Paddleboard Your Way Through Scenic Spots in the Philippines

A cross between surfing and kayaking, paddleboarding is a fun and relaxed way to see the Philippines from a unique vantage point.

Photo by kudla / Shutterstock.

What do you get when you cross surfing with kayaking? Here comes stand-up paddleboarding, also known as SUP — a relatively new sport in the country that is gaining ground in places like Zambales, Boracay, Coron and Siargao.

The sport involves finding your balance as you stand on a board, using one long paddle to cruise around waterways. While there are competitive iterations, it is currently more of a leisurely pursuit, offering a unique way to go sightseeing. Unlike surfing, it doesn’t require specific water conditions and can be done year-round on practically any body of water — be it ocean, river or lake.

“It’s an effective full-body workout that is a no-impact sport. I managed to lose about twenty pounds doing it regularly,” says Michi Calica-Sotto, an Academy of Surfing Instructors-certified instructor and owner of SUP Central Tours. She also describes SUP as a “meditative sport” — imagine paddling on tranquil waters past rock formations, and it’s easy to understand how the experience can be Zen-like.

Prefer something a little more competitive? Keep an eye out for the annual Philippine Deep Paddle Games, typically held in Siargao. The event features sprint races and distance races, designed for both experienced paddlers and noobs.



Give surfing’s more laid-back cousin a go with these essentials:

  • A trustworthy tour organizer. “Newbies should just try out a tour from a reputable company,” says Michi. A certified paddleboarding instructor can orient you on the basics, including safety precautions.
  • The right gear. “It is easy enough to rent a board. Once you feel it is something you want to do more often, [then] all you have to do is buy a board and a paddle and you are set!” says Angel Griffin, who organized the first Philippine Deep Paddle Games in Siargao.
  • Balance! All you really need to learn is how to maintain your balance and paddle (the abs may or may not come later).
  • A SUP buddy. It’s tempting to spend some alone time out at sea but it’s always safer to paddle with a partner.


SUP Hotspots

For a sport that is as much about the beauty of the location as it is about athleticism, the Philippines provides a host of options for the stand-up traveler.

  • Coron, Palawan. Cruise through Coron’s peaceful mangrove forests and marvel at the area’s awe-inspiring limestone cliffs. (Check out what Coron has to offer to both paddleboard-afficionados and more sedentary tourists.)
  • Lake Caliraya, Laguna. Spot different bird species and get a sneak peek at the vacation houses surrounding the lake’s placid waters.
  • Lian, Batangas. Push off from a raft parked by the Matabungkay Beach Hotel, and enjoy its scenic and expansive 3km coastline.
  • Siargao, Surigao del Norte. “It’s gaining popularity since not all tourists crave the adrenaline rush from surfing,” explains Siargao resident Angel Griffin.



This story first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Tisha Alvarez

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