From surf instructor to international Fair Play awardee: Casugay’s ride to the top

Jun 27, 2022
PHOTO: (Budapest) Courtesy of United Philippine Surfing Association, (La Union) Michael Eijansantos

FOR HIS heroics in the 30th Southeast Asian Games — when he came to the aid of a competitor who had lost his board in the roaring breaks of La Union — Roger Casugay received one of the highest trophies in the world of sports: the Pierre de Coubertin Act of Fair Play award.

The thing is, he only ended up receiving the award two years later.

“Ilang beses rin na-postpone. Dalawa ata,” said Casugay in a phone interview with He had received the good news about the award shortly after the SEA Games, but because of the pandemic, he was only able to fly in to the ceremony in Budapest, Hungary earlier this month.

Named after the founder of the modern Olympics, the Fair Play award is given to those who honor the spirit of sportsmanship — an act Casugay demonstrated with his rescue of Arip Nurhidayat.

“Yung mga nakasabay namin sa award, iba-iba. Mga legend rin,” he recalled.

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    Roger Casugay experiences recent run of good news

    With him in Hungary was his wife, Lisa Verweij, who was also scheduled to meet her family.

    After all, both Roger and Lisa had good news to tell them: Lisa was pregnant.


    “Bumili lang kasi ako sa pharmacy ng pregnancy test,” Casugay recalled, laughing. “Nag-positive yung dalawa[ng linya]. Sabi namin, ‘Baka yung test lang yan.’ Mura kasi yung binili namin, yung mumurahin. Di kami sure, baka trippings lang iyan.”

    But a second test confirmed the wonderful news.

    At the time, Roger had just come from an international longboard competition in Mexico — his first international contest since the start of the pandemic.

    “Kailangan mong kunin uli yung feelings on competitive setup. Kailangan mo talaga mag-adjust. Matapos nang matagal na wala, tapos biglang, sabak agad.”

    Casugay ended up in the top sixteen of the MexiLogFest — a result that he’s perfectly happy with. “Magandang profile rin na, kahit papaano, may Filipino na nakasali.”

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    Reflecting on his recent run of good fortune (after a depressing pandemic layover that forced Casugay and many surfers around the world to temporarily hang up their boards), Roger can’t help but muse about how far he’s come.

    “Sobrang saya din, kasi mo naman in-expect yung mga mangyayari,” he said. He thanked the Philippine Sports Commission, the United Philippines Surfing Association for their help in bringing him this far. At the same time, he also feels a little nostalgic for the past Roger. “Minsan, malulungkot ka kasi maaalala mo kung saan ka nanggaling, tapos ngayon, meron nang ganitong ganap.”

    From simple surf instructor to Pierre de Coubertin awardee and, now, a soon-to-be father — it’s definitely been a remarkable journey for the San Juan, La Union youngster.

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    PHOTO: (Budapest) Courtesy of United Philippine Surfing Association, (La Union) Michael Eijansantos
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