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BUTUAN, Philippines – Just three months after dominating his home turf in Siargao, securing back-to-back victories at the 2023 Siargao International Surfing, John Mark “Marama” Tokong triumphed once more, conquering the waves at the 2024 La Union International Pro World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 3000 in shortboard for men’s heat at Urbiztondo Beach, San Juan, La Union, on Thursday, January 25.
Tokong, a native and surfing sensation of Siargao, bested Sweden’s Kian Martin by scoring 17.90 total points, with a margin of 4.65 points.
The WSL said that after opening with a 7.25 (out of a possible 10), Tokong immediately built his scoreline with an 8.50, leaving Kian Martin needing a combination of two scores totaling 15.76 (out of a possible 20).
Martin was able to break the combination almost as soon as it landed with an 8.00 of his own, as he also delivered dynamic above-the-lip surfing., according to the WSL.
The WSL said it didn’t take long for Tokong to raise the level once again, posting the highest single wave score of the event, a 9.40, to bring his heat total to an event-high 17.90. Martin was unable to come close to cracking.
Tokong competed against Martin in the Siargao International Surfing event in late October 2023. They both participated in the same heat during Round 16 and advanced to the quarterfinals. However, Martin’s tournament ended in the quarterfinals after losing to a Japanese surfer.
Tokong’s victory in La Union was his sixth win in QS, the fifth held in the Philippines, and the first outside of his home break of Siargao.
“To be honest, I didn’t really expect that I’m gonna win because all the athletes are from Japan, Indonesia, like around the world… I’m so happy, I’m so stoked right now because everyone here is supporting me. I’m not just doing this for myself, I’m doing this for my family, for the Philippines,” Tokong told reporters.
According to WSL, the result, which has earned him an additional 3,000 points, has rocketed him eight places up the rankings into No. 6. He aims to qualify for the Challenger Series this year.
In 2023, Tokong achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first Filipino surfer to earn qualification for the 2023 WSL Challenger Series.
The Challenger Series comprises top-tier QS events designed to offer athletes increased opportunities at the highest level for securing qualification to the Championship Tour of WSL.
Organized by the United Philippine Surfing Association (UPSA) and sanctioned by WSL, the La Union International Pro features QS 3000 and Longboard Qualifying Series (LQS) events, running until Sunday, January 28.
The competition plays a role in determining the WSL-Asia Region’s representatives for the 2024 Challenger Series and Longboard Tour.
After the conclusion of the QS 3000 Finals, the focus shifted to the continuation of the LQS event.
“It’s always great to have WSL back here in La Union as we are pushing more of our Pinoy surfers to get enough points to qualify, just like how JR Esquivel and Marama Tokong have done it,” said Luke Landrigan, UPSA national coach.
More than 100 participants from different countries took part, with 41 Filipinos, including 28 from La Union, seven from Siargao, four from Baler, and two from Zambales.
Bonnie Elaine Macleod of WSL-Asia Pacific said that following the La Union International Pro, the event will shift to Baler, Aurora, for the inaugural Baler International Pro from February 1 to 7.
“We are lucky to have two events back-to-back in the Philippines. The competition is moving to Baler so another opportunity to showcase what the Philippines has to offer and a big chance for points to our surfer,” she said.
Kana Nakashio of Japan claimed the victory over Sara Wakita from the same country in the women’s heat. – Rappler.com
Ivy Marie Mangadlao is an Aries Rufo fellow.