(SPOT.ph) It's a win for the locals at the 26th Siargao International Surfing Festival as the country's very own John Mark Tokong and Nilbie Blancada conquer the pumping waves of Cloud 9, Siargao's famed surfing spot. They shared the waves with and bested almost 100 surfers from around the Philippines and the world, with athletes from countries such as Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and more present for the return of this massive event.
The week-long surfing festival is taking place on the teardrop-shaped island of Surigao Del Norte in the Philippines around three years after the last one. No thanks to the pandemic and the devastation brought about by Super Typhoon Odette in December 2021 for the break.
The competition, which is said to have been two years in the making, is part of the recovery efforts for the Bangon Siargao movement. It is part of efforts to "show the world that we've started to recover," Congressman Bingo Matugas of Surigao del Norte said in a press conference on Friday, October 14.
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What went down in the waters of Cloud 9 at the 26th Siargao International Surfing Festival:
For their final matches, Tokong bested Indonesia's Oney Anwar's 14.15 with a two-wave total of 15.80. On the other hand, Blancada emerged victorious with 11.50 against Japan's Anon Matsuoka's 10.35. Tokong first went to battle with the waves on the second day for the Men's Round of 32, while Blancada hit the water as early as the first round, first heat of the Surfing Cup.
The win is Blancada's first and Tokong's, a.k.a. Marama's, third win for the Qualifying Series event. Both local surfers took home a cash prize of $2,500 (roughly P140,000), 1,000 points in the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series rankings, and a meaningful surfboard-shaped trophy made from shredded Mountain Dew Bottles and pieces of wood recovered from the boardwalk wreckage.
The first day, first round of the Qualifying Series event saw the Men's Round of 56, Women's Round of 24, and Men's Round of 48 in a series of 25-minute heats on Cloud 9. For three days (October 15 to 18) locals and tourist gathered at the famed boardwalk to witness what surfers do what they do best: Ride and share the stoke in one of the country's biggest surfing events.
Tokong and Anwar, who went head-to-head in the finals, scored excellent (16.00 or above points) heats—16.00 and 16.05, respectively—throughout the competition.
Aside from gathering by the boardwalk to watch the surfers, festival-goers can also have some fun of their own by going to workshops, Mercato, communal yoga, Crossfit, and in true Siargao fashion, surfing lessons, among other activities scattered throughout the week-long festival. A free concert headlined by Sandwich will cap off the event on Friday, October 21.