The appeal of surfing is easy to see; the mesmerizing undulations of the ocean, the priceless views of land and sea, the list goes on. Factor in travel as a necessity, and it becomes all the more desirable. Elaine Abonal merged her passion for travel and surf when she decided to pursue a venture that came naturally to her. Four years ago, she started Surfista Travels, “a surf tour company that helps surfers and travelers arrange trips that include accommodation, transport and surf lessons for groups.” It was a push from business-minded friends, Luke Landrigan and his father, Brian, that really pushed Elaine to persevere into a new venture. The surf tour company was practically the next step after she had been introducing friends to surfing around spots in the Philippines.
From traveling around the world teaching languages, Elaine has now settled in Siargao where she’s found her niche in a holistic business model that supports the island and the locals. Surfista Travels has also opened many opportunities for surfers from all over the world, mostly girls, to experience surfing in the country from La Union to Siargo. Elaine feels that through her tours, female surfers are more empowered to travel and live new experiences in far-flung destinations. Apart from Manilen͂os looking for some down time from the city, the tour receives a global roster of guests from Asia, Australia, America, and Europe.
The archipelago may currently be under political stress but it is undeniably beautiful. Elaine shows pride in her backyard, sharing world-class experiences and the best of what Philippine and Siargao surfing have to offer. Surfista Travels compartmentalizes all of that allure into a six-day and five-night package that immerses the guests into the island. Given of course are the mandatory surf lessons and sessions that happen on each day of the tour. During time off from Siargao’s majestic breaks, guests are brought around to experience the island’s natural wonders through island hopping and visiting rock pools. Landlocked, they attend yoga classes to contribute to their overall wellness, and of course, feast in some of General Luna’s most notable restaurants.
Noticeably, many of Surfista’s guests keep returning for succeeding trips. And it is because Elaine ensures that by being involved up to the last detail, adding a personal touch through her bubbly presence. Nowadays, she has numerous sponsors that range from surf apparel like Hurley and Float Swimwear to wellness products like Nuun rehydration tablets and VMV Hypoallergenics sunscreen.
For Elaine, teaching her guests to surf can be most fulfilling once they make it a conscious effort to absorb surfing into their lifestyle. “The most gratifying factor is when people have surfing change many things about their life.” She soon expounds on success stories of city folk learning for the first time and feeling better about themselves, then making it a point to become more active and eat healthier in their lives.
So far, it has been smooth sailing for Elaine. Her natural charm paired with the island’s ultimate charisma equates to a successful partnership. For the future, she shares that she will keep doing what she is doing; in turn, helping the surfing community, supporting the locals and the local businesses, and of course, representing the Philippines in the line of surf tourism.
Catch Elaine and the rest of Surfista Travels hanging around at Turtle Surf Camp Siargao, right beside Buddha’s and La Luna.