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Bơi ván đêm. Biển êm, gió nhẹ, sóng hiền.

I used to love going to the ocean at night. Especially whenever I was upset, or felt restless, nothing would sooth me more than floating on my back looking at the dark sky. Sometimes I asked the ocean for clarity and strength, like her water. Most times, I just wanted to be. Serenity.

The waves aren’t here yet, but I need to train, and have taken up going paddling at night. The motorbike guards always ask if I feel spooky out there. The spookiest thing is when an errant plastic bag brushes against one of my legs, sending up a shiver as I jerk startled. The only things that live near shore in this water are trash, unfortunately. Plastic bags, empty bottles, foam floats that were once used by cuttle-fish fishing baskets.

I’ve written so many times about how much I like paddling. At night, I can’t see past 10 ft ahead of me if I face away from shore so I feel a lot more. The bigger dip when a set is coming in, the gentle side to side between sets. The quietness. The clouds that form and part to reveal the moon and a few stars. The lights along shore, and further out from big ships and the twinkle from smaller boats. But all around me, just me.

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Da Nang surf

Nghề chơi cũng lắm công phu. Every hobby requires work.

The surf season is coming, and I needed to gear up. The first thing to take care of was how to transport my banana board to the beach (I was mostly renting before and would just walk the 4 blocks). The great thing in Vietnam is that if I can’t go to a store and buy a scooter surf rack, I can easily go find a welder, describe to him my needs, and he will deliver. It took slightly longer and slightly more money than I’d expected, mostly because I didn’t want anything welded directly onto my rental bike. 2 days and $25 later, I got a removable rack that can be easily disassembled for storage.

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work in progress

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finished work

Elated at my custom made toy, I took off to the beach, only to realize then that the board sloped downward on the rack. I cursed myself at not having the wit to ask the welder to account for the height difference of the front and back racks, and had to awkwardly ride with only one hand while holding on the board with the other to keep it from slipping. Such is how I joined ranks my countrymen who can carry anything from a fridge to a squad of kids on their motorbikes.

I hadn’t been out for 5 months! And this is why I enjoyed surfing/paddling so much. Even when it was completely flat, like that Friday, it was still so much fun to paddle out and feel like the whole ocean is yours. To be cradled and calmed. After an hour of paddling around in flat water, I was ready to go home when baby waves started to roll in. The sensation of moving using nature’s power instead of your own is refreshing, to put it simply. Baby waves are perfect for a permanent newbie like me. I had time to think, react, enjoy, and reflect.

After those few mini rides, I was a bit too pumped up and rode my bike too fast, turned too sharp and lost control and fell on my right side, crushing down on the rack and the board. I wanted to cry, not from the pain of having to wiggle my foot out from under, but because of the brutal bang that my board suffered. If you have a beloved toy, you understand. This is my very first board, and now my only one. I could see a couple of cracks but was to distressed to further examine it so I just loaded the board up again and went home.

It was an emotional night as I tossed and turned over how silly and careless I’d been. I tend to get very dramatic when it comes to my beloved baby.

Read the rest of this entry »

I can’t believe it took that long for me, a self-professed chronic procrastinator and internet reading junkie, to find this new lifestyle manifesto: Structured Procrastination.

It’s like when I was first introduced to the concept of introversion vs. extroversion: Not that introverts shun social interactions and extroverts seek them because I’m neither, but that introverts get energy from alone time, and extroverts get energy from group environment. Everything in my social life suddenly made sense; everything fell in place. Or when I came across the idea that there are specialists and generalists, people who have one all-consuming passion and people with many different interests, and they all have their places and serve their purposes in society. And I became so accepting of my self and my lack of devotion.

I’d always derided myself for my procrastination issue, but I can’t find a good reason to avoid activities like reading news and interesting stories and writing this blog or my Spanish blog. And I now thank Structured Procrastination for convincing me to embrace my way of life and making the most out of it. Following the advice given, I wrote down a lists of all my projects and tasks and sort of prioritized them but not really. And if I don’t want to get started or continue on with the topmost one, I’m just gonna be productive and work on others that are just as worth spending my time on. And if I want to avoid any other commitment, I look at my already long list and click my tongue regretfully and say no. So today, in no particular order: I rough translated a couple of chapters for my other blog, entered 3 surveys for my job, researched my travel plan, watched videos for my online course. And oh, I took a board out to paddle. It’s been a long long time that I was out in the water. My arms were killing my shoulder after 10 minutes of gentle paddling. But still so exhilarating and I just couldn’t help laughing like a maniac out there all by myself. Luckily the waves were loud enough to dwarf my laughter or else some people would be perplexed. Good day indeed.

On my board looking at the horizon. Paddle, paddle, miss it. Miss it again. Waves dropping and pushing past me. Paddle, paddle, rush forward, stand up, fall down, completely under water. Back on the board, only me, the ocean, the sky, and the wind.

I love just sitting there cradled in the ocean, as much as those few times that I catch and ride a wave.

Forget the world. Forget me. Forget all my rights and duties and obligations and responsibilities. Forget all the questions and all the doubts.

Sometimes life can be so simple.

Having combed through the web for accurate information on surfing in DaNang, I now would like to pay it forward with this informative post if you’re looking for some swell along this coast:

The season: October – February. Some small but irregular swells in March and early April.

The break:

  • Mỹ Khê: straight out from the T-section of Trường Sa road and Phan Tứ st. If there’re waves, you’ll see surfers out there.
  • Non Nước (the famous China Beach): 5 kms south, but if you don’t have your own board, better stick with Mỹ Khê. Beach access is by by Sandy Beach resort, you’ll see a sign.

The board:

  • Best option: the expat surfer enclave located on An Thuong 4, a few blocks from Mỹ Khê. Long term residents have congregated here on the same street, and some of them have extra surfboards to rent you.
    Gunnar, a German expat on An Thuong 4, is now renting out his boards. $4/hr for the 8′ and $3/hr for short boards. All in good condition; 8′ is almost brandnew. There’s a board rental sign in the front so you can find his place easily.
  • The well-known Tam’s Pub: on An Thuong 5, a couple of blocks from the enclave. Has a dozen of boards, including some ok short boards. Longer boards don’t have fins, or super sandy on top. I saw a big foam board. Current rate is 100 000 VND ($5)/day.
  • Da Boys Surf Shop: a couple of articles mention this place, but as far as my research shows it’s nonexistent.
  • Hoa’s b&b: by Non Nước beach, has unusable boards that people’ve left behind. Well, i guess it depends on your standard. If you can make do with one fin or lop-sided fin, there are a couple of them here.
  • Update Jul 2015: Chu’s hotel on An Thuong 1 has been renting out a handful of boards for the past year. They also sell wax ($5). There’s a new surf school in town, toward the northern part of the public beach. They have 26 boards to rent! An impressive number, including SUP, both foam and epoxy. But still quite pricey, so definitely geared toward foreigners and tourists ($10-15, per hour I’m assuming).

Forecast: My Khe surf report on Magic Seaweed

Finally went and explored the coast today. Just south of the city is a strip of resorts: Furama, Fusion Maia, Intercontinental, Hyatt Regency (which consists of unimaginative bomb-proof concrete blocks that I happen to find fugly). The beach they all line up on is gorgeous, but the surrounding is a little uninspiring.

After 4 kms, I saw the first beach access called Non Nuoc (mountain and water, home country), just a little past Marble Mountains. Further ahead and even just across the road is not as developed. Mostly empty lots with overgrown grass and rubble. It was probably set for fancier structures but came to a halt amidst the real estate market freeze. This area was one of the most overblown speculations in the country. And Danang government’s reputation of  investor-friendly attracted not only resorts but also beach condos and villas complex, with the majority of buyers coming from Hanoi.

trail to beach in Da NangOne of the beach trails

scooter on Da Nang beach
True to my heritage, I rode my scooter all the way in. It wasn’t a great idea; the little monster definitely got a good workout. Read the rest of this entry »

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