Upcoming Indonesia competitions a proving ground for ‘reboot’ of PH surfing

Jun 7, 2022
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PHOTO: Courtesy of John Carby

THE PHILIPPINE national surfing team is heading for a new international competition in two of the toughest swells in our side of the world, for the WSL Asian Open in Krui and Nias — two series that are barely a week apart.

“Winning is why we compete. We go for the gold every time,” said team coach John Carby, speaking to Spin.ph via phone as the team took a brief layover in Jakarta before flying to the competition venues in Sumatra.

The WSL QS5000 Krui Open and QS Juniors will kick off in June 11 to June 17, while the WSL QS5000 Nias Open and QS Juniors will commence a few days later, from June 23 to 29.

The Philippine delegation is made up of veteran surfers John Mark “Marama” Tokong, Nilbie Blancada, Daisy Valdez, and Jay-R Esquivel. The four also competed together last year in the ISA Olympic qualifier tournament in El Salvador.

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Joining them are two up-and-coming stars who made their mark in the Surf in the City competition in Borongan last December: Allen Magos and Neil Sanchez, both from Baler, Aurora.

Sanchez emerged as the champion in the Samar competition’s men’s shortboard event, while Magos finished in the semis.

“It’s exciting that we get to take some team members from Baler this time, too,” said Carby, speaking of the seaside town that’s long been considered the birthplace of Philippine surfing. “We’re now spreading across all the regions and it’s making surfing a lot stronger.”

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The Siargao-based mentor added: “Baler’s got some amazing waves. The capital of surfing has been Siargao for a while, but there’s a whole bunch of exciting places for people to go and surf.”

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    Carby moving forward with 'reboot' of PH surfing

    With the Philippine team chomping at the bit, Carby is looking at international competitions like these to hone the surfing edge that has admittedly been dulled by the long layover of the pandemic.

    “I sort of call this the ‘reboot’ for Philippine surfing after the pandemic,” said Carby. “The lack of competition has taken a bit of a toll on how we approach these [WSL Opens], but that’s not unique to us. The rest of the world is in the same situation.”

    International exposure is the only way to sharpen that blade again. “There is really nothing like competition surfing. The bigger the scale, obviously, the bigger the pressure, and the more you get to see how athletes can react to the pressure, and how we can grow from the pressure.”

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    Speaking about the team vets, he said, “Marama, Jay-R, Daisy, and Nilbie are getting to the point now in their careers where they’re actually becoming quite well-rounded athletes for this sort of competition.”

    But part of growing the program is identifying young surfers as well, from places outside of the usual surf havens of La Union and Siargao.

    Crucial to that are the grassroots programs that have been run by the United Philippine Surfing Association, with coaches such as Luke Landrigan, Ian Saguan, Manuel Melindo, and Bjorn Pabon going around the country conducting surfing camps.

    “We’re trying to show that there’s actually a way more serious athlete component to [surfing] where, if you get in, you work hard, you’re disciplined, you’re committed, and you start this at an early age, it’s actually a very viable career," said Carby.

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    PHOTO: Courtesy of John Carby
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