John Mark Tokong
Magnificent 7 to fly Philippine colors in surfing
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Seven Filipino surfers will compete for four gold medals at stake in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games as the best wave riders from six countries converge at the Monalisa Point of Urbiztondo Beach in San Juan, La Union, on Dec. 2-8.

United Philippine Surfing Association (UPSA) president Dr. Jose Raul (George) Canlas said he expects “a couple of golds” from the national team in four events – longboard and shortboard for men and longboard and shortboard for women. “Surfing will do very well,” said Canlas who received POC recognition of the UPSA as the NSA for the sport last year. 

Battling for honors are surfers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore and host Philippines. The longboard measures nine feet and above while the shortboard is six feet and below. Representing the Philippines in men’s longboard are Jay-R Esquivel and Roger Casugay, both of La Union while John Mark Tokong and Edito (Piso) Alcala, both of Siargao, will compete in men’s shortboard. Daisy Valdez of La Union will banner the Philippine women’s team in longboard and shortboard. Ikit Agudo of Siargao will also compete in longboard and Nilbie Blancada in shortboard.

A panel of seven judges – five international and two Filipinos – will be assembled to score the events. For each event, there will be five judges assigned on a rotating basis. Surfers are given 20 to 30 minutes to catch the best waves and each ride is scored up to 10 points, counting only the best two. A surfer’s wave is evaluated on five factors – commitment and degree of difficulty, innovative and progressive maneuvers, combination of major maneuvers, unity of maneuvers and speed, power and flow.

UPSA vice president Luke Landrigan, who won a silver medal in surfing at the 2008 Asian Games, said the physical mold of a champion surfer fits the Filipino profile. “You don’t need to be tall to excel so it’s ideal for Filipinos,” the 5-7, 37-year-old surfer said. “The typical body is toned. Our national surfers don’t exceed four percent body fat. They’re not heavy, they’re light and quick. Height’s not a factor.”

Landrigan pointed out that at the International Surfing Association World Games in Miyazaki, Japan, last September, the Philippines finished No. 21 of 54 countries. Another Southeast Asian entry Indonesia wound up No. 14. Below was Thailand at No. 35. Alcala registered the single highest scoring wave in the competition.

Landrigan said the 5-2 Tokong is a prime example of an explosive surfer who’s not tall. Tokong took second place at the Cloud 9 Internationals in Siargao last year and topped the same competition this year. Last October, Casugay won the men’s division and Valdez the women’s, both in longboard, at the Guiuan Odyssey Waves in Eastern Samar.

“We chose La Union as our surfing site because the Point has waves for shortboard and longboard,” said Landrigan. “It’s the start of amihan now in Siargao so it’s good for only shortboard. Besides, Urbiztondo beach has several resorts where the surfers, officials and guests may be accommodated, like Little Surfmaid and Kahuna. It’s also accessible in terms of transportation. Myanmar and Thailand are already in San Juan training.”

Landrigan said PSC has supported UPSA’s national pool of seven athletes with allowances and provided equipment for eight others in the reserve lineup. “We’re grateful to PSC for giving us the chance to participate in competitions abroad and to Dr. Canlas for UPSA’s support,” he said. “Starting today (Sunday), we’re running the national event where our athletes are competing up to Nov. 22. Then, we’ll train as a team from Nov. 23 to Dec. 1. We’re working with our Australian coach Adam Dufner who has over 30 years of surfing experience. He was a surfing instructor at the High Performance Center in Australia and has worked with the world-famous Hurley Surf Club in New York.”

JOHN MARK TOKONG
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