BORONGAN, Eastern Samar– Surfers woke up to a windless morning at Baybay Boulevard and the first sets of the day were clean, green, and glassy. There was a palpable rush of energy around the competition area and Round 1 of the Men’s Shortboard division was propelled to an early start.
Onyo Oclares, the goofy-foot from Daet, could not contain his excitement to be wearing the contest jersey again as he single-handedly amassed the highest total heat score of 9.70 and the highest single-wave score of 5.07 in Round 1. During the same heat, Elvis Legaspi from Baras, Catanduanes also managed to advance with a 9.23 total heat score. The 2 Bicolanos served up some extra spicy surfing much to the delight of the crowd.
Oclares and Legaspi were no strangers to competition and their performances highlighted this fact. In comparison, most of the Waray surfers in Round 1 were joining the circuit for the very first time and they labored to land on their feet and snatch high-scoring opportunities even in waves that they were used to surfing every day.
“They may know how to surf but they need to learn how to compete,” the judges echoed on multiple occasions. Surfing well during free surf sessions did not guarantee heat wins because being a competitor also required an attunement to strategy, priority, and the skill to perform under immense pressure.
Reimagining the surfer image
The surfers seeded in Round 2 of the Men’s Shortboard division displayed mastery of the contest format as veteran competitors showed Borongan how to climb the score charts to reach the excellent range despite changing conditions.
By mid-morning, the wind returned with a vengeance as the tide dropped and it was a combo that invited closeouts. Still, this was not a problem for John Mark Tokong, who sits at the top spot of the shortboard division, as he finished with the highest heat score of 10.13. Meanwhile, Piso Alcala, Neil Sanchez, and Philmar Alipayo also capped off their heats in the high nine’s. Notably, Sanchez of Baler demonstrated his expertise in stringing together sections that seemed unmakeable to the untrained eye.
Throughout Round 2, surfers had to be reminded to paddle out further to claim priority as the waves on the inside offered only low-scoring opportunities. The judges were looking for powerful carves, a variety of confidently executed maneuvers, and commitment when hitting the lip.
Meanwhile, even experienced surfers made mistakes that tragically affected their chances of advancing to the next round. In Heat 2 of Round 2, Remar Magaluna was penalized with a priority interference for taking a wave and getting in the way of Joseph Quinaso, who had priority. In Heat 8, Philip Marzon exacted a paddling interference when he did not paddle away from Myrel Santos, who was up and riding, as he made his way back to the lineup. This unfortunate position hindered Santos’s chance of finishing strongly so Marzon had to take the penalty.
Both Magaluna’s and Marzon’s second-best waves were consequently deemed void by the judges.
“There are standards to be followed,” asserted Luke Landrigan, President of the PSCT. “We have to be strict to uphold the quality of surfing that the tour is known for.”
Surfers in Samar have unmistakable talent, however, they’ve only been exposed to surf contests at the local level. Surf in the City hopes to buoy up the region’s collective aptitude in a competitive setting so that their surfers can gain the necessary skills needed to perform under the microscope of professional surfing.
“There is a need to change the image of the surfer,” says Borongan local Carlos Aga Jr. “People used to look down on surfing because they couldn’t see what it was for. They thought we were just being reckless.”
Today, with medals being won in the SEA Games and grand champions being crowned in the PSCT, surfers are now being recognized as professional athletes. Aside from medals, prizes, and glory, surfers today are fighting for the chance to surf for the country.
Heavy rain and a 3.2 earthquake far off the coast of Eastern Samar prevented the contest from running more heats. Who will shake things up for the title race this year? Watch out for more Philippine surfing action as we come even closer to the end of this year’s tour.
Written by Camille Pilar | Photos by Abdel Elecho
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.