Kite Surfing and Dragon Boating in Boracay

Throughout the years, the small dot off the island of Panay, which represents a mass of fine white sand and immaculate blue water has evolved into a commercial tourist destination brought by globalization, thus hand in hand with global warming.  Before and after stories of Boracay Island constantly resonate in the air; it could mean as a subliminal premonition to what will eventually occur or a mere recount of moments that were cherished and lost to the passing of time.

Yet regardless of how overwhelming Boracay Island appears now with concrete establishments filling a quarter of the island’s lot area, its unspoilt beach still remains as a venue for cutting edge sports like Kite Surfing and Dragon Boating.

Type of Activity: Kite Surfing

Place: Bolabog Beach (Amihan/Northwest Monsoon) and White Beach (Habagat/Southwest Monsoon)

Fitness/Expertise Levels: From bold and balanced beginners to adrenalin high experts.

Why Now? Kite Surfing to the wind is like a dog to its bone.  Wherever the wind blows, the kite follows.  So when the Habagat

or northwest wind blows hard on the white beach, supposedly in the months of June to October, kiters could be seen gliding on the sea and jumping two meters high above Boracay’s famous 3.5km white beach.  However, once the wind shifts northwest or Amihan during October to May, kite surfing centres would hold shop in the quaint and quiet Bolabog Beach to accommodate incoming kite surfers.  This side of the island is more preferred by kite surfers because of its convex shape that filters the wind and creates a flatter water surface for a smooth and easy glide, which is also where the annual International Funboard Cup is held every January.

Expert kite surfers did not learn this sport overnight.  Kite boarders as they are also called have to go through certain stages in order to manoeuvre the kite and glide on the surfboard independently for an average rate of 320USD.  First they have to learn to control a small kite, and then they undergo bodydragging, wherein the large kite drags the student’s body through the water according to the kite’s direction.  Afterwards, they have to lie in the water with their feet strapped to the board and the kite flown with its pull balance against the board’s resistance putting alternate pressure on each leg.  Once surpassed, the kite boarder can go in the water alone.  It is all a matter of timing.  It might take a few days to perfect it (including wind reading), but with patience and confidence, one could learn it in the right time.

When you feel the heat, then step into the breeze and learn kite surfing.  You may log in to   http://www.kite-asia.com or contact Hangin Kite Center Boracay at +6336 288 3663 and look for Munster, Mark or Mars.

Type of Activity: Dragon Boating

Place: White Beach, Boracay Island

Fitness/Expertise Levels: Flexibility, resistance and discipline that even housewives and bums must endure.

Why Now? Training season commences in January, just in time for the Boracay International Dragon Boat Competition in the midsummer months of April and May.

Description: Dragon boating is a forward paddling sport consisting of 20 human engines, paired on either sides according to weight, flexibility and power.  They are commanded to paddle in synchrony to the beat of the drummer positioned at the head of the boat and navigated by the steersman at the helm.  It is based on the ancient Chinese Legend of a poet/activist named Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Miluo River as a form of protest against corruption and by whose friends held a paddling search for the poet’s body on an elongated boat with a dragon’s head and tail on both ends.

In 2002, when the only official sport on the island were kite surfing and wind surfing, an athlete from Manila hauled a wooden dragon boat from the murky Manila Bay to the heavenly sea of Boracay and introduced the ancient Chinese sport as an alternative recreation to its local and foreign residents.  That same year, Jeff Galindez recruited and trained housewives, entrepreneurs, athletes, artists and anyone who showed interest in the sport to join a friendly local competition known as The Quest, which Jeff also founded to uplift the human spirit and to promote discipline and camaraderie amongst them.  Like the fishermen in the ancient Chinese Legend of Qu Yuan, these residents were also been bestowed with an added goal to their prosaic exciting life on the beach.

The concept of dragon boating is very easy.  Imagine a turbo engine that mechanically rotates until it is switched off.  These engines are actually ten pairs of paddlers, each with a paddle that digs into the water on either side of the boat.  And as the leadsman pounds on the drum, the twenty hunched paddlers stretch their upper body forward and dig their paddle vertically into the water, shovelling it back up and back to digging the paddle into the water and so on until the leadsman calls for easy oar, which means stop.

It sounds difficult at first but once you get the hang of it, especially when you’re surrounded with sparkling blue sea, the tension and fatigue from this high endurance workout disappears.

During dragon boating’s conception in Boracay, there were a handful of local teams formed to compete amongst one another.  But as the sport progressed and the local race, The Quest became The Boracay International Dragon Boat Competition, some teams merged while others simply retired to concentrate on their day jobs and likewise to make way for national and international participants.  Only two teams could be sighted paddling during dragon boat season (January to May): the Sun Paddlers Club and the Bugsay Dragon Boat Team.

These two pride jewels of Boracay are as different as night and day.  The Sun Paddlers are a serious bunch of dark muscled men that paddle in the break of dawn, while the Bugsay Paddlers are eccentric-looking band of artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, housewives, and athletes, long-haired and dreadlocked men, complete with native adornments and are usually found at Bom Bom Bar, if not paddling in mid-morning.  These crowd pleasers have effortlessly won gold and bronze in the recent competitions held in Hong Kong and Macau as well as in the Boracay races and are continuously proving their legacy in prestigious international competition.

Now if you want to learn a thing or two about dragon boating, you may contact the UP Dragon Boat Team through up_dragonboatteam@yahoogroups.com in Manila or the Bugsay Dragon Boat Team through bugsayboracay@yahoogroups.com in Boracay.

If at first you fail, just try and try until you succeed.

Other activities

There’s a reason why people living in Boracay are lithe and carefree.  It is the result of nature at its best.  On a clear day, why not explore the inland of Boracay.  Hike on foot or rent a bicycle and stroll around the less charted but equally magnificent spots like Puka Beach or count bats inside the caves of Ilig-Iligan, or journey to one of the original landmarks of Boracay, the Dead Forest in Manoc-Manoc.  And if you want to discover some waterfalls, natural cold springs and crystal forming caves, just hire a guide to take you to adventure spots in the Mainland Panay.

On the other hand, if the gust of wind attracts you, sign up for Kite Surfing or Windsurfing lessons, which unlike kite surfing involves steering the mast of the flat sail for wind control while gliding on the surface of the water with a 5 meter long sailboard.  Otherwise, get into Wakeboarding.  For Php 2,200/30 mins., you can ski on the water with a board and a motorized boat towing you.

As for surfers who fancy mobility, a great sense of balance and spur-of-the-moment wave riding on a small light board, then Skim Boarding is it.  During Amihan or northwest monsoon season, skim boarders usually perform long rides by skimming over the thin breakwater on flat wet sand, while during Habagat or southwest monsoon season, wave riding is usually executed by experienced skim boarders surfing towards incoming waves.

And if you want to try something easier, try Boogie Boarding.  This sport uses a board made of foam where you lie facedown with your lower body, from hips below, immersed in the water. All you have to do is run into the wave as you grab hold of the board and paddle forward until you let the board glide you on the surface of the wave.  You can just aproach any skim boarding stands for your rentals and lessons.

Finally, if you are simply not the sporty type, then hop on a Paraw, a hobie catlike, double outrigger sailboat and cruise around the island at leat for an hour.   For a minimum of 500Php/hour you can circumnavigate the island with your family over a glass of your desired drink and enjoy a picnic at your chosen deserted cove.  It’s all-natural and pollution free.

Embark on these electrifying pursuits now and let the wind take you to greater heights.

Where to Stay

Jonys Beach Resort. For a taste of one of the firsts in Boracay, relax in Jony’s cozy fully-furnished air-conditioned rooms and quench your thirst with Boracay’s first fresh fruit shakes.  They have rooms with a balcony overlooking the sea where you can also switch on your laptop for wi-fi internet access.  Otherwise, you can chill out at their beach front and laze on vast white sand on a low tide.  As for your other needs, the staff is quite friendly and are willing to help you with your needs.  http://www.jonysboracay.com/.

Boracay Beach Resort. If you’re a kite surfing and windsurfing wannabe, then Boracay Beach Resort is the place for you.  With Hangin Kite Boarding and Greenyard Fun Board and Neil Pryde Test Center under its care, you can relax in their native or luxurious beach front rooms as long as you want and never miss out on your classes.

http://www.boracaybeachresort.com/

Sunshines Place. A 6-bedroom concrete building on the beach near boat station 1, which caters to couples, friends and family on a budget.  Each room is fully-furnished with a cable TV, air-conditioning, hot and cold shower and a queen-sized bed.  Contact them at +6336 288 3221 for your reservations or inquiries.

La Fiesta Cottages. Another budget resort conveniently poised by the beach, La Fiesta Cottages in Station 1 provides concrete air-conditioned rooms with cable TV, private bathroom and verandah.  Contact them at +6336 288 3818 or +6336 288 6064.

Boracay Tropics Resort Hotel. Sprawling landscapes, Mediterranean style rooms, an inviting swimming pool, fine oriental and European cuisine, 24-hour security and front office service, and quality costumer service, AAA rating, what more can you ask for?

http://boracaytropics.com/

Where to Eat

Smoke Resto. Its humble beginnings of serving beef and fish salpicao to friends and avid supporters have made these 2 dishes larger than life.  At Smoke Resto, you can eat anything at any way you want so long as you enjoy their very valuable meals like Chilli Chicken with Pechay, Bangus Ala Pobre with fried egg, Spicy Garlic Kangkong, Ginataang Gulay or Phad Thai.  You can either dine in their wet market area or in the quieter side of D’Mall.  Or you can have them deliver your food right at your doorstep when you dial +6336 288 6014.

Traviesa Restaurant. Conveniently located along the alley near the Tourist Center, this eclectic restaurant’s mix of Oriental and Spanish cuisine offers a synergy of mixed vegetables, red meat, poultry and seafoods with a tang of lemon, garlic, onions and herbal seasonings to fulfill your satisfaction.  Sample their Grilled Tanigue with Garlic, deep fried Prawn Toasts, flavorsome Country Fried Chicken Roulade and treat yourself with irresistable deserts like an ample serving of Mango Sherbet or a slice of Chiffon Cake enhanced with cherry toppings and wicked chocolate syrup to balance its vanilla icing layers.  Just hail a tricycle or a motorcycle to Traviesa Restaurant in Asia Resort or walk along sandy paths towards this washed ashore precious jewel.

Dos Mestizos. Rejuvenate your senses with sumptuous Spanish dishes as you let your happy hour intake settle in your system.  Replenish your lost nutrients with its famous cold Tapas, minced Beef Salpicao, vegetable and ham omelette Torta con Jamon, carboloaded Tortilla de Patatas and Callos de Garbanzos, Galician octopus dish Pulpo and Chorizo sprinkled with pepper and paprika over a glass of Sangria, Caipirinha or Frozen Margarita.  With its warm ambiance and friendly service, Dos Mestizos is undeniably satisfying and affordable.

Aria Boracay Restaurant “Cucina Italia Mediteranea”. You cannot say that you’ve dined in Boracay if you haven’t savored Aria’s famous authentic Italian cuisine in D’Mall beach front.  Its antipasti, salads, pastas, meats, and various types of pizza cooked in a traditional wooden oven was conceptualized by a chef from Italy’s coastal Mediterranean regions.  He created their Polletto Al Forno, baked chicken with garlic and rosemary; Gamberoni Alla Greca, sautéed prawns with Feta cheese, tomato and basil; and Costolette D’ Angello Alla Rosa Marina, grilled lamb with rosemary flavor, among others.  You could even order pizza and request two different flavors on it, like pepperoni pizza on one half and salmon pizza on the other half, or you could just have one order of their famous four-cheese pizza and add a dash of chilli pepper infused in olive oil.  Its ambience is a bit intimidating, but once yo review its prices, you would realize that you could even bargain for more.

How to Get There? Long before RO-RO’s epiphany and Cebu Pacific’s notorious low fares, there were only a few jet planes transporting passengers fro Manila to Caticlan.  Now there are various means to arrive in Boracay, either by air, sea or land.

There are the Asian Spirit and Seair flights that conveniently fly from Manila to Caticlan or Caticlan to other destinations in the Philippines, which costs around P8,000 roundtrip, and with more than half this fare shed out, you could fly from Manila to Kalibo (add: P200/2hrs land trip to Caticlan) via Cebu Pacific’s and Philippine Airlines’ limited low fares.

But if you want to bring your car or if you want to travel cheap for less than a thousand, then the combined land and sea trips are also available.  There is the single-bus option (RO-RO) wherein buses roll on and off the ships, starting from the bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City – Batangas Pier – Calapan, Occidental Mindoro – Roxas Pier, Oriental Mindoro – Caticlan Jetty Port.  Otherwise, you may also take the any-bus option and travel independently from the bus, depending on the available vehicles traveling on the same route as RO-RO.

At Caticlan Jetty Port, you would have to pay for the P19.50 boat fare, P20.00 terminal fee and P50.00 environmental fee (excluding the P10/luggage tip on your hired porter) before you can hop on a motorized boat that will take you to Cagban Port, Boracay in 10 minutes.  This however is only during Amihan season or northwest monsoon (wherein the wind blows towards Bolabog Beach), and when it’s Habagat season or southwest monsoon (wherein the inshore wind blows toward the White Beach) you can find motorized boats bound for Tambisaan Port, Boracay in Tabon (nearby Caticlan) for the same price and same length of travel.

Once in Boracay, take a multi-cab, tricycle or motorcycle (P20-25/person) to transport you to your resort.  And when you want to go around the island, pay a minimum of P7/person for an uncharted tricycle and P10/person for a single motorcycle.

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