MANILA, Philippines — With “some of the most incredible waves” challenging surfers each day of the week-long competition, the 24th Siargao International Surfing Cup drew to an exciting close last Wednesday with Skip McCullough besting local legend John Mark Tokong in the prestigious Men’s Qualifying Series 3000 of the World Surf League.
“The waves all week have been unbelievable. I’ve come to this event a number of times and this has definitely been the best conditions, and it all peaked on finals day, so all of this makes the win even more special,” said McCullough, who is from San Diego, California, even as he paid tribute to Tokong. “It was great to share the final with a local guy (Tokong), they are all so good out here and have so much support on the tower, so it was cool to experience that.”
Tokong, who topped the competition in 2015, impressed the crowd with “his technical brilliance in the tube and impeccable read on his home break.” Unfortunately, he “struggled to find a decent wave in the final” and lost to the American.
“It was a shame the surf became so hard in the final but I’m still so happy that I made it that far,” Tokong said. “It’s so cool that all of these people come from around the world and can see how perfect the surf can be in the Philippines.”
A refreshing natural pool at the base of Taktak Falls.
The waves at Siargao’s Cloud 9 has gained international fame, with CNN Go travel portal last year naming it as the world’s fifth best surf spot. Cloud 9 is known for its perfect barreling right hand reef break laden with sharp corals.
For more than two decades now, this spot off Surigao del Norte has been luring the best surfers in the world.
During summer, the same site is teeming with top international lady surfers for the women’s edition of the WSL-sanctioned tournament.
But beyond the adrenaline-pumping waves in the Pacific seaboard, the options are infinite for enjoying the island.
Feast on chili crabs and other seafood.
With regular flights from Manila, Cebu, Clark and Davao, what was once a distant destination has become very accessible. And if it is any testament to its charm, Siargao was among the first places visited by the contestants of the Miss Universe 2016 pageant which the Philippines hosted.
It was the location for a movie in last year’s metro film fest which revolved around the island vibe and a vlogger’s love life. With Instagram-worthy frames almost everywhere, Siargao is the consummate getaway for nature lovers and social media aficionados.
A must in Gen. Luna town is a swing around the triumvirate islets of Guyam, Daku and Naked. In San Benito, you can hop around the less crowded islands of Pagbasayan, Litalit, Cambinling, Kangkangon White Beach and a stunning football field-sized sandbar which appears at low tide. A new attraction is Poneas Lake, a picture-perfect, unspoilt body of water located on the hilltop of an isle of the same name.
Get your thrills at the new Siargao Wakepark.
Del Carmen town hosts a natural wonder found only in this part of the archipelago – a sprawling 4,000-hectare mangrove forest which helps maintain ecological balance by providing breeding grounds for aquatic life. The municipal government operates tours which cruise around the mangroves and to Sugba Lagoon, tucked inside the limestone cliffs. The picturesque saltwater pool is popular for kayaking, stand-up paddling, snorkeling and platform diving.
A rare geological formation is Magpupungko Rock in Pilar which forms a tidal flat or natural pool at low tide, the only one of its kind in the country. It is best to visit before noon so you can enjoy rock diving and come close to the now-iconic rock. Nearby is a vast stretch of beige sand beach and picnic cottages.
Surrounded by water on all fronts, aqua sports is a must – paddling on kayaks and stand-up paddles, or learning the basics of skimboarding in San Isidro, a variant of surfing which uses a shorter board. There are scores of surfing sites along the Pacific coast which have moderate waves ideal for newbies.
The viewing tower at Cloud 9. George Tapan
Scuba divers can plunge into the depths to admire the rich marine life in San Benito and the Blue Cathedral, while others glide over the water at the Siargao Wakepark, the island’s latest recreational craze.
Tucked among the lush vegetation of Sta. Monica is Taktak Falls which has a natural pool formed by the refreshing icy waters, a perfect wind-down after beach-bumming. Then take a stroll along the boardwalk and public plaza, with a Spanish bronze cannon and fortress ruins.
Siargao is host to some of the archipelago’s coziest tropical resorts which boast of comfy rooms ideal for a relaxing staycation, away from the madding crowd.
Due to numerous foreign nationals who have settled in Siargao, the local food scene has taken on an international character. But for many, fresh seafood is still the order of the day, with a wide array of the ocean’s bounty including blue marlin, tuna, salmon, oysters, squid, crabs, fish and shrimps.
So whether it’s waves, beaches, caves or everything in between, you can find your own Cloud 9 in Siargao.
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