Surfing with soul

Paolo Ong rides life’s waves with a spirited sense of wonder

By Deneb Batucan

WHEN one hears the word surfing, immediately a chorus of electric guitars on spring reverb comes into mind, along with the hushed sounds of waves gently enveloping the shore. It forms a relaxed state of mind filled with palm trees, waves and salty air. It’s a scene you’d rather see in reality than just one that’s cruising through your mind.

RIDING THE WAVE. Paolo Ong’s surfing lifestyle has turned him into a fine businessman: it helps him deal with people well and lets him handle tough situations appropriately.
RIDING THE WAVE. Paolo Ong’s surfing lifestyle has turned him into a fine businessman: it helps him deal with people well and lets him handle tough situations appropriately.

Riding the tides and soaring through the waves — that’s what Paolo Ong loves to do. An avid surfer, Paolo found his passion for the water sport in late 2006 when he was in San Francisco, California. At that time, he was studying hard to become a chef at Le Corden Bleu College of Culinary Arts. His friends urged him to get into the sport, and sure enough, he fell in love with the waves, the sand and the sun.

“It’s a culture of real friends, a happy environment, and love for the ocean,” Paolo mused. Being carried off by the waves seems to let Paolo find himself. It is where he lets everything go and where he could just concentrate on one thing: getting on that board and riding on that wave. Wiping out isn’t even a problem at all. It’s just part of the take-off.

Paolo’s favorite surfing spot in the Philippines is in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. It’s where he and his friends often go. “For me, it has the perfect waves because you can go left or right,” he said. Lanuza is just one of the best surfing spots in Mindanao. Paolo said that Lanuza is a beginner-friendly surfing spot. It has a variety of surfing areas from reef breaks, which are waves breaking on a coral reef or rocky seabed, or beach breaks, which are waves breaking on a sand-bottom beach.

SURFING LIKE A BOSS. Paolo Ong is a surfing dude, and more: he operates a fusion food business and runs a company that customizes — what else — surf boards.
SURFING LIKE A BOSS. Paolo Ong is a surfing dude, and more: he operates a fusion food business and runs a company that customizes — what else — surf boards.

Waves of opportunity

Aside from surfing, Paolo keeps himself busy with his business. He is the proprietor of Pow Bao Asian Tacos. Being a chef, he incorporated the gua bao, a famous Taiwanese pork belly bun, and the Mexican taco, which birthed a delicious marriage of the two zesty cuisines.

He also leveled up his surfing stint and got into a business centered on making custom surfboards and surfing apparel where they cater to both individuals and hotels and other establishments. He, along with his friends, opened Aframe Surf Company. They not only make surfboards but also hold annual surf camps during April where people from all ages and all walks of life come together and learn the ins and outs of surfing. “Our products are made with love by nice people,” he said.

Surfing has helped Paolo a lot. “It has helped me deal with handling my business better and not to get stressed out. Surfing keeps me healthier and stronger,” he said.

Paolo is convinced that surfing has made him better at dealing with people in the business and in life as well. The surfing lifestyle has worked well in helping him become a better a businessman.

As a form of exercise, surfing for Paolo has made him healthier not just physically but holistically. Like yoga, surfing is a lifestyle that not only affects you physically but your whole being.

OUT TO SEA. Surfing has taught Paolo to accept what life has to offer — the happy or sad, the good and the bad. What matters to him is that after every wipe out, he ventures out to sea to seek the perfect wave.
OUT TO SEA. Surfing has taught Paolo to accept what life has to offer — the happy or sad, the good and the bad. What matters to him is that after every wipe out, he ventures out to sea to seek the perfect wave.

Riding the perfect wave

Patience is the number one virtue that Paolo learned from surfing. Getting on the board is no easy feat and there will be more wipe outs than you can count. But the feeling of riding a perfect wave as you taste the salty sea air cannot be bought.

“Surfing taught me that you can’t control Mother Nature,” Paolo said. Because of surfing, Paolo has been more accepting — the good, the bad, the happy or sad. What Mother Nature gives is what we get and vice versa. It’s literally the circle of life.

In the future, Paolo hopes to make Pow Bao grow and open more stalls in various establishments in Cebu. He hopes for a more accomplished Aframe Surf Company where the surf shop becomes a household name for every home not just in Cebu but in the Philippines.

Seeing that surfing has made him a better person inside and out, Paolo knows these dreams wouldn’t be too hard to acquire. Just as long as Paolo keeps on getting on each ebb and flow, even after infinite wipe outs, then he will surely be riding that perfect wave to successful shores.

Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas
Locale: Avalon Condominium

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