Surfing Gone Bad: Stuck in Lanuza

A photo of us before surfing. Photo from Johanne Negre.
The danger level of this experience is far from stories featured in Discovery Channel's “I Shouldn’t Be Alive,” but the magnitude of stress it gave me and my friends is quite comparable.

We just finished surfing this hidden spot in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. Unfortunately, due to the reefs and sharp stones that scared the hell out of me, I got stuck in an unknown place at night without my friends knowing where I was.

Imagine – they had to ask the lone caretaker to "light up the ocean" from the guard post overlooking the sea to hopefully get a glimpse of my floating board or body. Unfortunately, it was only the dark ocean that glistened within their sight.

What could my friends be feeling at that point? Their companion – LOST in a surfing spot so foreign to them. The sea was deep, with sharp stones and reefs underneath. The ocean was barely visible; they only depended on the roving light from the overlooking guard post. There was no friendly beach in the area - only the small, forgiving cove where we paddled out. What was there was a merciless shore lined up with sharp pebbles, bouldering rocks, weeds and trees that led into the unknown land.

Yes, I got stuck on that merciless shore. I could not go back to the cove where we initially paddled out. I felt helpless and lost. Most of all, I worried about my friends and boyfriend. They did not know where we were.

Luckily, as if by fate or divine providence, I smelled burnt coal and smoke nearby. I drudged my way into it and saw signs of human activity – a light and leftovers of burnt coal.

“Tao po!” I repeatedly shouted. But I only got silence in return. This did not dampen my spirits as I was certain that somebody had just been there. I could have easily forked my way through the site to explore, but I had two problems. First, beyond the light was pitch black darkness. I literally could not see beyond the small lighted space. Second, I did not have any shoes or slippers on. Who knows what I could have stepped on next.

Each step I took on that merciless shore hurt my feet. So what more can the dark, unknown grounds do?

I stayed on shore thinking what else I could do. Suddenly, a figure of a man carrying a surf board appeared in the distance. It was James, one of our friends! You would not believe how lucky I felt at that time. A buddy is definitely helpful – mentally and emotionally – when stuck in a disastrous situation.

“Fuck!” I heard him utter in pain. He was walking barefoot on the sharp pebbles, with his arms and head supporting his surfboard.

“James!” I exclaimed. “Over here!”

“Uy,” he said as he approached, still evidently in pain. “Isn’t there a way to the cove?”

(Soft) waves crashing against boulders of rocks
Photo from Jacob Emerick
“No,” I said. “The shore only extends until that point. Boulders of rocks block the way and it’s impossible to pass through the water because the waves are too strong.”

“We’re stuck here. But there’s light over there,” I said as I pointed out to my earlier discovery. “Let’s check it out.”

We then climbed the inclined mass of soil, gravel and sharp pebbles that led into the land. We had a tree’s branch support us as we struggled with our bare feet and 9-foot longboards.

What greeted us on land was a living creature; however, it could not speak. It was a huge pig, caged with its 2 piglets.

We shouted for help, but no one seemed to hear. We tried to advance into the darkness, but we just could not do so due to our bare feet and the unknown paths in the pitch black darkness.

“Maybe we should just paddle out,” I suggested. “We’re stuck here, and safe, but our friends do not know it. Besides, there’s a roving light from the guard post. It could probably guide us through.”

The light may be faint, but it was still light. Somehow, it gave me hope. But James did not yield.

“No,” he said. “I can’t let us paddle out into that sea at night. Anything bad can instantly happen. It’s not safe.”

“He’s right,” I thought. That was a sea we did not know. Also, it would be worse to struggle with the dark, raging ocean than to struggle with a motionless land.

Silence surrounded us for a few minutes. I was confident about our situation as we could just wait for daytime to see through the paths. However, I was deeply anxious about the situation of our friends. They may be at wits’ end as to where we could probably be… Farther out in the dark Pacific Ocean? Waiting for a shark’s bite? Already motionless, like the reefs?

Suddenly, hope dominated my emotions. I saw a light that danced in the dark woods.  It was evidently a man carrying a strongly-lighted flashlight.

“Over here!!!” I shouted while I waved my hands up high. I was sure the man would not be able to see me, but it was instinct that drove my actions. “Over here!!!”

A few minutes passed and the light drew nearer. And then, in front of us stood Yum, our local tour guide.


It was an extraordinary experience which showed that adventure knows no limits. It can give you the thrill of a lifetime, but can also strike you with the most stressful moment of your life. Luckily, we had our trusted tour guide who knew the whereabouts of the place.

Yes, I did learn something from the experience. Let me share with you some tips to help spare you from getting into stressful situations like this.

1. Know the place you're visiting
  • Research. The internet is overflowing with useful information about everything.
  • Hire a trusted local tour guide.
  • Communicate with the locals. They possess a wealth of information about their territory.
2. Always follow the paths led by your tour guides. Head out to where the local headed out, and go back using that same path. You'll never know where a friendly-looking road can take you, or if there is way out from that quiet shore. Nature isn't always friendly to man; it can be quite deceiving sometimes.

3. Let's take it from the scuba divers - always have a buddy with you. They are helpful in more ways than you can think of.

4. Know when to fight and when to step back. Will you be in a better situation when you push yourself to ride with the force of nature, or when you say "no" and take a step back for safety purposes? This, I believe, one can only truly find out through experience (especially for those who surf).

Hence, always have some basic information about the place or the sport. To know basic survival guides will also give you an edge in keeping yourself and your friends safe during your travels and adventures.

Wild adventures and new explorations are necessities for a fuller life; but before all, do keep yourself ready and informed. We do not want to be featured in Discovery's "I Shouldn't Be Alive," right? ;)

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  1. Wow! Glad you all made it out safe and have a good story to share now. Great tips, too. It's hard to know when to step back in these types of situations.

    1. Yes. I'm so thankful we didn't get to spend the whole night there as I was really worried about our companions. And yeah you really have to think about and weigh your decisions when in these situations..

      Anyway thanks for the photo!!

  2. I still can't believe it really happened! my mind was like.. . "is it for real? is it for real? oh my gosh! what will happen??" -the whole time I'm reading this. Uuuhh! so scary!! Thank God you were all safe. :)

    1. YEs Gail it's for reallll hahaha. Buti nga we were saved at once or else baka namuti na buhok ng mga kasama namin.

  3. Your experience seems to be very dangerous. There are many places which are dangerous for doing surfing. And sometimes even a safe place can become dangerous depending on the nature of the water. Surfing is a very good adventure but it is dangerous as well so a proper training is required for doing it. I also like it a lot that is why i took training for it and it was quiet helping for me to do surfing after that. You can visit this for further information about the training

  4. Sharpen your writing skills some more and you could potentially be a really good action/fiction writer. I'm from Lanuza and the bay is not so big. Civilization has reach this part of the country and there's electricity so the town is well lighted at night. You can see the town at night from kilometers away. That's all.

    1. I love Lanuza and I agree with you that it is well-civilized. It has a lot of surfing spots and lots aside from the main shore that tourists usually visit.

      Where we were at that time though did not have that much lighting compared to the other areas, specially the spot where we got stuck! That certain lot, probably owned by someone, has, I think, only 1 light bulb - so we couldn't really see past through the trees that surrounded the area.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment and enjoy Lanuza more!