Epic final day and surprise champions shake up title race in La Union

ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 26, 2019 10:23 AM
Surprise champions shake up title race in La Union
Neil Sanchez from Baler was crowned as the Men's Open Shortboard Champion at the La Union Pro 2019.

Anticipation filled the air as the whole beach was treated to a flurry of surprises. After day three’s series of upsets, the final day of the La Union Pro 2019 proved to a mix of epic victories and sportsmanship.

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 while 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 (La Union) was up against fellow locals and relatives Antoinette Valdez and Ashlee Lopez and lone Siargaonon Agudo.

It was a close fight between Valdez and Agudo but like any other competition, time runs out. in 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, a first for herself since joining PSCT and a first for Siargao.

“It wasn’t easy, the waves were tricky, but I did my best,” remarked Agudo.

Meanwhile, La Union locals held their ground as the top longboarders in the country as Rico Dumaguin, first-timer in the finals was up against Roger Casugay, recently crowned champion from the 9th Guiuan Odyssey Waves.

A competitor in the PSCT since 2017, the 21-year-old Dumaguin didn’t expect to get into the finals.

“It’s all luck!” Dumaguin said. “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 explained. “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!”

Meanwhile, Nilbie Blancada returned to professional surfing this year and made one of the most epic comebacks as she bagged the championship for the Women’s Open Shortboard. Competing in the PSCT since 2017, Blancada has always been known to hit the podiums in the finals. 

Her win came to no surprise as she clinched the title again in La Union.

“It’s crazy. When I think about my journey during the last year to get here, I’m grateful to be back,” shared a beaming Blancada.

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,” explained Arkfeld. A first championship for Arkfeld makes the future look 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, so this is our first time,” 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 added.

Breathless and in a state of disbelief after he made it into the finals with former champion Neil Sanchez, 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.” 

Here's the list of the La Union Pro 2019 winners:

Women’s Longboard
Jevy Mae Agudo (Siargao) - Champion
Daisy Valdez (La Union) - Second Place
Ashlee Lopez (La Union) - Equal Third
Antoinette Valdez (La Union) - Equal Third

Men’s Longboard
Roger Casugay (La Union) - Champion
Rico Dumaguin (La Union) - Second Place
Mark Aguila (Baler) - Equal Third
Jay-R Esquivel (La Union) - Equal Third

Women’s Shortboard
Nilbie Blancada (Siargao) - Champion
Daisy Valdez (La Union) - Second Place
Dianne Nogalo (Siargao) - Equal Third
Vea Estrellado (Sorsogon) - Equal Third

Noah Arkfeld (Siargao) - Champion
John Carlos Noguerra (Siargao) - Second Place
Gabriel Lerog (Siargao) - Equal Third
Marbin Delamide (Siargao) - Equal Third

Men’s Shortboard
Neil Sanchez (Baler) - Champion
Jefferson Espejon (Siargao) - Second Place
John Mark Tokong (Siargao) - Equal Third
Eduardo Alciso (Siargao) - Equal Third

All eyes now look forward to Samar as the final stop of the PSCT this 2019 concludes in Borongan, Samar with the Surf in the City 2019, where the grand champions will be crowned. With the title race slightly shaken up, anything can still happen in Samar.

The La Union Pro 2019 is presented by the provincial government unit of La Union, Funky Quarters, Gwapitos, and Mad Monkeys. With the support of Kudo Surf, Cebu Pacific, Havaianas Philippines, Fat Lips Surf Shop, ABS-CBN Sports and Action, CNN Philippines, ANCx, Inquirer.net, 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.

Special thanks to La Union Surf Club and the Little Surfmaid Resort.

The Philippine Surfing Championship Tour 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.

Already on its third year, PSCT celebrates Filipino surfers, passionate fans, and dedicated partners that together grow the Philippine surfing community to what it is today and what it was envisioned to be.

PSCT exists to set the stage and act as a platform for professional surfing in the Philippines, promoting Filipino surfers as world-class athletes and uniting the surfing community and fans by sharing the story and adventure of Philippine surfing one tour at a time.

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