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Surf’s up in the Philippines with inaugural surfing competition

A surfing competition in the Philippines recently went off with flying colors.

When the temperatures are below freezing and the snow is falling, fun in the sun may not be on the typical American's list of things to do for the day. But it's at the top of to-do lists for many vacationing and native Filipinos, especially those who are particularly skilled at surfing the open waves.

On the first weekend in February, several surfing organizations launched the Philippines' first-ever "Single and Unattached Longboard Invitational," holding the event in the Ilocano province of La Union. Described as the "surfing capital of Northern Luzon," organizers said the event went off without a hitch and was a smashing success.

"As part of the traditional longboard resurgence that took place in California during the early 1990's, it's feels really great to be a part of a similar movement in the Philippines," said Carla Rowland, owner of The Surf Institute, one of the organizations that helped sponsor and fund what's expected to be a yearly event.

He added that individuals who are familiar with surfing were hopefully reminded of the glory days of past surfing success stories, such as Miki Dora, Lance Carson and Dewey Webber.

"The event was a blast," said Jay Sueno, an entrant in the contest who indicated he's been surfing for less than a year. "To be surrounded by surfers who embody the classic and cool style of single fin longboarding was inspiring and filled with good vibes."

Officials with the Single and Unattached Longboard Invitational say that all surfers were invited to compete, which included people from all corners of the earth, including California, Japan and Korea, but participation was dominated by Filipinos.

While the large waves and seasonable temperatures no doubt made the three-day competition eminently enjoyable, Rowland indicated that the best part was how many Filipinos embraced the event and made it their own.

"We are just so happy that Filipinos are falling in love with the classic style of traditional longboarding," said Rowland. "This year was a great success and we have high hopes that next year will be even bigger and better."

A worldwide leisure pursuit
While surfing may seem like a sport that only a select few take up as a hobby, it may be surprising just how many people ride the waves whenever they can, many of whom send money to their families so they can learn how it's done. According to the International Surfing Association, there are approximately 23 million surfers worldwide, 1.7 million living in the U.S.

If surfers are good enough, they may be able to make it a career. For example, professional surfer Kelly Slater made as much as $3 million in a single year in 2009, all of which derived from the proceeds he earned in competitions.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of surfing is being able to stay on the board for a long time. And the higher the wave is, the harder it can be. However, some have been able to stay on their boards for long periods. ISA data indicates that one surfer spent nearly 40 minutes riding a wave without losing his balance – the longest time ever recorded.

Surfers are similarly upping the ante on how large of a wave they can ride. Recently, professional surfer Garrett McNamara broke his own world record by successfully surfing a 100-foot wave off the coast of Portugal. His previous best was a 78-foot wave, which he conquered in 2011.

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