Dubai the ultra-modern. This land in the Emirates south of the Persian Gulf is a living oasis and a visionary accomplishment for urban architecture and progressive city living. The future has been made here. But amidst the towering skyscrapers and astonishing man-made islands, Dubai also has something special that’s slightly different from all the modernization. Waves. Dubai has waves and there is a surfing scene continually growing here.
And you know what’s even cool about that? There are Filipino surfers in Dubai and they. get. stoked.
In this feature we got in touch with Abdel Elecho, Richard de Galicia, Dave Gaffud and Mark Dimzon – a few of our countrymen enjoying the surf in Dubai after a long hard day’s work.
When and how surfing started in Dubai?
Dave: I have heard stories about some surfers started surfing in Dubai years and years ago
even before Dubai was even known globally. They were the sons of the expats who surfs in their own countries. They were taught by their fathers in the waters of Jumeirah, the coastline of Dubai. During those times, there were no off-shore developments yet, so practically anyone can surf anywhere in the coastline. Unlike now, waves can only reach very few selected spots because of the presence of such developments. I have also met a Filipino beach lifeguard who has been taught by a Western expat how to surf some 12 years back. He then passes on those skills to his fellow Filipino lifeguards to date.
Any ideas of the pioneers of surfing here?
Dave: I believe no one can really claim this as most of the surfers here learned the sport from their own respective countries before they came here to work. However, the Surf School UAE handled by Carl de Villiers and SurfDubai managed by Daniel van Dooren and Scott Chambers are currently the biggest names in the local community. Through them, people learn how to surf and manage to get surfing gears. This helps the growth of the surfing industry in Dubai. As for the Filipino community, Edwin Villegas, Oscar Angeles, & Julius Franco were theones who started the group called Pinoys Surfers of Dubai or as we call it PSOD.
Where do you guys usually surf?
Abdel: Main spot is Sunset beach (beside Burj al Arab hotel) JBR beach, Mamzar beach. There are also other surf spots in other Emirates like Fujairah on the East coast which face the Arabian sea/Indian ocean.
Chard: We surf at a beach beside Burj Al Arab, commonly known to all Dubai surfers as Sunset Beach. As well as in the coastlines of Fujairah, Khor Fakkan and Kalba.
Mark: Sunset Beach
Dave: Sharjah, Fujeirah, Oman but most frequently in Sunset Beach in Dubai.
How many Filipino surfers are there?
Abdel: 20 – 30 surfers?
Chard: There’s a group of Filipino surfers here in Dubai – the Pinoy Surfers of Dubai (PSOD). PSOD was founded by Edwin “El Presidente” Villegas together with Oscar Angeles, and Julius Franco. They have been spreading the surf virus and encouraging other Filipinos to share their passion.
Abdel Echelo came into the picture when he was recommended by Mark Darwin Dimzon to work for Surf Shop Dubai. With the help of Abdel and the Surf Shop’s campaign to give special surfing lessons in Tagalog really encouraged a lot of Filipinos to get into the sport. Eventually, Abdel’s students became members of PSOD. Right now the number Filipino surfers connected to PSOD is roughly 20+.
Mark: Yes. Edwin is the PSOD El Presidente.
Dave: Filipino surfers are fast growing in the past couple of months.
Guys we’re curious, please describe a typical surf day for Filipinos in Dubai.
Abdel: Most of us surf on weekends Friday to Saturday. On my side, I can surf before work at 10am. We usually meet at the beach in the morning. And most Pinoys are the first surfers in the water! After surf we go to a Filipino restaurant for lunch then we drink beers at our flat. It’s illegal to drink alcohol at the beach!
Edwin and Chard
Chard: Whenever there’s surf I am always at the beach. Unlike most of my PSOD friends who’s day-off falls on the weekend, I have a shifting schedule so I can surf early in the morning before work or late in the afternoon after work.
But a typical surf day for PSOD means meeting up at Sunset beach early in the morning, surf ‘till noon and have lunch together at a Pinoy Restaurant or having lunch over at Edwin’s pad with Ate Elsa’s home cooked meals (sarap!!!). Then we’ll head back to the beach for an afternoon session. After a day’s worth of surfing we’ll crash down at someone’s place (Shun’s, Dave’s, Edwin’s or Jen’s place) and have a few drinks, watch surf movies and just relax.
Mark: Dave Gaffud always picks me up in International City early in the morning for dawn patrol. Surf, banlaw then pasok sa work kahit may buhangin pa sa ulo. On a weekend surf, we surf our brains out from dusk till dawn. Tanghalian sa isang Pinoy Resto or di kaya sa bahay ng Tropa. Lutong bahay ni Edwin at ang kanyang may bahay ang pinaka close to Pinas.Bulalo, Sinigang na babi, Bbq na babi, Pancit, Lumpia!! ISWAK sa mga sarper ng tumgotss!!
Dave and Mark
Dave: A typical surf day for us would mean having to start our day through a wake up call at 4:30am. Then the dawn patrol. People who have cars would pick up people who don’t have a means of transportation. We also have to make sure we are early in the beach so we can surf as much as we can before we go to work. On weekends though, it is much more fun, may it be big or small waves. All the Filipino surfers are mostly present in the beach as early as 5am. Then we would hang around the whole day.
The best food session trip we had was when we had a surf trip Sharjah which is 1 hour away from Dubai. It was the time for all the ihaw-ihaw and all those tasty Filipino dishes eaten on Banana leaves. Everybody just had so much fun doing it the traditional Pinoy way whenever we go on a surf camp!
Tell us how surfing is treated in Dubai
Abdel: Actually, surfing was banned a few years ago. I know a friend who got a ticket from the police for “sliding on the waves”! Hehe. But now it changed. Surfing is allowed now in designated beaches and guess what. Surfers save more swimmers drowning than the lifeguard! Surfing here is pretty new. Most of the surfers are expats. I meet a lot of friends on the water. No racism here.
Chard: Like Mark Dimzon said, “Racism is buried in the sand before someone goes to the line-up. Just as long as you follow the basic etiquette of surfing it’s good vibes all day here in Sunset beach.
The Filipino surfing group here in Dubai is well known to other nationalities. Edwin has made a lot of friends in the line-up because of his ability to converse with other surfers while waiting for the sets.
Filipinos started appearing in the map when Abdel and Mark D entered the scene. With Abdel making a name for himself as a notable surf instructor, he was the number one choice for all aspiring surfers. His skills and talent in surfing made him well know in the surfing community. And with Mark D’s unique style in surfing, surfing tips and good humor makes him the friendliest sarper in the line-up. These three characters paved the way for Pinoy surfers to be in a way, respected at the line-up.
Mark: Yes. Racism is buried in the sand before someone goes to the line up… or any other line up as long as you mind your manners! Surfers in Dubai are basically mellow and well mannered. It’s the only playground were surfers from other countries converge. It’s a “multicultural playground”. Sometimes when surf is a scarce commodity, shouting and swearing is a common melody. But in the end it is still a big fat family of familiar faces. No matter if you belong to the executives or the blue collared otoys. At the beach everyone is a brother’s keeper. Overall: Good VIBES!!!
Dave: A lot of people are amazed when they learn there is surfing in the Middle East. And a lot of Filipinos are amazed as well how we can go under the sun for so long without being afraid of it. Our tanned colors really stand out from the crowd.
What made you guys go to Dubai and how is Dubai life so far?
Abdel with a student
Abdel: Work. I’m a manager for Surf Shop Dubai and a surfing instructor for Surf School UAE. I do ding repair also as a sideline. Money is here in Dubai and I have to sacrifice a lot (family, friends, waves) to work here. Life is alright, its been good. I’m privileged to work on a surfing company and my bosses are great guys!
Chard: I came to Dubai last 2008 to work and earn money. I work as an Aircraft NDT (Nondestructive Testing) Technician for Emirates Airlines. I never really expected that you could surf here in Dubai. Life here is good, especially during sarping season.
What does surfing in Dubai do and mean for you?
Abdel: Some people don’t believe that you can actually surf in Dubai! “Well,we get waves sometimes”. Not as good as Indo or the Phillies but just enough for me to get stoked! Every OFW feel this: homesick and boredom. Surfing is my excuse. Whenever there’s surf, I’m always there. It’s great to surf first and go to work after. Your feet is sandy, your ear has full of salt, and you go to work refreshed! Since my job is surfing related, I’m proud to contribute my part for the community doing surfing lessons, fixing surf boards. I want surfing in Dubai to get bigger and to see more Kababayan’s surfing.
Chard: Surfing is my release. After a stressful day, I can’t wait to get off to work and get stoked. Nothing beats the feeling of getting your first slide down the wave after a hard day’s work.
Tell us a bit of your life back in the Philippines and tell us what is it you miss most about our country
Abdel: My life revolved around surfing. Surfing is my job. Before I came to Dubai, I’m already doing surfing lessons, surf tours in Samar. Then I worked for the Philippine Surfing Academy as a surfing instructor. I’m from Borongan, Eastern Samar. I mainly surf in Borongan and the surrounding area. I also competed years ago for the Philippine Surfing Circuit so I have surfed all over the Philippines.
I miss my family, friends, food and the world class waves at my island. Of course, San Miguel beer! and a lot more…
Chard: My life back at Philippines is very typical. Back then basketball was my sport and I have never surfed or held a surfboard. I have always wanted to try surfing but I didn’t have the means and resources to do so. After two years in Dubai, a colleague of mine asked me if I wanted to try surfing. Eventually I did and after catching the first wave, I caught the “surf virus”. I surfed the beach breaks of La Union only twice and at Baler once last year. I’d like to try the beach breaks of Zambales and the reef breaks of Samar when I get better. I miss the Philippine Waves!
Mark Brian Q
Now working and living abroad, what are your goals and outlook in life?
Abdel: Save money, go back to paradise and start my own surfing related business. At the end of the day after surf, I just wanna lay down on the hammock under the coconut trees sipping pina colada… That’s gonna be soon, I hope!
Chard: Earn enough money to buy a beach front property with good waves and open a surf resort. Marry a surfer girl who I can share my passion with and raise a family. Teach my kids how to surf and at the end of the day, lay down have a beer and watch the sun hide from the surfers at the beach.
What is your message for the many Filipinos in Dubai surfer and non-surfer a like
Abdel: Stay fit and healthy. If you get bored, just go surfing!
Chard: Birang bira lang otoy!!! -Mark Dimzon
Mark: STAY WITH YOUR JOB. Surf trips are just around the corner if you have the dough. Nod at the people at the line up and smile. Lastly, don’t forget the RED HORSE during the party!
Dave: Treasure each memory when you surf in Dubai because when you go back home for good, they will just be memories.
What do you want to see to happen in Philippine surfing?
Abdel: I’m proud to say that I contribute my part on Philippine surfing. Surfing IS mainstream now. Surfing and surf accessories are readily available unlike before that you have to wait for a travelling foreign surfer to get most of the gears. It would be great if there is a national independent surfing association represented by surfing groups. Set aside the politics, lets unite and move forward.
Chard: I’d like to see a Filipino compete against the world’s top surfers.
Mark: STAY OUT OF DIRTY POLITICS
Dave: I would want to see Philippines to be a top surfing destination. This would surely help tourism and the economy of the country.
This space is for greetings, last words, shout-outs and messages to your family and friends back home in the Philippines. Mabuhay ang OFW!
Abdel: Hehehe. Kumusta sa mga sarper ng Daet (I rode my first wave there). Mga akaw at pake sa Baler! (I miss Cemento reef and sisig sa Bay’s Inn). Sarpers ng La Union, Vigan at Cabugao surfers, Manila surfers (PSA crew, Bjorn, Jun Cayron! Bubut). Sarpers ng Cebu, Tacloban at Tanauan, Leyte. Sarpers ng siargao (Dodo,Yok-Yok, si idol Martin! Osot). Sarpers ng Lanuza at Tandag. At sympre ang mga local sarper ng BORONGAN at CALICOAN SAMAR. MABUHAY kayong lahat!
Maraming salamat for giving us (PSOD) the opportunity to share the istok from the Middle East. Sinong mag-aakala na pwedi pala mag surf sa DUBAI! Where only here for a few years, babalik pa rin kame sa Pilipinas to fullfill our dreams. But in the maintime, kayod muna kame dito. Pero pag may alon, siguradong nasa dagat kame to get istok! SALAMAT LOKASOUL!
Chard: Alam nyo na kung sino sino kayo mga my preyn!!!
Mark: Sa nagturo ng sarping at nagiwan ng mga magandang alaala sa akin dyan sa tiga Baler sa mga Classic Sarpers: Sina Koyang Edwen Namoro, Teddy Romero, Eng “BEBE” Tolentino, Koyang Rodel Novicio, Daddy “Knows” Hill, Towa Mañalac, Ta Boss Duaso, Koyang Mac Ritual, at sa ASRAI mabuhay kayu! Sa mga taga Eastern Samar: Atty Brian Lasitter, Cayot, Codi, Jkoy, Floyd, Tolits, Bulldog, Bata Totoy. MAPAULI NA AK!! MAGSARP AK DIDA LIWAT! SURF…LOVE…PEACE
Many thanks to Chard de Galicia for connecting the interview Manila to Dubai. Pictures were taken from his Facebook albums and from the PSOD Facebook group with photos from Mark Brian Q (the one’s with Q), Chard, Dave and Abdel. In perspective, this feature is very personal for us at LokalSoul.com and we are PROUD of the Pinoy Surfers Of Dubai. Thanks again to Abdel, Chard, Mark and Dave and the rest of the PSOD. Much love and more power to your work life in Dubai. And here’s to the waves of Dubai. May the stoke never stop!
*They say that there is a Filipino everywhere. Please share this to someone you know who’s working abroad. Who knows, the good vibes may just touch our brothers and sisters… that maybe is just what they need right now.