Riding her own wave

COVER 1 - LD 4

Lea Ann Duhaylungsod

Edd Buenaviaje

Chady Pantaleon

Jesse Jake Daan

Vince Camuto, N Natori, Flying Tomato, Michael Kors, Lira, Echo Design, Seafolly

Lola Casademunt,
Jessica McClintock, Echo,
Lily Pulitzer

All items available at
Ayala Center Cebu

Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort & Spa

Instagram is one way of seeing things from another— filter.

Well, figuratively  speaking, it lets us peek into the daily lives of ordinary strangers from directly their point of view without having to meet them in person.

And when these ordinary people have done well at crossing over into the mainstream media with their extraordinary skills, they end up being the most  followed people on social media.

Twenty-six-year-old female surfer, Lea Ann Duhaylungsod, definitely caught the eye of more than 30,000  followers on Instagram.

The beach photos, the  glistening waters in the scorching heat, her sun-kissed skin, and shots of places we can only  marvel at pretty much reveal
that this island girl is also a  traveller and photographer.

Lea is a Cebuana now based in Siargao, the surfing capital of the Philippines, after she stumbled upon the island in one of her travels three years ago.

Today she runs her own place called Arka  Hayahay Surf and Beach Resort. Don’t be fooled by the bleached blond hair and beach bod in
the counter.

This surfer chick can show you how to fearlessly ride the Siargao waves at high speed.

Lea is a beach bum, and  the tides have brought in Pierre Nather, a French body boarder. They both share their love
for adventures and the great  outdoors.

Lea, along with Pierre, spent an afternoon with the Play! pool at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. Here, get to know more of this gorgeous bold
Filipina surfer outside social  media and in person.

What got you into surfing?
I started getting into it three years ago in Siargao. I was 23. I went there just to visit the place because I often travelled before. When I arrived, I see people who were surfing and I got really interested about it. I wanted to know what it felt like taking your own wave and riding on it. And I also loved the beach. I’m a beach bum.

Who was with you that time?
I was just by myself. I often travel alone. My family followed after and they also loved the place. It’s really
a good idea to invest in Siargao
because the tourism there is booming. It’s good for business but bad for the place. A lot of tourists
coming in and so do garbage.

Do you consider yourself as an environmentalist?
Yes. And I try to avoid meat as much as possible. No fish. It has nothing to do with being health conscious. It’s an advocacy. I eat
vegetables and fruits.

What is it in surfing you like most?
I like the feeling when you’re able to get your own wave and ride on it. The hardest part is being able to get your own wave. You have to paddle fast. The adrenalin rush is the best part. I even like the feeling when I get wiped out. That moment you got out of the water, it’s a relief,
a good feeling that you survived something that hard.


Surf’s up for Lea and her boyfriend Pierre Nather.


How do you keep yourself physically and mentally prepared for this?
I do a little bit of stretching and push-ups. The arms are very important in surfing. You have to get a lot of strength from your arms because surfing is 90 percent paddling. And it’s also about balance. It’s only scary at first, but I’ve never really been scared of the water. I love the beach! Also, there are no sharks in Siargao. But who knows? It’s still part of the big ocean. (Laughs).

How important is swimming in surfing?
It’s very important when it comes to being wiped out. You get inside cloud 9. That’s the wave forming a nine. Every surfer, I think, gets to experience being wiped out. Each wave is different. Sometimes the waves are really good. You don’t get wiped out. You ride it likes it’s oil. At times the waves are messy and the wind is bad so you get wiped out, and that’s when you most likely lose your balance and fall off the board. So swimming is
really important.

What do you if you get wiped out?
I cover my head from the board when I hit underwater especially that Siargao is reef break.

What’s the worst experience you had?
I don’t take waves I know I couldn’t handle. I also don’t go surfing if it’s very windy.

What’s the best time of the day to go on surfing?
Around sunrise when it’s not too windy. It also depends on the tide so every day we check the forecast for the wind and tide. Some of the spots are
accessible depending on the tides so we have to check the online forecast regularly. We have a writing board where we can write the forecasts.

How do you spot a good wave?
Honestly, I can’t really tell. It’s my friends who tell me which wave is a good one. They tell me if it’s good enough or when it’s too big for me. The locals there are so nice to me.

Who takes your photos?
Anyone available! (Laughs). I take a photo of them first and then I let them copy the composition.

How did you acquire so many followers?
It started when I got sponsors and they reposted my photos. I also used to keep a blog before, and I already have followers there. I did use to take photos of people too like Kryz Uy. I started out as a photographer, even when I was still studying, and I still do now. It’s a serious hobby. I used to take photos for magazines. It’s my first love. Now I take photos like engagement shoots for people I know or close to me.

What do you have to say to people who want to be like you?
A lot of people do surfing for a living. They get sponsors and money if they win. I do it just for fun. The most important thing to consider is not how big your surf board is, or how big the wave you are taking. Just enjoy the ride.

What same attitude do you have when you face a big wave and a big challenge in life?
Patience. You have to wait for the right one.

The right one?

The right good wave! (Laughs). And respect. You have to learn to respect others in the line-up. The one on
the inside takes the wave first. The ones outside will have to wait for their turn. It’s not just thinking about your own wave but also thinking of the others.  After you ride the wave, you go back in line at the side and not at the center.

Speaking of the right one, how long have you been together with Pierre?
(Laughs). How long are we now? (Turning to Pierre). We’ve been together since I got back from Europe. That was last month. (Laughs).

Is he also a surfer?
He’s a bodyboarder. They have smaller boards and they take bigger waves—and they wear flippers! (Laughs). For me, it’s more difficult than surfing. For him, it’s easier than surfing. In surfing, you tie the leash to your ankle. In bodyboarding, you tie it to your hands. They do different tricks. They fly!

And when does patience come handy in your life?
Patience when I have guests very demanding guests, especially the local guests. They’re more
demanding than the foreigners.

Tell us about this business you run in Siargao.
It’s the Arka Hayahay Surf and Beach Resort. It’s good. It’s doing well right now compared to when we just started. No one knew about it before but now we’re more established. It officially opened in October last year. We’re serving more for the local guests. We give very practical and reasonable rates as much as possible.

Who manages it with you?
The whole family runs it but most of the time I manage it on my own. I live in Lahug but my family stays in Naga.

Is this your first business venture?
We had business here in Cebu before, CMYK dessert house, but we had to sell it  because I had to concentrate in Siargao. My partner was my cousin. We did the baking.

Do you have to adjust the amount of time spent for surfing now that you have a resort to run?
I had to stop surfing for now. I really got busy with the  business. Also, I had stopped surfing for a month when I travelled to Europe. Once you stop, it’s kind of hard to pick  up where you left off. It’s different if you practice every day. I really will get back to surfing when I’m not busy. I’m planning on that. It’s really a good exercise to ride the waves.

So how long has it been now since you stopped?
Around eight months now, I think. When I got back from Europe that time, the wind in Siargao was not that ideal
for surfing. Also, I don’t have a board anymore. It broke. (Laughs).

PAGE 2 FOTO 1 - LD 8

Lea Ann Duhaylungsod

What happened?
I got wiped out! Now my board got a lot of ding (surfboard ding).

Have you always been  a traveller?
My family and I used to travel before together. When I got my own income, that’s when I started to travel on my own. I think it’s in my nature to explore.

What places in the Philippines have you been to?
Batanes, Palawan, Kalinga Province, Banawe, Sagada. Some islands around Cebu like Kalanggaman, Kanigaw, and Bantayan. I really like travelling. I think that’s more of what I am than surfing. (Laughs).

How therapeutic is traveling compared to surfing?
They’re both therapeutic  but in different ways. When you travel, you open your eyes and mind to a lot of things. New things, like experiences, people and you hear their  stories. I try to interact with the locals as much as I can when I travel. I don’t really stay in
hotels. I stay in Airbnb or  hostels so I get to meet a lot of people. There are a lot of things you get to learn in travelling that can’t be found in your comfort zone.

Do you keep a blog?
I had a photo blog before. I don’t really narrate all things online but I do keep a personal journal for my own reference.

Where do you see yourself years from now?
I still see myself in Siargao by the beach, enjoying the waves and the sun. I just love the place. It’s peaceful and you get to live a simple life and you don’t have to spend a lot there. The people there are nice. I do hope it is still like that after many years.

TAGS: Siargao
Latest Stories
Most Read