Breaking Down the 15th Lanuza Surfing Festival
The second leg of Philippine Surfing Championship Tour officially opened on November 5, 2017, at the surfing gateway of the Philippines- Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. and was graced by the presence of government officials and sponsors who showed their full support to one of the longest-running surfing competitions in the country.
For the past 15th years, the Lanuza Surfing Festival has become a forefront in promoting the municipality of Lanuza, Surigao Del Sur as one of the top surfing destinations in the Philippines. A record-breaking 160 surfers from La Union, Zambales, Pampanga, Baler, Laguna, Catanduanes, Cabugao, Cebu, Siargao, and Davao registered for this event. In addition to the Men’s Open Shortboard category, which was the lone division during the first leg held in Siargao, this PSCT-leg will also highlight the Grommets (16-year-old and under), Men’s Open Longboard, and the Women’s Longboard and Shortboard categories.
Lanuza Municipal Mayor Salvacion Azarcon pointed out in her speech that the Lanuza Surfing Festival has gained national media recognition and she’s grateful for hosting the second leg of Philippine Surfing Championship Tour. Mayor Azarcon also said she will continue to promote the province of Lanuza as one of the key surfing destinations in the Philippines.
Lanuza is a one-and-a-half hour plane ride from Manila and a three-hour bus ride from Surigao City. Lanuza’s iconic long right-hander waves at Doot Poktoy’s river mouth will be the arena for Filipino surf athletes who are vying to take the top spot and earn points for the national surf rankings. With a whopping prize purse of PHP 570,000, this year’s Lanuza Surfing Festival is definitely the biggest in history.
GROMMETS AND WOMEN’S LONGBOARD DIVISIONS
The first day of the Philippine Surfing Championship Tour (PSCT) Leg 2, the 15th Lanuza Surfing Festival, got off to an exciting waist to shoulder high waves at Doot Poktoy river mouth with the Grommets and Women’s Longboard Open divisions, kicking off the start of the competition.
Crowd favorite 8-year-old Kaikai Alcala, the youngest competitor, was able to advance to the Quarter Finals, dominating his Round 1 heat against grom surfers twice his size. “I’m so happy and proud of Kaikai. We saw his improvement since the first leg,” said Kaikai’s mother Manette Alcala with confidence. “It was cold! I’m happy to be out there with my friends. We just enjoyed our surf session,” Kaikai said.
14-year-old Gabriel Lerog from Siargao Island posted the highest wave score during the first round of the Grommets division with a 9.90, showing his dominance against other groms. The spectators were ecstatic during the Groms Quarter-finals when four of the best young surf athletes battled out to advance to the Semi-finals.
Ivan Nogalo, nephew, and trainee of Siargao surf legend Carlito Nogalo, put up an amazing performance against his fellow Siargaonon competitors. “I’m happy because I made it to the Semi-Finals”, said Nogalo with a huge smile on his face.
Another promising Siargao grom Benjomar Canon heats up and showed everyone that he can compete in tough conditions with occasional wind and intermittent swell. Canon took the second spot during the second heat of the Quarter-finals, the best grom surf battle in the contest we’ve seen so far.
In the women’s Longboard division, La Union pride Daisy Valdez took the top spot as she claimed every set wave that came right through her path. Valdez, who posted an 11.25 score during her Quarter-finals heat, exemplified her dominance and vast surfing experience in the Doot Poktoy surf arena.
A multi-awarded surf athlete and mother of two, Daisy has been competing in Lanuza for almost a decade. She’s the undisputed and reigning Women’s Longboard champion, dominating every national surfing competition in this municipality.
Local wahine Debie Gumanoy immediately gained the home-court advantage as she’s been surfing Doot Poktoy since her grommet years, knowing t by heart, enabling her to catch quality waves at her home break.
Meanwhile, the stylish wahine longboarders of Siargao Island Maricel Pajares, Aping Agudo, and Ikit Agudo showcased their classic style and were able to slide and glide to the Semi-finals. “I was so nervous during my heat because this is my first time to compete on a professional level,” said Maricel.
High tide and good surf conditions at the Doot Poktoy river mouth greeted the surfers on the third day of the competition as they continued to fight for the 15th Lanuza Surfing Festival championship titles.
Jefferson Dela Torre (La Union) showcased his high-performance longboarding during the first heat of the Men’s Longboard Open throwing huge combinations of cutbacks and nose rides. Dela Torre finished strong with an 8.0 score which earned him the best heat points so far in the Longboard division. “The waves were good and consistent today that’s why I was so excited to surf. I’ll just focus on my performance in the upcoming Quarter-final heat. I hope I win.”
Mark Aguila (Baler) gave an impressive performance during his heat against fellow surfers from Luzon- Buboy Palad (Laguna) and Reynald “Kulot” Liwarin (Zambales) by capitalizing on his classic surf style, owning much of the waves, despite being in Lanuza for the first time.
“We have beautiful waves today. Aside from surfing during low tide, the waves also had a lengthy wall and they’re fast. Lanuza has great vibes. This is my first time to experience this kind of event- there’s plenty of food! Thank you also to PSCT for organizing a professional surfing event here in our country. It makes a difference when you hear your points in the lineup. You know how much points you need and can plan your next move accordingly. I’m planning to join all the remaining legs of PSCT and if ever there will be a ranking for the Longboard division, I will continue to focus on my professional surfing career.”, Aguila said.
The judges were impressed with Benito Nerida’s (La Union) combined classic and high-performance maneuvers and awarded him with a total of 14.95 score during their heat, the highest average score of Round 1.
The Women’s Shortboard division has also commenced with a total of 12 female surf athletes. 2016 Asian Surfing Championship (ASC) Women’s overall champion Nilbie Blancada (Siargao) once again showed her dominance and prowess over other female surfers, elevating the standards of women’s surfing in the Philippines.
Nilbie is the younger sister of the first female surf champion in the Philippines Nildie Blancada. Nilbie considers her elder sister as her inspiration and her coach whenever she competes internationally.
MEN’S LONGBOARD FINALISTS DETERMINED
The Men’s Longboard Division Semi-finals was run on waist to shoulder high waves.
Two of the best longboarders in the country, Benito Nerida from La Union and Mark Aguila from Baler battled toe-to-toe, using every inch of their surfboards and giving an exciting match-up during the Semi-finals. Nerida, who’s known for his combined high performance and classic style of surfing, proved his mastery of right-hander waves, impressing the judges with his variant cross-stepping, hang-fives, and cutbacks.
“It was hard catching waves. The wave intervals were quite long and it was almost high tide,” said Nerida. During the final minute of Heat 2, Semi-finals, Nerida spotted the incoming sets and didn’t hesitate to paddle for a wave, which got him a 6.5 heat score and earning him a spot in the Finals.
Lanuza local Loynex Ruina knew exactly what he wanted and patiently waited for the perfect sets to come in. Ruina was rewarded with two quality head high waves and the judges gave him a 4.75 score on his first one and 6 on the second one, securing his spot in the finals together with Jeff Dela Torre from La Union.
In the next heat, crowd favorite and first-time competitor Rafael Nogalo from Siargao failed to proceed to the finals. Nogalo was lined up against well-experienced competitive surfers but he didn’t back out and continued to perform his best. “I was so nervous. Good thing my fellow competitors encouraged me to relax and just enjoy the waves. They were all excellent surfers. It’s my first time to compete so I was really pressured. I tried my best but fell short during the last minute of my heat.” said Nogalo.
WINNERS OF THE 15H LANUZA SURFING FESTIVAL
The 15th Lanuza Surfing Festival announces the following as winners of the second leg of the Philippine Surfing Championship Tour: 19-year-old Neil Sanchez from Baler for the Men’s Shortboard title, Mark Aguila of Baler for the Men’s Longboard Division, undisputed champ for the Women’s Longboard Division Daisy Valdez from La Union, 2016 Asian Champion Nilbie Blancada from Siargao for the Women’s Shortboard Division, and WSL qualifier Gabriel Lerog from Siargao for the Grommets (16 and under).
Sanchez scored 7 during the early minutes of the finals when he landed two 360 aerials on a single wave which gave him a good headstart. He then went after another high scoring wave and landed another 360 aerial. The judges rewarded Sanchez an 8.0 score which sealed his victory over Alipayo.
“Since the start, I already gave my best. I was able to take the lead by a high margin because the waves were good. I positioned my self in the middle despite losing priority since it was not the peak. However, the wall in the middle part was really long. When I landed my aerials perfectly, I was overjoyed. It gave me the confidence that I can win the finals,” said Sanchez.
PSCT Siargao leg Champion and current #1 Philmar Alipayo gave epic exchanges of maneuvers with Sanchez. Alipayo needed an 8.35 score to take the lead but failed to land his aerials to get the scores he needed to advance.
Looking back to the Semi-finals, it was a battle of the goofy-footers- Jay-R Esquivel from La Union and Philmar Alipayo from Siargao. Esquivel was able to put up a great battle against Alipayo but came short during the last minute of their heat. “It was difficult to catch waves. Good thing I got some good ones towards the end but it was not enough,” said Esquivel.
PJ Alipayo faced Neil Sanchez in the Semi-finals. PJ Alipayo is a well- experienced surfer and has been competing in Siargao every year. Sanchez, who’s been performing well in his previous heat, started to position himself in the middle of Doot Poktoy spot, disregarding the peak where he can have his priority.
MEN'S LONGBOARD, WOMEN'S DIVISIONS AND GROMMETS
In the Men’s Longboard Division, Mark Aguila from Baler outscored his opponents Loynex Ruina, who took the second place, as well as Benito Nerida and Jeff Dela Torre, both from La Union, for the equal third place. Aguila showcased his classic longboarding style and was able to execute hang fives and hang tens flawlessly. Aguila posted an 8.0 score during the early minutes, the highest average score in his division.
In the Women’s Longboard Division, Daisy Valdez retained her crown as the undisputed longboard champion in Lanuza for years and rose above Maricel Pajares as well as Ikit and Aping Agudo from Siargao. Daisy managed to use her knowledge and experience of the surf spot, having competed in Lanuza for many years.
The Women’s Shortboard Division was dominated by Nilbie Blancada and claimed her victory against Dianne Nogalo, Jolina Uriarte and Pinky Alipayo, all from Siargao. The young wahines did not t hold back against the multi-awarded 2016 Asian Champion, which in return became a learning experience for them, having Blancada as their main surfing inspiration.
The Grommets (16 & under) put up a great battle. Siargao power grom Gabriel Lerog took the early lead with snaps and cutbacks, claiming his best wave score of 6.25. Christian Araquel took the second place followed by Aram Laudes and John Nogalo for the equal third. At 14 years of age, Lerog is considered to be one of the most promising surf athletes from Siargao. He got qualified to compete at this year’s WSL Qualifying Series in Siargao last month. From there, he adapted quickly and showed a lot of improvements in his surfing skills.
Congratulations to all the winners and to the organizers of the 15th Lanuza Surfing Festival and to PSCT for such a great week of surfing and! The next stop of the tour is up in Baler on November 29 and the last stop at La Union on December 5.
The municipality of Lanuza hosts the surfing festival annually and so if you want to experience what it’s like being part of a national surfing competition that’s patterned after international standards then mark your calendars for the 16th Lanuza Surfing Festival next November 14-24, 2018.