GENERAL LUNA, Surigao del Norte—Local surfer John Mark Tokong on Wednesday afternoon won the 25th Siargao Cloud 9 International Surfing Cup in this town's world-renowned Cloud 9 surf break with only 45 seconds remaining in the heat.
The Siargao competition is part of the World Surfing League (WSL) qualifying series.
Tokong's win is his second after the WSL-Asian Surfing Championship QS 1,500 Siargao International Surfing Cup in 2015, and it enabled him to redeem himself of a 2018 loss.
Tokong, 23, locally known as Marama, thrilled fans in a late comeback during the final heat of the competition, edging out a few points 16.80 to 16.75 against island surfer Noah Beschen from Hawaii, and besting 64 competitors from 13 countries to win.
“I just had to stay calm and cool amid the pressure, I did not push or rushed, but of course I gave it my best,” Tokong said.
The victory came as a sweet redemption for Tokong after a loss to Skip McCullough of the US in the 2018 finals of the WSL Siargao Cloud 9 International Surfing Cup.
McCullough returned to Siargao, but he and Koby Oberholzer of South Africa were eliminated in Round 3 of the competition sending Tokong and Australian Thomas Cervi to the quarterfinals.
In the quarterfinals, Tokong beat Indonesia’s Oney Anwar 18.75 to 9.50 points to give the Filipino surfer a lead toward the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Tokong gave his best run with a 9.50, 9.55, 8.60 and capping off with a 8.75 to top Tomas King of Costa Rica 19.05 to 15.30.
In the finals, even with a few good barrels, Tokong and Beschen began to look more to the air for scores as the classic Cloud 9 tubes became harder to find. The two went toe to toe, with Tokong holding the upper hand a majority of the 40-minute matchup.
Tokong's first two waves initially gave him the lead, 9.00 and 5.75 respectively, but Beschen made a series of quick rides on the wave giving him 8.15 and 6.25 and several more waves than what Tokong was giving.
With only two minutes left, Beschen took off on a set and lined up for a tube that never eventuated, forcing him to launch a massive straight air slob grab. Beschen landed the air smoothly and posted an 8.60 to take the lead and what looked to be his first qualifying series victory.
Then Tokong swung on a set wave with 45 seconds and pulled into a deep tube as the 20-second countdown started, came out and bashed the lip, posting a 7.80 and taking the final by just 0.05 of a point.
"In the end, I almost gave up because there was no time left and then when that wave came I knew exactly what I had to do,” Tokong said.
"Noah is such a crazy surfer, he does so many airs and is so good in these kinds of waves so it was sick to have a final with him. Being from Hawaii he's so good in the barrel and at hitting big sections so I loved surfing with him at Cloud 9.”
On its 25th year, the Cloud 9 competition is part of the WSL Asia sanctioned men’s qualifying series. This year, the WSL Asia has given the event a QS-1,500 category, giving surfers on the circuit a chance to gain additional QS points with a total $15,000 in prize money up for grabs.
“With the QS ranking, surfers are expecting more WQS points, giving competitors a chance to gain higher overall WQS ranking points. Everyone wants a slice of the points, the prize money is more of an added icing on the cake,” event director Gerry Degan said.
The winning surfer will bring home $5,000, while the second spot $3,000 and third spot $1,500.
In the first round kick-off on October 4, surfers from the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hawaii, Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the US, and Venezuela advanced to Round 2 of the competition. By the third round, only Tokong was left of the 21 Filipino surfers who competed.
The WSL plans to make the event bigger next year, as the Philippine Sports Commission promised to help organize and raise funds for the event in 2020.
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