Jay-R Esquivel Claims Philippines Top Grommet Title

LA UNION, Philippines ~ Twelve-year-old La Union local Jay-R Esquivel used his local knowledge and aggressive forehand attack to put together strong combinations of hacks, turns, floaters and aerials and best Siargao’s Philmar Alipayo in a closely contested final to claim the championship title at the 2nd annual Billabong Grommet Competition presented by StokedInc. held over the weekend at the beach breaks of San Juan in the province of La Union.

For his championship win, Esquivel received a brand new Anacapa surfboard from Aloha Boardsports, a leash and deck pad from Dakine, sunglasses from Von Zipper, shoes from Kustom, wax from Sticky Bumps, a shirt and boardshorts from Billabong, in addition to the rights to his championship title.

Starting his surfing career at the tender age of 8, young Esquivel has already traveled and competed in surf competitions throughout the Philippines since he was 10 years old.  Asked how he felt about his win he said, “I’m so happy to win here at my home break, in front of my friends and family. And to win a new surfboard, that’s the best thing ever! Thank you so much to StokedInc and all the great sponsors for having such a great event.”

Runner-up 16-year-old Alipayo hails from Siargao Island, an area rich with good surf breaks, and also put on an impressive display of surfing in the 25 minute final, but just came up short on points when the horn sounded. Coming in equal third were last year’s winner Peter Alipayo and Danny Coldura, both also from Siargao.

A total of 46 kids from six provinces in the Philippines (La Union, Daet, Catanduanes, Samar, Lanuza, Surigao and Baler), ranging in age from 7 to 16 years of age, arrived at the beach on Saturday morning to compete for prizes and the prestige of becoming the Philippines top grommet surfer. (The term “grommet” is used in the surfing world to refer to young surfers, usually those 16 years of age and under.)

Competition was fierce and the conditions were often challenging for the brave young surfers, as the South China Sea was dishing out some rough 3-4 foot waves that pounded onto the sandy bottomed beach of San Juan.

Good wave selection as well as technical ability was required to get good scores, as often only one or two maneuvers per wave were possible. Big bottom and top turns and completed floaters were what the judges were looking for, and after almost eight hours, three rounds of competition were completed by 5pm.

Sunday morning saw cleaner conditions with waves averaging 2-3 foot with the occasional bigger 4-foot cleanup set. The competitors were getting lots of waves, often getting their limit of 10 waves per heat even before the 20 minute time period had elapsed, so it was non-stop action for both the surfers and the spectators gathered o the beach.

The action was especially intense for the semifinals rounds, where in semifinal one last years champion Peter Alipayo was eliminated by cousin Philmar, whose big turns and completed maneuvers got him the heat win. Next, Danny Coldura went up against eventual winner Jay-R Esquivel, but found his much smaller competitor launching big floaters with abandon, somehow sticking like glue to his board in what looked like impossible maneuvers, and racking up the big scores to take the heat win.

Heat Judge Marco Villareal was impressed with the talent and ability of these young surfers and how they were progressing. “Just in the past year I have seen remarkable progress in these kids. With better equipment and the ability to travel to compete, thanks to the support of sponsors, the standard is rising rapidly,” he said. And what was the key to Esquivel’s win? “Jay-R was very patient as well as confidant, knowing how to choose the right waves and which maneuvers to make. Local knowledge helped of course, but his patience was really the key.”

Billabong team rider Raditya Rondi from Bali made the trip over to help out with the event and to assist with the judging. “These kids are ripping in these tough beach break conditions. It’s great to see so many kids surfing here. I’m really stoked to be here to help out and to get a few waves in myself!” said Raditya.

In addition to the surfing competition action each day, a crew from Green Zinc Clean Shores combed the beach and kept it spotlessly clean, getting the surfers involved and setting a good example for environmental protection.

It was an intense two days of competition, and at the awards presentation StokedInc. President JV Borromeo was all smiles while handing out the trophies to the finalists, saying: “You guys surfed so great out there toda; it was really fun for us on the beach to watch you ripping it up. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event when we’ll get to do this again! Keep the stoke and keep on surfing.”

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