Riding the Waves at 13, Winning

NOTE: This story was written last year, October 25, after the Lunad sa Balod (Ride the Waves) 2016 in Gubat, Sorsogon.

With nowhere to display all the proof of her victories inside their humble home, all of Vea Estrellado’s trophies are all wrapped in plastic and hidden in one corner gathering dust. All, except for two, which she won from Lunad sa Balod, a three-day national surfing competition at Gubat, Sorsogon.

The 13-year-old from Gubat, Sorsogon was declared champion in two categories Sunday after she bested 11 other surfers in the wahine short board category and 10 other surfers in the wahine long board category. Some of the competitors from Daet, Baler, Lanuza, Leyte, Zambales, and Catanduanes are in their 20s and 30s.




TEEN CHAMP. Vea Estrellado bested other surfers, some of them in their 20s and 30s, in her category during the Lunad sa Balod, a three-day national surfing competition in Gubat, Sorsogon. (Photo by RA Ostria/Ibalio)

When Typhoon Glenda hit Bicol, Estrellado’s house near Rizal Beach in Gubat, was badly damaged. The cash prize she won from joining surfing competitions was their only way of getting the house fixed. The cash prize she won from her latest competition will be used for the same house renovation that they need.

Her father, tricycle driver Eliseo Gerom Estrellado, said that he did not approve of her surfing at first, even whipping her whenever he catches her surfing with her friends.

“Rizal Beach was scary that time. Before residents started surfing there, people have died,” he said. Now, he says, every time Estrellado is competing, he is there to support the young surfer.

Estrellado started surfing three years ago when Bienvenido “Bidge” Villarroya discovered her and told her father that she has the potential to be a good surfer and win big competitions.

Estrellado is one of the few wahine surfers from Gubat whose parents have finally given their support.

“It’s hard looking for other young female surfers because some parents are afraid that their children might drown,” she said.

She was the champion in the wahine open at the Puraran Surfing Camp in Catanduanes in 2015 and the first placer at the malahini short board category at the 2014 Philippine Wahine Classic. Since 2013, Estrellado has been collecting trophies in local competitions in popular surfing spots Gubat, Baler, Daet, and Baras.

***

The second Lunad sa Balod (literally “riding on waves”) started Friday, Oct. 21, and was participated in by 200 surfers all representing surfing spots in Aurora, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Surigao del Norte,  Surigao del Sur, and Zambales.

“This is very different from [last year]. We have three times as many people coming and going, watching the event,” Bienvenido Villaroya, one of the organizers, said.

Frankie Anthony Tapec, a surfer from Li-Liwa, San Felipe, Zambales, said that the waves in the Gubat were good, but the community has to do more cleaning in the area, noting that they saw trash and coconuts at the beach.

Debbie Marie Gumanoy, one of the wahine surfers from Lanuza, said that the waves on the second day of the competition, but the waves on the final day did not allow smooth ride. Gumanoy finished second in the wahine long board category and 4th in the wahine short board category.

The second year Business Administration student was the only surfer from Lanuza in Surigao del Sur in the competition.

“I envy the surfing community here because they are cooperative and they communicate well with each other,” Gumanoy said.

Crowd-favorite Remar Magalona of Siargao, finished first place in the juniors’ short board category and thanked his family and friends for the support.

LIKE A WAVE WHISPERER. Wowing the audience each time he rides his board, Remar Magalona was the crowd favorite during the Lunad sa Balod 2016. (photo by RA Ostria/Ibalio)

Roger Casugay of La Union and Neil Sanchez of Baler won first place in the men’s long board category and the men’s short board category, respectively.

Meanwhile, Kahea Nomoro of Baler won grommets category after constantly finishing first in all his heats.

***

The surfing community in Sorsogon started in 2008 when Villaroya taught the children in Gubat how to surf. Gubat Sorsogon Surfriders’ Association (GSSA) now has more than 70 members and develops the youngest surfing champions in the country.

GSSA has groomed four national champions with six titles divided among them.

“I realized that surfing is an agent of change. The moment children get interested in surfing, and I tell them to study or I won’t let them surf, they study harder,” Villaroya said.

“I force them to study, that’s why we have a beach library and a classroom here in the camp,” he added.

Surfers and surfing enthusiasts from all over the country are allowed to stay in the camp for free in exchange to giving talks and tutorials to its members.

“It’s unhealthy when you surf with those who have vices. When we have visitors, they are shocked that our surfers have college degrees. That’s already our success—that the kids are independent and confident,” Villaroya said.

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