Ilocos Norte

Travel Journal


Ilocos Norte: Paddleboarding on Paoay Lake

Kara Santos
Photos by: Kara Santos

The strong breeze sent ripples through the otherwise serene waters, and whisked me along with the current on the surfboard I was standing on. I was not planning on venturing into the middle of that vast body of water, and yet there I was, right smack in center of Paoay Lake. My companions seemed like mere specks in the distance. I needed to get back to the shore, I had no choice but to paddle like crazy. 

paoay paddleboarding

In case, you’re wondering what a paddle has to do with a surfboard, what I was doing is a relatively new sport called stand-up paddleboarding or SUP. Surfing instructors once used it as a way to supervise their students. Standing on a board made it easier for surf coaches to spot their students, approach them, and give instructions. Some surfers also found it more convenient to paddle towards waves while standing up, as it gave them advantage of height, allowing them to see and gauge the approaching swells.

But unlike surfing, where the thrill lies in catching and riding waves, paddleboarding is more relaxed—provided that it's done on calm, flat waters free from obstacles, like Paoay Lake. 

paoay lake boards
Earlier that morning, our group of Lakbay Norte travel writers and bloggers had been enjoying breakfast at the patio of the majestic Malacanang ti Amianan (Malacanang of the North). The mansion, designed after a 19th Century Bahay na Bato, was the official residence of former President Ferdinand Marcos in Iloilo. It has since been converted into a heritage house that showcases antique furniture and Marcos memorabilia.

From the mansion’s balcony, one can get a good view of the expansive Paoay Lake, which is just a stone's throw away. The lake is being eyed as an eco-tourism area for visitors who want to try their hand at water sports after soaking in Ilocano culture at the museum.

paoay lake

The serene freshwater lake, with an area of 380 hectares, is an ideal spot for water sports and the Ilocos Norte tourism office is exploring stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and dragon boat racing in the area.

Surfing and paddleboarding instructor, Mike Oida (who owns popular surfing destination Kapuluan Vista Resort in Pagudpud), says that with just the use of a surfboard and a paddle, any body of water can become a playground. The activity can be done in calm rivers and lakes, streams, bays, and inlets. Ocean surf and open water swells meanwhile provide a more extreme terrain for experts.

Overseas, it's become a bit of a fad among celebrities. Jennifer Aniston, Rihanna and Michelle Rodriguez are just a few who have been spotted paddleboarding. A quick session is said to be a much harder workout than surfing. Mike says the combination of balancing on the board, and paddling is a great core-body strength workout. Health benefits include improving arm and leg muscles, and toning abs.

paoay paddleboarding
The sport is actually pretty easy to pick up. Like kayaking, you're in control of the direction you want to go. But as I found out quickly, paddling to one side will just make you go around in circles. You need to paddle left and right to move forward. It's easier to learn compared to surfing, and the chances of wiping out are low, unless your balance is really off. 

It's also a way to enjoy nature while getting some exercise at the same time. As I drifted along, I spotted a fisherman on a makeshift wooden boat cast net into the waters while birds roosted on bamboo poles in the middle of the lake and flew overhead. The lake was an expanse of cool blue mirroring the cloudless skies.

While I've only gotten a taste of paddleboarding, I can clearly see its appeal. The first leg of the Stand-up Paddle World Series was recently held in Camarines Sur. Variants of the sport are also  cropping up—there’s now paddleboarding yoga, SUP racing, and even whitewater SUP. So, if you're looking for a fun sport to take up during weekends that will bring you closer to nature and give you loads of health benefits, try stand-up paddleboarding out!

“With just the use of a surfboard and a paddle, any body of water can become a playground. Stand up paddleboarding can be done in calm rivers and lakes, streams, bays, and inlets. Ocean surf and open water swells meanwhile provide a more extreme terrain for experts.” – Mike Oida


Those interested to try it out in Paoay Lake should get in touch with the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office or Kapuluan Vista Resort in Pagudpud since the surfboards and paddles will need to be brought in from the beach. You can also try it out in any place in the country where surfing is popular including Lingayen, La Union, Zambales, as well Caliraya Lake in Laguna. Bring your own surfboard, paddle, and sunblock. Also, wear clothes you wouldn’t mind getting wet (bikini, tank top, board shorts). 



Ilocos Norte Tourism Office

+63-77-772- 1211 loc. 119



Kapuluan Vista Resort

Sitio Baniaran, Barangay Baloi, Pagudpud, Philippines

  • Malacanang Ti Amianan – Also known as “Malacanang of the North,” this was the official residence of former President Ferdinand Marcos in Ilocos Norte, which has been converted into a museum
  • Paoay Lake National Park – A freshwater inland lake located three kilometers away from the sea in Suba. The area hosts migratory birds and various water sports are being offered there 

Getting There

Distance - 470 km from Manila

Travel Time – 10-12 hour by land

Via Plane from Manila to Laoag, Ilocos Norte

  • Catch a 45-minute flight from Manila to Laoag via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines departing daily.

Via Bus from Manila to Ilocos Norte

  • Bus companies that ply the Manila-Laoag route include Partas, GV Florida Transport, Dominion Bus Lines, Philippine Rabbit and Fariñas Transit. Travel time by land is roughly 10-12 hours.




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Ilocos Norte

Ilocos Norte: Paddleboarding on Paoay Lake