Gabriel Nivera
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Pictures & Conversations

A collection of images and the stories behind their creation.

Siargao Pt. 1 - Carding: Local Surf Legend

I had heard about Siargao for a number of years from various friends and acquaintances, most of whom were amateur surfers and enthusiasts.  All of them had expressed unreservedly that it was a place that exceeded their expectations and they would not hesitate in a heart beat to return.  My mind was made up, I would make it to Siargao and see for myself.  It just so happened I was going to be going to the Philippines to attend one of my best friends weddings, so I decided I would tack on a couple extra weeks to my trip and make sure Siargao was in the itinerary.  With the help and generosity of my good friend Nicole, I booked a room at Harana Surf Resort, and set off in search for interesting characters to share their stories with me.

When I arrived at Harana, I had a quick chat with Mookie Medina, one of Harana’s owners, and explained that I was in search of local characters who embodied the spirit and energy of Siargao.  Without a moment of hesitation, Mookie exclaimed, “Carding!  You need to photograph Carding.”  His sentiment was quickly seconded by a number of other people who had overheard our conversation.  It was decided, the search for Carding was on.  The biggest challenge with photographing Carding was locating him.  Carding does not have a cell phone, land line, email or Facebook.  So finding him would take actual leg work and sleuthing, it involved going over to his usual haunts and hoping to catch him there.  For five whole days my search was fruitless.  There were a lot of near misses and false sightings.  It had gotten to the point I was about to lose hope and give up.  But fate smiled upon me on my penultimate evening in Siargao. I decided to go one last time to his carinderia (canteen); as luck would have it, he was there chatting with a friend.  I introduced myself, to my surprise Carding already knew who I was.  Word had reached him that I was searching for him.  I explained what I wanted to do and he agreed, we set a time to meet the next morning so I could take his portrait.

I wanted to photograph Carding in his element, riding the waves at Cloud 9, but low tide at our meeting time made that idea all but impossible.  I opted instead to photograph him at his house, a charming kubo in the jungle, far from the main road.   It was surrounded by coconut trees and fighting cock roosts.  It had no power, running water, or doors. It was simple but comfortable, a home well suited for an uncomplicated man.  A highly skilled surfer, highly regarded within the tight-knit Siargao surf community, and a respected instructor Carding choses not to compete.  While most Siargao natives dream of going up against the worlds elite surfers, winning accolades, gracing magazine covers, and eventually touring the world of the competitive circuit Carding is the complete opposite.  Surfing is not just a hobby or a profession for Carding; for him it is a way of life. It's how he experiences the world and connects with his community. For him competing takes the fun out of surfing. The challenge is between yourself and the waves, the power of the ocean and harnessing your will to face and conquer it one swell at a time.  He finds peace and tranquility in the waves.  Competition cheapens the challenge.  That's not to say Carding doesn't enjoy testing his skills agains the best. Carding takes up any chance to surf agains that best of the world whenever they come travel on tour to Siargao  It gives him a chance to learn new things and share his love for surf on his home turf. A place he identifies as his happy place and loves so much that he had  “Cloud Nine” emblazoned on his chest.