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Spontaneous Surf: Lessons in forgoing plans and surfing the unexpected

Spontaneous Surf: Lessons in forgoing plans and surfing the unexpected

All flights were cancelled as planes were forced to ground. Face masks were sold out across the entire city. And we were left, stranded, wondering what to do.

This is not a story about the pandemic or the last five months, but instead what the Janji team encountered in early January, six weeks before any of us had heard of COVID-19. This is what we were facing mid-trip in the Philippines, when one of the most active volcanoes in the country was primed to go off in a big way.

We were supposed to head to the island of Bohol, to follow single track through lush tropical jungles that open up onto lagoons of unreal blue-green hues, to run under the canopy of mahogany forests, and trail run the Chocolate Mounds — which seemed too cool and surreal not to see. And, of course, there would be the down time spent on pristine beaches. We had just tumbled out of our van in Manila after a long day of driving, and our flight was set to leave early the next morning. Little did we know that ash had started fuming out of Mt. Taal, a very active volcano only 100km south. Trade winds were pushing that ash due north, straight to us.





Some of us decided to go for an evening run in the city to shake out our legs from the cramped van ride — this turned out to be a bad idea. Only two or three blocks in, our eyes were stinging, which we shrugged off thinking we had possibly ran through a cloud of gnats. We continued running. That perseverance led to agony — five more blocks and our eyes were burning, tears started flooding down our faces. I managed to clear the water from my eyes to see my arms covered in black flecks. "It's some kind of par-ti-cu-late" I sputter, "in the air". It was volcanic ash, or micro flecks of glass. And it was getting worse.





So there we were, the next day, in Manila, staring at the newspaper as brown ash covered the streets and cars outside. With no prospects of flying anytime soon, no ability to run let alone be outside for more than 10 mins without serious irritation (masks were quickly sold out of drugstores before we could get our hands on any) and four days left to shoot the collection, the Janji team was facing a new first on a trip — nowhere to go, nothing to do.







What do you do when you are forced to halt mid-production and plans are thrown out the window? We have a team value at Janji, that's become sort of a motto at work — PFM, meaning "Perpetual Forward Motion." When your "forward" is no longer a feasible option, you move to the side, under, around or whichever way possible to keep moving. Post-breakfast brainstorm session and we were soon piling back into the van to head north for clearer skies and an under-the-radar surf town on the west coast of Luzon.


















The Janji team scuttled all major travel plans for the year soon after returning from that Philippines trip. There's no glass flecks burning our eyes every time we run outside our home, but a far more invasive, widespread and invisible plume of ash in the form of a virus. For a team that not only travels a lot, but bases much of our work around travel, this again is a new first for us. When the path forward is blocked, and plans derailed, sometimes all you can do is forge a new path, even if it wasn't your previous heading. And sometimes, an unknown direction leads to an unbelievable destination.








We didn't intend for our content shoot to become a mini surf trip. We didn't plan to be derailed by a massive plume of ash from a volcano, which thankfully did not erupt like the headlines called for. Being forced to scrap our plans, despite the effort spent planning (and content shoots are a ton of planning), yielded far more rewarding results. Our altered course to La Union more than transformed our trip, it made our trip.
























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