Filipino surfer foils Japanese sweep at inaugural international pro finals

Filipino surfer foils Japanese sweep at inaugural international pro finals
Rogelio Esquivel Jr.'s winning performance. —PHOTOS BY R.A. ERIN

SABANG BEACH, Baler, Quezon—World-ranked Filipino surfer Rogelio Esquivel Jr. ruled the thrilling longboard men’s finals of the weeklong first staging of the World Surf League’s (WSL) Baler International Pro tournament here on Tuesday.

With his victory, Esquivel, 26, a member of the national team from San Juan, La Union, topped the Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) event and will compete in the WSL Longboard Championship Tour, the highest level of longboard surfing in the world, sometime this year in the United States.

Esquivel and Japan’s Kai Hamase are lifted by supporters.

The Filipino, also called “Jayr,” is currently ranked No. 8 in the world. He again beat his closest rival, Japan’s Kai Hamase, in two events after earning the highest heat total of 17.40, for his fourth LQS win out of four events and to keep his perfect LQS record.

Daisy Valdez tames the waves.

Three other Japanese players dominated the final matches—Natsumi Taoka (JPN) who won over the Philippines’ Daisy Valdez in the women’s LQS Final; Minami Nonaka, who beat compatriot and one of her closest friends, Sara Wakita, in the women’s QS 3000 Final; and Hiroto Ohhara in the men’s QS 3000 Final.

“It feels amazing,” Esquivel was quoted in a WSL press statement. “It was just a dream for me before, to be here. I’m super-stoked because the Filipino athletes are really improving every time.”

Esquivel and Valdez

He added: “Daisy (Valdez) did really well. We’ll be practicing more for the next competitions here.”

Valdez and eventual winner Taoka were semifinalists in the La Union International Pro tour last week and met again in the LQS women’s Final in Baler. It was Valdez’s first LQS Final; her daughter and her husband are also competitive surfers. 

According to the WSL, over 100 of Asia’s best up-and-coming surfers joined the inaugural Baler International Pro, which ended Wednesday with the awarding program. 

Sabang Beach’s 2-kilometer gray-sand stretch between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre mountain range, has been cited for its “high-performance beach-break peaks and will offer a great canvas for both longboarders and shortboarders to display their skills.”

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