BORONGAN, Eastern Samar – After their momentous victories in the Southeast Asian Games held in San Juan, La Union, our medalists made their way to Borongan, the birthplace of surfing in the Visayas region, along with over 100 official competitors for the final leg of the Philippine Surfing Championship Tour. 41 surfers from the Samar region registered for ‘Surf in the City,’ with 27 hopefuls coming from the host town.
Day 1 Highlights
The day began with cool northeast winds sweeping across the Baybay Boulevard and the competition opened with the Men’s Longboard division. The judges’ tower was situated in the middle of the vast pebbled beach that fronted the 1.5-kilometer baywalk and the surfers got to choose which peak would best display their prowess in traditional and progressive longboarding.
The 2-foot wind-chopped sections and crumbling reform made it challenging to achieve scores above 3 to 4, however, this did not stop Lanuza local Loynex Ruina from posting the highest single-wave score of 6.83 at the end of Round 1. Meanwhile, it was rising La Union star Jomarie Ebueza who bagged the highest total heat score of 12.57 as he displayed complete control and smooth utilization of his longboard in shifting waves.
The Women’s Longboard division followed as pockets of rain lengthened the lulls in between the sets. Bronze medalist Daisy Valdez grabbed the highest total heat score of 9.50 by showing expert wave selection while young gun Vea Estrellado from Sorsogon impressed the judges and the crowd with the highest single-wave score of 5.70 in the women’s longboard division.
The audience swelled in size toward the late afternoon and numerous Borongan residents and visitors flocked to the baywalk in time to watch the Juniors Shortboard division, which was the most exciting event of the day. The wind had caused the waves to pick up a notch, providing the juniors with more sizeable sets and power for more critical maneuvers.
Gabriel Lerog from Siargao continues to sit comfortably at the #1 spot in the Juniors Shortboard division as his surfing remained a class above the rest. With dominating single-wave scores in the 6.10 and the 5.83 regions, he also clinched the highest heat score of 11.93. However, the likes of Noah Arkfeld, John Carlos Noguerra, and Marbin and Lemar Delamide are hot on his tracks.
In the middle of the Juniors Shortboard action, it was 11-year old Borongan native, Marionil Capacite, who stole the show. He chased Noah Arkfeld’s early lead with smooth cutbacks and sharp re-entries, punctuated by cheers and applause from the hometown crowd. Arkfeld, who had recently won the Juniors Shortboard competition in the previous PSCT leg in La Union, could not read the Boulevard’s winding sections as well as the tiny goofy-footer could.
Marionil, fondly known as “Nano,” will be advancing to the next round where he will try his luck against more seasoned competitors.
All eyes on Borongan and its 20-year legacy
Nano’s victory in Round 1 shines a new light on the state of surfing in Borongan and the entire Visayan region. After almost two decades of surf spot regulation and preparation for development, Borongan is finally ready to take part in the country’s growing surf tourism industry.
“We owe it to the new generation of surfers to uplift the state of surfing in Samar,” says pioneer surfer Atty. Bryan Lassiter. “We want to raise the bar of surf competitions here so that it may also inspire our locals to surf more and surf better.”
Lassiter witnessed the birth of surfing in Borongan in the mid-90s, and together with a handful of other surfers such as Abdel Elecho, he was part of a grassroots movement that personified a life devoted to “The Search.”
“We would ride the bus with our boards without knowing whether there will be waves in a spot or not,” recalls Carlos “Coyote” Aga Jr., who began surfing after he graduated with a degree in Economics. “I was a late grommet [laughs]. But I dropped everything to surf. We went wherever the road took us.”
Indeed, there were many world-class waves in Samar and their power and beauty were worth protecting, which resulted in years of secrecy between the locals. It was this strict regulation among their surf community that also restricted the progression of their surfers.
“Kids these days only look up to me or my peers,” says Lassiter. “Imagine how they reacted now that they have seen what surfers like Marama could do on a wave right here in Borongan.”
“As pioneering members of the surf community, it is our duty to guide the new surfers today,” remarks Bjorn Dizon Pabon, whose company, Fluidsurf, sponsored the first-ever national surf competition in Samar way back in 2000.
“The Eastern Samar Inaugural Surfing Crown was the first surf competition that had proper lycra jerseys for the competitors,” shares Pabon. “And now, look at where we are: Surf in the City is the first national surf competition with a proper live stream broadcast!”
Today, Borongan remains relatively unknown compared to its southernmost cousin, Calicoan in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Perhaps fate got in the way of Borongan’s claim to fame when the waves did not show up in time for the Inaugural Surfing Crown, which was originally set in Baybay Boulevard.
“We were forced to reveal one of our secret spots,” laughs Coyote. “We traveled to Calicoan, which was hours away, and saw that the waves were pumping so we held the first-ever national surfing contest in Samar there.”
What could be in the future of surfing in Borongan? Could the Visayan region bring home a medal of its own? These are the questions that Surf in the City is poised to answer. In a few more days, the 2019 PSCT grand champions will be crowned right in this Boulevard. History will once again be made in what is considered to be the final frontier for surfing in the Philippines.
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Written by Camille Pilar | Photos by Gabs Batallones
About Surf in the City
The Surf in the City Festival is a PSCT-sanctioned event brought to you by the City Government of Borongan, the Surfriders Club of Eastern Samar (SCES), the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, and Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines Inc.
The Philippine Surfing Championship Tour is a 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.