Siargao’s ranking upgrade brings mixed feelings
IN SURFING, RECOGNITION of your success is a double-edged sword. Just ask the owner of Sagana Resort, Gerry Degan, who’s been living on the island of Siargao in the Philippines for more than 20 years. Earlier this year, the World Surf League (WSL) upgraded the Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup, which Degan organises, from a QS1,500 event to QS3,000. QS stands for Qualifying Series, with 3,000 being the number of points t hat go to t he e vent wi nner. Su r fers who accumulate enough points at this level can step up to QS6,000 events, then QS10,000, and ultimately, the Holy Grail: the fully professional Championship Tour. The upgrade means not only more qualifying points for competitors, but international coverage, live broadcast on the WSL website, and a prize pool of US$75,000 split between 30 contestants. The new status is likely to further fuel interest in the island and its fabled Cloud 9 break. “Visitor numbers have doubled since four years ago when Siargao first got on the WSL as a QS1,000, and the number of resorts here, tripled, even quadrupled,” says Degan. “Right now, the waves are definitely not able to sustain the sheer number of surfers; but the type of people who come has shifted too. There aren’t a lot of hard-core surfers anymore, the typical Americans and Australians and even the Japanese groups coming to learn surfing. We see more Europeans here now.” “As a surfer, I’d be pretty frustrated with the number of amateurs there are here, but I guess this is natural progression for any break that’s moving up the ladder.” Degan is concerned that a further influx of visitors will tax the island’s sewerage, garbage disposal and recycling systems but is happy to see Asia’s growing presence on WSL’S radar. It’s also important to him that these surf spots are benefiting the locals. “WSL is really focusing on Asia and are moving to China, Taiwan and Indonesia; it’s a natural progression. For us old, crusty guys we’re probably not happy with it, but look, I just look further afield to get my waves,” he said. “In national events, the majority participants are Filipinos: the kids here are addicted to it [surfing]. Once they have a board they can go out on the waters. Now it’s just a matter of having the privileged kids doing it alongside the poor kids.” Meanwhile out on the water, a Brazilian was making the most of the event’s rise in status. Raoni Monteiro won the 2017 competition, bagging the new quota of 3,000 ranking points, a feat he last accomplished at the Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach, California in 2010.