Sole Sister Spotlight: Surfista Elaine Abonal

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I would probably call myself a traveler first and a surfer second. 

Those 2 passions fit perfectly together and I would love to be able to do both my entire life. Imagine my delight when I chanced upon a facebook page called Surfista Travels. And that a young woman is behind this travel company that makes surf and travel a reality especially for beginners. 

This girl is living my dream! I had to meet her!

So I invited Elaine Abonal for coffee and a chat which turned into an impromptu photo shoot. What draws you to her is her child-like bedimpled smile, her air of authenticity and her contagious enthusiasm for travel, surfing and hearts! Here's a glimpse into our conversation.

Elaine Abonal - Melbourne, Australia 2

What's your travel style? Are you more of a backpacker or a glampacker?

It depends who I’m travelling with. I’d say I’m both a backpacker & a bratpacker haha. I like being stylish and girly but down-to-earth when I’m travelling because I love taking pictures and being in pictures so I still dress up – but make sure I’m comfortable! I bring less on surf trips & with other guys and bring more abubots when I’m with other girls.

Elaine Abonal  GOPRO

How did you get into travelling and surfing?

I’ve always been fascinated about other cultures and travelling since I was a young girl. My family would go out of town and to the States when I was younger then I decided to be a high school exchange student. When I was there, my host family took me to Florida and there I saw surfers, surfboards and the whole culture of surfing. I was so curious about it all that I started researching about surfing in the Philippines. 

I mean, if we live in a country with thousands of islands, there MUST be surfing here! 

So when I got back, I took my first surf lessons and I never stopped since. Being an exchange student and surfing have allowed me to travel more. I meet so many new people and get to stay with them when I go abroad. I try to look for new surf spots around the country and the world. And I always get to experience a new culture each time.

Where is the best place to surf in the Philippines?

I can’t pick just one! My favorite places are: La Union, Siargao and Baler. La Union is good for beginners and for longboarders. Siargao is paradise and is internationally known for the barrelling waves. Baler is more chill and is also good for both beginners and more advanced surfers.

Elaine Abonal On the Road

Describe your best moment while traveling.

I love that magic moment when I travel and stay in one place long enough. Then I realize I’ve stopped staring at people as if they were aliens. I transform from being a tourist to an honorary local.

I love it when the locals (the barista or bartender for example) already know me by name or even my face. I don’t have to look at maps to go to different places anymore. I love it when other tourists ask me for directions as if Ive been living in that place my whole life. Ironic isn’t it? 

I travel far to love feeling at home in different places!

Describe your worst.

I hate saying goodbye and leaving. I’m the type of person who gets attached pretty easily. As a traveller I know I’m not supposed to, but saying goodbye to a place and people you’ve grown to love and consider home and family is always difficult. It’s less intense as I get older and travel more and know that moving on is the way to go in life.

But I just hate goodbyes!

Ever had a holyshitimgonna die moment while traveling or surfing?

Not really while travelling,  but a lot of times while surfing I get pounded by waves or get caught in the impact zone. Although I’ve learned not to panic. There was one time I was in a friend’s private island and I got stung by box jellyfish (which is known to be the deadliest and most poisonous jellyfish in the WORLD!) We weren’t near any hospitals and I didn’t want to spoil my friends’ fun. So I just lay there the whole weekend. My feet blew up so I couldn’t walk for a week. 

The pain was INSANE! 

I seriously thought I was going to die. Now that I think about it, I should’ve asked my friends to rush me to the hospital instead of just being a martyr.

Surfista Travels Elaine Abonal

What got you started on Surfista Travels?

I’ve been surfing and travelling for 10 years and I’ve always stayed at the San Juan Surf Resort in La Union. Because of that I’ve become close to Brian Landrigan (owner of San Juan Surf Resort and one of the pioneer surfers of the Philippines) and Luke Landrigan (Filipino pro surfer sponsored by Billabong and owner of San Juan Surf School). 

They’ve seen me spread the word about surfing and bring my friends and friends of friends on surf trips. Last year when we went to Thailand, they encouraged me and told me that I could always do surfing for fun but that it’s also something I can do as my own business. They know that I have the resources, support, and talent. I thought about it and realized that they were right! They helped me and I told my friends and family about it and then Surfista Travels was born.

Surfista Travels March 2012 in La Union, Philippines

What's the best part about your owning your own business?

The best part about owning my own business is getting to share what I love and being able to help people. With Surfista Travels, I can help bring business to different surf spots (resorts, schools, locals) and bring surfing to different people. I love being part of people first experience of surfing or riding their own waves. Whenever my clients or participants say to me, “If it weren’t for your Surfista, I wouldn’t have learned to surf or had the courage to just go travel and try surfing,” 

I feel super proud and know that all the hard work is worth it.


Best pick up line while traveling?

Once I was given a “quince” (15) out of 10 by a Spanish guy when we were walking on the streets of Salamanca, Spain, ha ha! The Spanish are really good, I used to keep a list.

Mine... I don’t really have one. I just go right ahead and introduce myself and ask where they’re from – in the language that they speak (I speak French and Spanish). Hee hee.

Elaine Abonal Nail Polish

Why is it important to have colored nails?

I love it! It automatically adds color and helps me with my mood. Whether it’s light summery blue or sexy red!

Elaine Abonal - Melbourne, Australia 1

Ever fallen in love while travelling?

I fall in love ALL the time while travelling haha! There’s a quote that goes,

“Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love.” 

It’s so true! We always end up in these romantic situations that are out of the ordinary when we’re travelling that it’s so easy to get caught up and live in the moment. I mean, how can you NOT fall in love while you’re watching the Eiffel tower sparkle in Paris or running around catching trains while holding your freezing hands during winter in Europe or Australia or when you’re in a beautiful island and you’re stoked on a full day of surf and sunkissed skin and sunshine? ;)

The hard thing though is when the vacation is over and you’re both back in your real lives. I think the key is to find someone (or have that someone find me/you!) that is in our “real lives” that we can travel and share all these new and exotic experiences with.

Elaine Abonal Camera Books

If you weren't traveling solo, who would you like to travel with?

If I weren’t travelling solo, off the top of my head I’d say I’d love to travel with one of the pro surfer girls like Kassia Meador, Kelia Moniz, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Sage Erickson. They get paid to travel and surf and live in bikinis and do what they love. I think all-girl road trips are pretty fun if you’re travelling with people who know how to have fun too.

Do you think it's more challenging to be a woman traveler and surfer?

I don’t think it’s THAT much of a challenge to be a woman traveller nowadays - maybe ONLY in some places – because you have to think of the local culture and the safety. I’ve travelled alone and it’s been okay. So many women travel now and people respect that. As a surfer, I think it’s wayyy easier to travel because surfers are the more chillax people who can survive on eating simple food and just having a bed or a mattress to sleep on. I think the woman-surfer-traveler is the best combination.

Elaine Abonal & Lois Yasay

Elaine Abonal has been surfing and traveling around the Philippines and bringing friends to different surf spots for the past 10 years. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Tagalog and has been a group leader and chaperone for students to France, Spain, the UK and other countries numerous times. She is currently a brand ambassador for Hurley Philippines and GoPro Philippines, among other brands. Check out Surfista Travels on facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Check out the previous Sole Sister Spotlight: Glampacker Anna Zalazar
Do you know of any female traveler who conquers the world one country at a time? Sole Sisters are fearless women travelers who find ways to travel within their means and have a lot of fun along the way! I would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send me an email at solesisters (dot) weare(at)gmail(dot)com. I look forward to your suggestions!

Seeking other itchy soled sisters,
Sole Sister Lois

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  1. this is a fun read as always! you write well and i love it as it makes the person or the place you are writing about you!!!

  2. Thanks so much for the feature! I loved meeting you and getting to talk to you and I hope we get to surf and travel together sometime soon! :) 

  3. i know one!!! she's in

  4. Glad you're inspired May-May!

  5. Thanks for this comment Mhe-Anne! Really made me smile :)

  6. Look forward to traveling and surfing with you Elaine. I'm sure we'll have more opportunities for collaboration in the future :)

  7. Hi Krish! Thanks for your recommendation. I wish I knew more about the blogger since there's not much on her About page...

  8. This is a very nice article. :)

    I hope you'll feature more women who loves to travel. :)

  9. hi would you allow your surf pic to b used as artwork for t-shirt? ill give you shirts or even a cut. i just dont know how much.


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