com