Upsets and Comebacks—Underdogs Take the Lead in Day 4 of the La Union Pro
by Ferina Santos
In the most unsuspecting of ways, the fourth day of the La Union Pro 2019 gave us thrilling back-to-back action on tricky four-foot waves here in San Juan, La Union.
The Men’s Open Shortboard quarterfinals felt like finals day with the intense matchups of our top Philippine surfers. The passing storm generated better wave conditions. After a couple of snapped leashes in Round Two, the judges and crowd knew they had front row seats to one of the most exciting quarterfinals in Philippine Surfing Championship Tour (PSCT) history.
Round Three proved to be different as upset after upset came in the first two heats. Top contenders for the finals like Piso Alcala Jr., Philmar Alipayo and Jay-r Esquivel faced early exits in the quarterfinals—a big surprise for everybody.
Piso Alcala Jr. (Siargao) was up against fellow Siargaonon Eduardo Alciso in the first heat of the quarterfinals. Contrasting competition strategies were displayed—patience played key in Alcala’s rulebook, riding only three waves while Alciso, the opposite with six waves under his belt.
“I didn’t expect this at all!” exclaims Alciso. “All I remember before my heat was to make sure that I stay focused and pick out the best waves that come.” During the final minutes of his heat, Alciso was able to nail the score that he needed to move to the semi-finals.
Alcala currently sits at number one in the PSCT leaderboard for the Men’s Open Shortboard while Alciso is ranked fifth.
Moving on to the second heat of the quarterfinals, Jefferson’ Loloy’ Espejon, currently top 16, nabbed the semi-finals slot from PSCT top 4 Philmar Alipayo, a previous champion of the Siargao National Surfing Cup.
Espejon’s first time to make it to the semi-finals, he’s grateful to all his sponsors and friends who believed in him. “I can’t believe this just happened. I’ve been surfing with Philmar in Cloud 9 for almost nine years, and he’s such a great surfer,” Espejon adds.
Probably one of the biggest upsets came in heat three with John Mark Tokong and Jay-r Esquivel. An intense battle between Siargao and La Union with two of the greatest surfers the Philippines have ever seen.
Reminiscent of the finals from the recently concluded 9th Guiuan Odyssey Waves in Calicoan Island, Samar where Esquivel won the championship against Tokong, breaking his winning streak from his epic victory in the 25th Siargao Cloud 9 International Surfing Cup.
In the dying minutes of the heat, Esquivel needed to get a wave with a high-scoring potential to push him into the lead, but the buzzer sounded without him riding one. “It’s quite saddening, but then it’s okay. There’s always a next time and a next wave.” says Esquivel.
Both team riders for Gwapitos, Tokong mentions how proud he is to have surfed against Esquivel in another heat, even if it came a bit too early. “I knew Jay-r had the advantage of being a local here in La Union. I knew I had to pick the best waves to advance.” he adds.
Heat four of the Men’s Open Shortboard brought the emotions a little back to equilibrium with Baler’s Neil Sanchez versus Siargao’s Kent Brian Solloso. Both ranked fifth in the PSCT leaderboard, Sanchez secured his place in the semi-finals with his third wave, posting the highest single-wave score of 7.00 points—the highest of the day.
“It’s great to be back surfing in the semi-finals,” says a grateful Sanchez. “It’s my goal to get back to the top so I can be part of the Philippine Team again.”
By midday, it was time for the Women’s Open Shortboard semi-finals. All eyes were on 9th Guiuan Odyssey Waves champion Jolina Longos of Siargao, returning local and national champion Nilbie Blancada (Siargao), La Union’s longboard queen Daisy Valdez and Gubat’s up-and-coming Vea Estrellado.
With only three waves, Blancada secured her spot in the finals with a combined heat total of 10.35 points and a single-wave score of 6.00 points, the highest in the Women’s Division.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” an excited Blancada says. “It was a bit scary out there, considering the current and wave size, but when I saw that set wave come in, I took it and did my best.”
Today’s thrills and action-packed heats are a telltale sign of an exciting finals day. With a forecasted swell of four-foot waves and better wind conditions, tomorrow will be another epic day of professional Philippine surfing.
The La Union Pro 2019 is presented by the provincial government unit of La Union, Funky Quarters, Gwapitos, and Mad Monkeys. With the support of Kudo Surf, Cebu Pacific, Havaianas Philippines, Fat Lips Surf Shop, ABS-CBN Sports and Action, CNN Philippines, ANCx, Inquirer.net, Metro Channel, Tagpuan sa San Juan, Clean Beach, Olas Banditos, Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel, Seabuds La Union, Inq Pop, Fluidsurf, Be Siargao, PAGCOR, VANS Philippines, Maui and Sons, Beach Hut, DWIZ, My Life on Board, Fluidsurf, Heineken, and Surftown La Union.
Special thanks to La Union Surf Club and the Little Surfmaid Resort.
The Philippine Surfing Championship Tour is the premier professional surfing competition where top surfers from all over the Philippines compete in multiple locations around the country, vying for a spot in the national surfing team.
Already on its third year, PSCT celebrates Filipino surfers, passionate fans, and dedicated partners that together grow the Philippine surfing community to what it is today and what it was envisioned to be.
PSCT exists to set the stage and act as a platform for professional surfing in the Philippines, promoting Filipino surfers as world-class athletes and uniting the surfing community and fans by sharing the story and adventure of Philippine surfing one tour at a time.
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