Boracay, an island of extremes

What to say about Boracay??? What comes to mind? … An Island of Extremes.

From those who swan around in the Hiltons and Shangrilas, being sure to tan all over while sipping the cocktail of the moment…slaves of fashion.

To Asian couples who MUST wear identical his-and-hers clothing, a rather slave-like striped dress for her and a similar shirt for him. They travel in groups directed by their leader, to have this fake tattoo or buy these ridiculous straw hats, so they might continue to look more and more alike…slaves to ticking the box of this being done and then that.

To those no matter their age who spend their every day on the island, living in shanty homes, squashed together in tiny villages. There is no privacy; you share the same water pump so every one knows when you do your washing and how long you spend cleaning your teeth…slaves to their own culture.

At the bottom all the dogs and cats who run free over the sand, happy to say hi, find a friend here and there…slaves to no one.

It goes on, this Island of Extremes.

There are days of clipping the sea as we sailed over turquoise water with the wind from the NE, a clean wind that fills the sail, a sail that lets you lean back, confident it will take your body weight as you stretch back. In the early morning we would sail like this over flat water, calm clear and clean as we cut through the water planing across the bay. I usually took an 86 Starboard and a 5.0 sail.

Then there are those other days with the wind from the SE which brought bits and bits of stuff. What was this stuff? Well, everything from nature’s cast offs such as leaves and twigs, to thousands of empty plastic sachets (the problem being the Filipinos are so poor that they buy just one shot of shampoo or toothpaste or what ever in these sachets, they have no money for a bottle or jar or even a big sachet).
Add to this condition millions of coconuts being washed in over the reef and remaining in your path for I guess too long. Sailing through these is like trying to run through a mine field. Get one on your fin, and I did: it stops you dead in your tracks, so woopy over the front you go!!! Maybe it’s good practice for equipment maneuvering while sailing!!!

Then there are the winds that come and you can plane and plane all day out by the reef – why do they come? No one knows. They go – why do they go? Again, no one knows and so you potter around. These are trade winds, they are not influenced by land masses or temperature near or on the island.

Then sometimes you step on a sea urchin – boy oh boy! But the local remedy, the juice of a calamine, soon cures you and off you go. Then sometimes you find sand, or you land in the longest sea grass imaginable.

Nothing beats the extremes of the tide. With the Spring tide, the sea leaves the bay completely. The locals walk out and out for miles, collecting fish from the ground as they go. With the high Neaps, the tide is so high it comes up over the beach, up over the road, and into all the businesses. A power of its own taking back what rightfully belongs to it.

The windsurfing equipment is more like a mystery. At first the center had nothing left from last year’s stock, so we mixed and matched, being creative – using some of this and some of that – as one would stranded on a desert island. Then like magic, bits and pieces of the 2011 equipment arrived on the back of a tumbled-down lorry, not all at once: sails without masts, or booms without harness lines, so once again we mixed a bit of this and a bit of that – it makes you think and it makes you be creative. David and I did manage a very fun thing on our last day. We took out the 2011 Gemini, a 2-person windsurfing rig – what fun – we sailed across the bay and made it back.

I helped save two kittens and two young dogs – I hope they make it on the island.

It will not be better next year – probably worse. The road will be even more muddy and the took-tooks (rusty old motor bikes that have a very precarious shell of a side car attached where you and everyone else sits to travel over the islands) will be even noisier. Boracay – loud – mad – unusual treasures and a desert island where we windsurf!!! Get angry, and laugh – a place of extremes.

December 2010

[Sharon and David live in Hong Kong and sail in a variety of destinations.]

Here are some starting points to learn more about windsurfing on Boracay:

About Karen Bennett

Combining words and images into visual communication to enhance understanding
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