(Jan 30-31, San Juan, La Union, Philippines) - Conditions were choppy and erratic, but positive vibes and pure stoke prevailed at the Billabong-supported 5th Annual Luminox Manila Surfers Cup in La Union, the epicenter of surfing for the fast-growing Manila surf scene.
Onshore winds made good waves scarce throughout the weekend, but 26-year old Filipina architect Nikki Dela Paz took to the challenge winning her fourth consecutive longboard championship. She also placed second in the shortboard division for this year's event.
With sweeping cutbacks, fluid cross-steps, and smooth noserides, the tall-and-tanned Nikki left little doubt on why she's racked up the most championships for any individual competitor in the Manila Surfers Association (MSA). Her victory punctuated last year's historic triple-double (Nikki took top honours for 3 consecutive years in both shortboard and longboard divisions), a record that is the first of its sort in Manila surfing history.
"It was really frustrating at the Point with no waves appearing for the most part, plus winds blasting onshore, but I just decided to have fun and put in some scores," says the perpetually stoked Nikki Dela Paz, "I'm just really happy to have won this, especially against all these talented surfer gals. Philippine surfing's totally taking off, and I'm really fortunate and blessed to get this tremendous support from the surf industry here," reveals Nikki, "so my heartfelt thanks to my sponsors Aloha Boardsports as well as Stoked Inc (Billabong's exclusive Philippine partner) for providing me these really cool Nixon watches and Von Zipper shades."
Andrea "Roxy" Roxas also pulled off a surprise victory winning the women's shortboard comp amid unpredictable swells. "I think I happened to be just at the right spot on the peak, so I pulled into a couple of waves that gave me just enough points to earn me the win," exclaims Roxy. "I'm just so amped, and I can't believe it's real. I hope I don't wake up from this dream," she laughs.
In the men's longboard division, Buji Libarnes, also an architect, relied on his trademark classic style and newly-honed technical noseriding skills to capture the longboard title for the fourth year. He took a respectable 3rd place finish in the shortboard event as well.
"I've been focusing a lot on my noseriding the last year or so," reveals Buji. "I wasn't really getting anywhere until Aloha Boardsports gave me this McTavish Noserider. And it's a magic carpet that, I have to say, is the closest thing to walking on water." Buji laughs, "I'd like to thank Bob McTacvish for giving me this victory today."
JP Sarmiento threw some nice spray as sunset hit the South China Sea with sweet 3-foot peelers, authoritatively putting himself back at the top of the podium, a division he had won two years earlier.
"It was crazy out here today, wind all over the place," says the soft-spoken JP, "but suddenly, good waves rolled in at sunset. It feels good to be back on top!"
In the beginner's longboard group, Jimboy Tan won among his group of newbies and was as stoked as any champion. Jeffrey Nunag of the La Union Surf Club (LUSC) won his first longboard title as well, competing against other beginner surfers and new members of the LUSC.
All Champs: Roxy Roxas, Nikki Dela Paz, Buji Libarnes, JP Sarmiento, Jimboy Tan, Jeffrey Nunag
Much to everyone's excitement, critically-acclaimed award-winning Filipino movie actor and all-around nice guy, Jericho Rosales took time off from his super busy schedule to support the event and even gamely joined the costume surf comp.
"I came to La Union as teenager about ten years ago, " says Jericho, the Philippines' de-facto surfing ambassador, "my acting career was just starting out, and the locals here welcomed me not just as a friend, but as a brother. Building surf communities like La Union all along the thousands of kilometers of Philippine coastline would be amazing." Jericho Rosales points out, "look at the huge support in this Manila surfers event, from Billabong and Stoked Inc, Luminox and Rudy Project. Together, you know we can do this. I am honoured to join them and many others, so we can all work hand-in-hand to fire-up Philippine surfing!"
Manila Surfers Association President Viva Olalia-Guzman and her husband, orthopedic surgeon Doc Mark Guzman were visibly-delighted handing out the trophies with the help of MSA Chairman Attorney Ely Cresencio.
"We got lots of help from the La Union surf community, Luminox, and Rudy Project for the 5th annual Manila Surfers Cup. It's great to see these non-traditional surf brands join the fun and recognise how big surfing is getting in the Philippines," says Viva. "As usual, Billabong and Stoked Inc with its President JV Borromeo gave us their all-out support again. We have a great working relationship, and more significantly, we're very good friends. We've always been able to count on them. I'm a little tired after all the organising work, then too, I'm about to give birth this March to, unquestionably, a future wahine shredder," laughs the young mother-to-be, "but I'm definitely committed to our 6th competition next year," assures Viva.
Head judge Archie Martinez had good things to say about the Manila surfers' progress, "every year the surfing gets better, and it shows in this year's competition. We got new faces like 2nd-placer Pauline Reyes and Jaja Tan showing remarkable improvement. There's even 18-year old Carla Sebastian, who scored two 3rd place finishes today!. We've also improved our judging skills," says Archie. "Tim Hain (ISC Media Director) has worked wonders in being the bridge for us Filipino surfers with our more experienced Indonesian counterparts in Bali. Tim brought Arya Subyakto from the Indonesian Surf Championship (ISC) to train us on world-class judging. We've learned a lot from Tim and Arya," smiles Archie Martinez.
It might not have been epic conditions in this years Manila Surfer's cup, but the waves still came, everybody had a good time, and for the Manila surfers, good vibes and shared surf is definitely the best thing.
The 5th Annual Manila Surfers Cup was made possible with the invaluable help and support of: Luminox, Rudy Project, Stoked Inc and Billabong, FluidSurf, The La Union Surf Club, The Little SurfMaid, Lola Nanny's, Neri and Sea Nymph, Hacienda, Photos by PapaLabs Angel Villanueva, Aling Norma and Menchie Espenilla-Par's Catering, HandleBar Makati, Channel V, Solar Sports, Juice.PH. and Green Zinc Clean ShoresPhoto Credits: Angel Villanueva
Source: Joncy Sumulong