Let me introduce you all to the über cool Kage Gozun. We met back when we were both in the Company of Ateneo Dancers, and became fast friends due to our shared craziness, sense of humor, and futile attempts to dance in each others' style (she being the bad-ass street dancer, I being the spinning/gyrating jazz dancer). Kage hit a rough spot last year, but she's getting back on her feet—and back on the board. Since Kage has been in the Philippine surfing scene for years and has traveled widely in search of stoke, I thought she would be the perfect person to grill for surfing info. I, for one, am truly inspired by her story. It's not going to be difficult to find motivation to chase a wave after reading about how her "love affair of epic proportions" began with surfing.
What's going on with you? What have you been up to in terms of career, adventure, current goals?
Lately I've been working a lot online on content management and writing. I still do freelance work for magazines, mostly for travel and lifestyle features. Sometimes I get freelance work for photography and I'm going all out this year with getting into selling my stock images. In terms of adventures, I just came back from Bali last March and I would like to save up this year to make it down to Siargao, Thailand, and possibly Cambodia or Vietnam. The biggest goal right now is finding my center again. I had a really rough tail end of 2009 and let's just say it wasn't good. Emotionally I was kind of a wreck. Physically my body shut down and I actually contracted this thing that hits your immune system and causes your joints to swell. I gained a lot of weight. It wasn't good, it wasn't pretty. So the main goal now is to reclaim the old me ... and surfing is one of the means I intend to use to do that.
When did you first pick up a surfboard and what made you do it?
I had my first lesson in Oahu back in 2001 after a trip to Siargao (a writing gig) opened my eyes to surfing in the Philippines. I'd always wanted to try it but didn't know there was surf here.
What was your first time like?
From the second I stood up on my first wave, I knew this was going to be a love affair of epic proportions. It truly felt like I had never been happier in my life than in that one moment.
What was the most difficult part of learning to surf?
Surfing teaches you patience because it's not as easy as it looks. A lot of it is timing and also experience. You need to be patient with yourself and with the ocean and with other surfers. You can't learn it reading a manual or practicing in a pool. You really need to invest in water time. There were definitely times when I considered just cutting my losses and taking up some other sport. But, I couldn't ... because the feeling you get when you do score a good wave and get a good ride... there's no other feeling in the world.
I don't think I can really boil it down to just one so I'll cheat and give you my top 3 (for now).
- Bali, March 2010. Memorable because it was the first really big surf trip out of the country for me and my friends. Memorable because I was just coming out of being sick and I wasn't sure how well I would fare in the water. But slowly, with the encouragement and support of friends, I got my surf mojo back one wave and one session at a time.
- Siargao, 2004. Memorable because I met so many amazing people on the island that continue to be my friends now. We were this mixed bag of nationalities who became an impromptu group because we were all living at the same resort. And that's one of the joys of surfing—meeting people who tend to be like-minded and more often than not have interesting stories to tell. Some of them you never hear from again, some of them you never bother to keep in touch with ... and then there are those that become lifelong friends of yours.
- My recent trip to Baler. I actually couldn't surf because I was still recovering from being sick but I went with my friend anyway because better to be there than sulking in Manila. I stayed on this platform for five hours shooting my friends get wave after wave after wave. Memorable because it was my first time to pick up my camera to shoot surf in a really long time. And also because even though I wasn't in the water with them and even though I wasn't surfing at all, I could still feel their stoke... and I made it mine.
- Baler, Aurora (Philippines). There is magic in Baler. I love the vibe, the people, the waves, the view... bliss I tell you.
- La Union (Philippines). I actually have an apartment here that I share with some other surfers. La Union is great as it is accessible, has consistent waves and the locals are really friendly.
- Balian, Bali (Indonesia). If there was a way to marry a spot I might have married Balian while we were there last March. I've been told that it can get nasty and big with strong current and all but when we were there, the Balian that I met and surfed was amazing—and the ambience of the area was super cool ... very laidback and chill and quiet. None of the loud bars or rowdy crowds that you run into in Kuta. Perfect for surfing.
- Dako Island, Siargao (Philippines). This was the first place I ever surfed in Siargao and it will always be special to me because of that.
- ... and I seriously can not decide on the fifth place. It's like asking me to pick which puppy in the litter is the cutest.
- I'd love to go back to Bali and surf with confidence at some of the spots like Medewi and Balangan, and I feel that I am confident with my waterskills.
- I would love to go back to Oahu as well and surf somewhere other than the beginner beach where I was given my lessons.
- So that's three (sort of). I guess despite the misgivings about cold water and sharks, I would have to add Noosa, Australia to my list of to-surf spots.
- And locally, I have yet to see Borongan, Samar.
Read up before heading out: on basic surf terms, water safety, beginner tips. It's all available online. Do your research on the surf schools and camps out there before deciding which one to go with. Make sure you know about water safety—or that your instructor teaches you this before you even get wet.
In the water—and in the long run—I would have to say, you just need to prepare yourself to be frustrated in the beginning. Some people take to it immediately and some need to warm up to it. No one is the same. So my last tip is don't compare yourself to the student next to you.
Surfing is communal in that you all share the same ocean and should respect each other and surf with aloha. But surfing is also very private and personal in that your progress should not be marked by the progress of others.
Your surfing philosophy?
Surf because it makes you happy. There's a saying that goes "The best surfer is the one having the most fun" and I believe that. It's not about who is better or who surfs harder or faster. It's about you and your session and how much fun you are having. Which is why I always try to find something to be happy about with each of my sessions. Sometimes just being in the water, on my board, under the sun with my friends is enough.
That and surf with aloha -- respect others and share stoke.
Describe the surfing scene in the Philippines and what makes it special.
As a surfing community, the scene here is in its infancy. So its still growing and finding itself. One of the best things about surfing here is that the Pinoy hospitality and friendliness tends to carry over even in the water. As long as you are respectful and come with good vibes, Pinoy surfers are among the nicest and most encouraging surfers you will ever meet.
The more I read these interviews, the more I realize that I have a hell of a lot of work ahead! But at the same time, I'm glad I started this list because I never would've gotten on it had I not given myself a big kick in the butt. It looks like I'll be heading out for a few weekends in Montauk this summer in an attempt to woo the waves. Hopefully, it'll be love for me too and not a crash and burn! Thanks for the amazing stories Kage!