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It gives me a good kind of shiver thinking that the Philippine Tour happened and we got ourselves our first national champ out of the four legs. Most haven’t grasped how big this is. Competing Filipino surfers got to experience what they watch live on WSL CT or QS. Now, not everyone would get to the world tour. But, most definitely out of this will sprout a youngling made capable by experience, strategy, training, skill and competitive drive that would develop on the Philippine tour.
Different types of waves… Different Locations… Perfect, Imperfect conditions…
A lot struggled with unfamiliarity. All of the competitors can surf all waves on tour and have fun with it, do tube rides, aerials, cutties and hacks or two but not all got what the judges were looking for. I’ve photographed the biggest sprays ever that haven’t been rewarded because it wasn’t done on gnarly sections. Yep, they just don’t give away 7s when there’s just no connection existent on each manoeuvre that made a whole wave ride seem one, like a long word written with perfect penmanship in cursive.
I’ve met a guy who brought five boards to in the Siargao leg to test or just be prepared on what the conditions might be. Respect dude. Everyone should be as serious as you are about this. This small 4 leg tour made people rethink their approach to everything. How to surf this, that, what volume for this and that, what works for them on waist high beach breaks and the most detailed stuff like the angle placement of fins. It has been as technical as it can be. A huge part of it is luck, but, also what you do with that luck when it comes gets you one heat closer.
It’s not a stationary line you have to cross hugging a ball on your chest. It’s like shooting a basketball on a hoop that’s moving. You gotta hit the right spot the right way to score. Lots of spots, lots of ways and nature complicates it even more.
With everything out of control, the only thing to command is how one reacts to what is thrown. Lots of factors in that one - being ready mentally, physically, equipment, the want to win. The correct reaction to whatever is presented to you may seem simple but it’s not. I’ve seen better surfers lose heats because the foams under the victors' feet are a few millimetres thicker.
Next year, we will see a more intense competitive environment. Everyone who calls themselves athletes will be hungrier. Those at the bottom will train harder. And, everyone would want to beat the first ever tour champion. Everyone will try to do better.
And so will the back of the house…
Behind the scenes, we could see a more polished athlete support system. Philippine surf based businesses could put out more athlete support. Adding more legs on the tour are now on the works and it’s gonna cost - travel, food, accommodation, entry fees. Since the tour will only happen at the last third of the year, the first two thirds will be time for training. The sponsors support could not only be during competition season as it should be. Everyone receiving mere endorsement allowances from the brands for clothing and apparel won’t be enough. It’s costly to give athletes proper support hence competing surfers should work hard to deserve it.
Filipino surf athletes are realising that they are part of the marketing and should represent the brand that’s backing them - actually wearing and promoting the brand. Help sell the products from the brand you are representing to fund your surfing. Big global brands won’t give us million dollar signing deals just yet. That includes us in the Philippine surf community patronising Philippine based surf brands, especially the small locally owned ones. It’s just within us for now that we help each other. Having resources circulate within our community would mean self sufficiency and a strong foundation from within.
With that ideal set-up becoming real, we would have a sustainable Philippine tour with more legs, better surfing, and more competition experience. It would make sense for everyone in our small community to make a living doing what we love. All of the above are just opinions from my experience in officially photographing the tour. I can't wait for next year and see if these words are proven wrong or right.
Congratulations to the competitors, athletes' sponsors, contest sponsors, PSCT crew and most of all the supporters for a great first season.