ON Sunday morning, Roger Casugay once again faced off against the man he saved. This time, in a dominating run (thankfully now free of mishaps), he surfed to a victory over Arip Nurhidayat, and advanced to the gold-medal round of the men's longboard event at the Southeast Asian Games.
The previous time they met last Friday, Nurhidayat’s surfing leash had snapped, and the Indonesian’s board was swept away by the water.
While the story became viral over the weekend, Casugay was quick to play down the incident, pointing to two things. One, his Indonesian rival wasn't drowning. Two, helping out a fellow surfer is nothing out of the ordinary.
“Hindi naman siya nalulunod eh, nagflo-float siya, pero sinusubukan niyang makabalik sa shore line pero hindi siya makabalik kasi nga malakas yung current,” Casugay told SPIN Life on Sunday.
It was 18 minutes into their heat, and Casugay was even able to catch his fourth wave. “Tapos in-announce [ng officials] na, ‘Roger, can you get Mencos?’” he said. (Mencos is Nurhidayat’s nickname.) “Kasi nga lumalayo na siya so pinuntahan ko siya. Hindi siya nalulunod, nagfo-float siya pero alam ko hindi, napapagod na din siya sigurado.”
According to the La Union surfer, the marshals were unable to pick Nurhidayat up because of the extreme swells. When the two reached the shore, they laughed and hugged each other. “[Naisip] ko, ‘Bahala na kahit ano nang mangyari,’” Casugay recalled.
He added: “Normal na lang na tumulong kung ganun. Kung may nalulunod nga diyan sa tapat namin, kami lang din naman ang tumutulong eh, wala namang iba.”
It’s this last point that Casugay stresses, even as his fame skyrocketed over the weekend over a series of now-viral posts. The best thing that came out of that incident is that it gave him an opportunity to show the world what true surfing is all about, beyond the competitions and medals.
“Sa surfing din, para malaman [ng lahat] na hindi lang din [ito] para sa gold or silver o kung ano man yun,” Casugay said. “Sabi ko nga [kay Mencos] nung bago kami mag-heat, ‘We just surf. You do your best, I do my best.’”
There's also a happy ending to this story.
When the competition resumed on Sunday, Casugay went on to win the gold medal by beating fellow La Union surfer Jay-R Esquivel in the final.
Good karma? You bet.
Michael Eijansantos is the founder of My Life on Board.