A couple months ago I was fortunate to meet (on Twitter) Elaine Abonal from Surfista Travels, a new company that just started this year. I wanted to feature her here on the website because I think she is doing some awesome work and I think you should all check out it out.
Luckily, I was able to get Elaine to take some time and answer a few questions for us just before her first Surfing Tour (which Sold Out).
Lets get right to it…
Allen: Who is Surfista Travels?
Elaine: Surfista Travels is a surf tour company that helps surfers and travelers arrange trips that include accommodation, transport, and surf lessons for groups. Basically, we fix everything and organize surf trips for people. It is owned and run by myself for the meantime but I’m getting a lot of help from my family and friends.
I am Elaine Abonal, born and raised in the Philippines and based in Manila. I started traveling around the world and the Philippines at a young age and got into surfing around ten years ago when surfing was still new to the country. Because I meet many kinds of people from surfing, traveling and other aspects of my life, I’ve brought a lot of groups surfing. I’ve also chaperoned groups of exchange students to Europe (France, Spain, the UK) so I’m used to heading groups to different places.
I just launched the company this year (January 2012) but started thinking about it and working on it last year. Through my years of surfing and staying at the San Juan Surf Resort in La Union, 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. On one international trip with them, 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 so 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.
Allen: How did you first get into surfing?
Elaine: I was actually studying in the United States when I first heard of or knew of the world of surfing. My host family (I was an exchange student in Wisconsin) took me to Florida and on the beach there were surf shops, surfers, surfboards and I was just fascinated by all of it! I thought – if I live in a country with 7,107 islands there MUST be surfing somewhere. So I researched about it when I was 17 and found a place where I could learn to surf.
I took my first lessons from the locals at San Juan, La Union. Back then there were no certified surf schools yet, no sponsorships from companies, no students even. The people who taught my friends and I were just a bunch of surfers earning extra cash. It was really fun and I’m still friends with the guy who taught me then – Angel – and we’ve seen each other change and grow up through the years! He owns his own surf restaurant now and I’m starting Surfista Travels. Who would’ve thought?!
Allen: Do you remember the first time you thought “Surfing is something I want to do the rest of my life”?
Elaine: I was looking through my surf diaries the other day and after EVERY single surf trip, I realized that I wrote something like, “This is it. Surfing really IS part of my life now. I can’t imagine my life without it.”
I don’t remember the first time I thought of it – maybe after my first surf trip, but I know I think it every single time I surf, go on a surf trip or just meet up with friends that I met through surfing. It’s part of who I am now wherever I go. J
Allen: Who inspires you as a surfer?
Elaine: I look up to the women surfers of the world. I like Kassia Meador who is a pro at longboarding and the new girl surfers ripping like Sage Erickson and Sally Fitzgibbons and the Filipina local surfers that I get to watch and surf with here in the Philippines –from Manila, La Union, Siargao. I love that women surfers can look graceful and tough at the same time when they’re out in the ocean. I get inspired to surf more and have fun being a girl while surfing.
Allen: Who inspires you as an entrepreneur?
Elaine: As an entrepreneur I would say Brian Landrigan and Luke Landrigan. Luke is earning from doing something that he loves which is surfing. He says his model entrepreneur is his dad – Brian Landrigan which I totally agree with. Daddy Brian, as I call him, went to La Union a long time ago and had a little surf shack which was called Surf Camp. Now it’s a beautiful resort and it gets bigger and better each year. He’s always looking for ways to improve things. He has definitely made a big difference to surfing in the Philippines and to a lot of people’s lives. I also love the way he sees things. Other people just focus on the money but whenever he would talk to me, he’d always tell me about how happy he always is to see people enjoy surfing. He loves life and is always thinking of ways to make things better.
I never really thought about being an entrepreneur until Daddy Brian and Luke pointed out and brought out my potential. I’m really happy and thankful for that and for them.
Allen: Tell us a bit more about Surfista Travels. What kind of serves do you offer?
Elaine: Surfista Travels Philippines offers surf tour groups and packages which include transportation, accommodation, surf lessons, and board rentals. It is perfect for people who live in Manila who would like to get away and try something new for the weekend or for tourists who want to explore and see the Philippines in a different way! We work with the best surf resorts and surf schools so that people will have the most amazing experience. We want to make the experience personalized and intimate and something that the participants will always remember.
Allen: If someone goes on surfing tour with you, what should they expect?
Elaine: Number one: FUN. I read somewhere that the key thing about surf travel is that the difference between a good surf trip and a great surf trip all comes down to the company you keep. Our trips are going to be fun and will have a good vibe for everyone. I would not let myself go on a trip and not enjoy it!
Another is quality and convenience. Surfista Travels is only going to work with surf resorts and surf schools that meet our standards. We want our clients to have fun and experience the surf lifestyle but also know that they’ll be getting an experience that they won’t just get from any other tour. Our clients (who I can foretell will not only be from the Philippines but from around the world) can expect quality service and that they will get their money’s worth. Like I said, we want to make the experience personalized and intimate.
We’re also working with a lot of cool sponsors in whose products we believe in – those that support the surfing culture and lifestyle here in the Philippines. Our sponsors will also be providing a lot of cool stuff – so our packages are unique and something that you won’t get just from anywhere.
Allen: Do you organize private surfing tours for large groups?
Elaine: Yes we can do that.
Allen: If someone wants to join a tour or discuss booking a large group package, where should they go?
Elaine: They can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange something that will fit their needs.
Allen: As a new business, sponsors are always very important. Would you like to give some love to your sponsors here?
Elaine: I am VERY grateful for my family and friends and especially my sponsors. It’s a new business but they have encouraged me and put faith in me and my company. I’d like to send some lovin’ and a big thank you to my sponsors GoPro Philippines, Agos Pilipinas, Lightwater and Vitaminboost (they sponsor me personally and as Surfista Travels) as well as San Juan Surf School, San Juan Surf Resort, Yabang Pinoy, Republic of 7107 Islands Travel Magazine, Philippine First Aid and My Life On Board.
And my number one sponsors: my parents – Ariel and Emily Abonal. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them.
Allen: Thanks Elaine. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. I hope to see you on the breaks soon!
Elaine: I would just like to thank again every single person who has helped me with this endeavour. This is a dream come true and I’m so happy to share this with everyone. I have the support of my family and friends from all over the world and I’ve received help even from people I’ve never personally met who live far away! You guys know who you are. So I just want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.
Thank you for the interview and hope that we could surf and travel together someday soon too!