The finals day of the Philippine Surfing Championship Tour (PSCT) stop in La Union was a mix of epic victories and displays of sportsmanship.
The PSCT is the premier professional surfing competition where top surfers from all over the Philippines compete in multiple locations around the country, vying for a spot in the national surfing team. La Union is their second to the last stop for the year. Already on its third year, PSCT celebrates surfers, passionate fans, and dedicated partners and exists to set the stage and act as a platform for professional surfing in the Philippines. It wants to promote Filipino surfers as globally-competitive athletes.
In La Union, Siargao surfers Jevy Mae “Ikit Agudo,” Nilbie Blancada, and Noah Arkfeld claimed the championship for the Women’s Open Longboard, Women’s Open Shortboard, and Juniors Shortboard, respectively. Neil Sanchez, the pride of Baler, bagged the championship for Men’s Open Shortboard.
It was a four-woman heat for the finals in the Women’s Open Longboard. Defending champion Daisy Valdez of La Union was up against fellow locals and relatives Antoinette Valdez and Ashlee Lopez and lone Siargaonon Jevy Mae Agudo.
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It was a close fight between Valdez and Agudo but like any other competition, time runs out. On the last few minutes of the heat, Agudo posted the highest single-wave score of 6.00 points, pushing her first-place lead even further against Valdez.
With a combined total score of 10.40 points, Agudo paddled back to shore as champion, her first since joining PSCT and a first for Siargao. “It wasn’t easy, the waves were tricky, but I did my best,” she says.
Meanwhile, La Union locals held their ground as the top longboarders in the country as Rico Dumaguin, a finals first-timer, was up against Roger Casugay, who was recently crowned champion at the 9th Guiuan Odyssey Waves. A competitor in the PSCT since 2017, the 21-year-old Dumaguin didn’t expect to make it that far. “It’s all luck!” Dumaguin says. “I knew I had to give more than what I was showing to win. I’m stoked to be here!”
“I’m so happy! It feels good. It wasn’t an easy heat; the waves weren’t easy and local knowledge played out in the final heat,” Casugay explains. “Rico and I are good friends and even though we’re team riders, I know he’s hungry to win, and it’s always a good challenge. He did well!”
Nilbie Blancada returned to professional surfing this year and is on the comeback trail punctuated by her Women’s Open Shortboard win here. She has been a regular podium finisher since she started competing in the PSCT in 2017. “It’s crazy. When I think about my journey during the last year to get here, I’m grateful to be back,” a beaming Blancada says.
Siargaonon surfers ruled the Juniors Shortboard division as finalists John Carlos Noguerra, and Noah Arkfeld took to the waves. Another surprise victory greeted the crowd and judges as Noah Arkfeld scored 7.00 points, the highest single-wave and sealing his victory over Noguerra with a combined total of 13.00 points.
“I can’t believe it, but I’m here! I’m glad my Dad’s here to watch and support me, so this win means so much to me,” he says, after winning his first championship. The future looks bright as the majority of his usual competitors in the finals are proceeding to the Men’s Open Shortboard next year, leaving him a lot of room in the Juniors Division.
The flurry of excitement from the quarterfinals poured over to the Men’s Open Shortboard as another first-timer in the finals, Jefferson “Loloy” Espejon (Siargao) was up against Neil Sanchez, 2017 Oakley Pro Baler and 15th Lanuza Surfing Festival Men’s Shortboard champion.
“I’ve never competed with Loloy in a heat before,” says Sanchez. “I’m just happy to back in the finals!” No stranger to winning championships, the closing season of 2019 proved to be the comeback year for the twenty-one-year-old Sanchez. “There’s still Borongan but winning here in La Union can’t be any sweeter,” he adds.
Breathless and in a state of disbelief that he made it into the finals against a former champion, Espejon is grateful to have gotten this far. “I’ve been surfing for almost nine years, and this is the first time for me to get into the finals in the PSCT.”
The PSCT will cap off the year in Borongan, Samar for Surf in the City 2019.
The La Union Pro 2019 is presented by the provincial government unit of La Union, Funky Quarters, Gwapitos, and Mad Monkeys. With the support from Kudo Surf, Cebu Pacific, Havaianas Philippines, Fat Lips Surf Shop, ABS-CBN Sports and Action, ANCX, Metro Channel, Tagpuan sa San Juan, Clean Beach, Olas Banditos, Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel, Seabuds La Union, Inq Pop, Fluidsurf, Be Siargao, PAGCOR, VANS Philippines, Maui and Sons, Beach Hut, DWIZ, My Life on Board, Fluidsurf, Heineken, and Surftown La Union. For more information about the tour, visit PSCTour.com.