After an overnight rain and early cloudiness, the weather cleared and with plenty of waves on offer, the field of 28 Men’s Longboard Division surfers were called into action.
However, before the horn blew for the start of the competition, Head Judge Mark Cliff gave the judges a quick review of the longboard judging criteria to ensure that all members of the panel were on the same page, as there is a mix of international and local judges at the event.
One of the local judges, Pataravadi Surasajja, is an active member of Thailand Surfing Association. “Here in Thailand, surfing culture keeps growing and becoming more professional,and being a competition surf judge is quite a challenging task as you need to focus on surfers while understanding their skills and the various wave conditions,” she said.
“The ISA and the Thailand Surfing Federation support this opportunity for women to train and be judges. Being a woman judge elevates women’s place in the sport of surfing and allows women’s voices to be heard while promoting gender equality,” explained Ms Pataravadi.
In the first Men’s Longboard heat, it was Dean Permana from Batu Karas in Indonesia who opened up, posting a 6.00 score on his first wave followed by a 7.63, to solidify his lead in the early minutes of his heat.
Local favorite Warintorn Kongthong gave chase, finding a good left hander to put him in second spot. After a few close outs, Permana then locked into a clean right hander that earned him an excellent score of 8.5, but not content with that, his next wave scored even higher at a 9.13. It was the highest single wave score of the day and rewarding him with the highest total heat score of the day, 17.63 points out of a possible 20 points.
“The wave conditions this morning were so good, with no wind and clean sets,” said Permana. “I really enjoyed my first heat, and hopefully there will be more good waves in the next few days.
“Phuket is so amazing… I love the food and the locals. They are super friendly. Big thanks to the event organisers and the sponsors for putting up such a great event, and special thanks to the ASC. I’m just so happy to be back here in Phuket after several years,’’ he added.
The second highest total heat scores of the day were posted by two competitors, Japan’s Tsukamoto Masaya in Heat 3 and Indonesia’s Deni Firdaus in Heat 6, who both ended up with 15.88 points to win their respective heats. Masaya’s best two scores were 8.0 and 7.88, while Pirdaus recorded a 7.5 and an 8.38.
Heat 5 had the locals on the beach cheering wildly, as their local surf legend and South East Asian Games athlete Weerawat Kuru snatched the heat win from fellow South East Asian Games athlete and gold medalist Roger Casugay from the Philippines in the dying minutes of heat five.
“It was challenging out there. It’s hard to find that high scoring wave but I managed to get what I needed to earn that good score. Maybe I’m just lucky,’’ said Weerawat after the heat.
When asked about his game plan during his heat he replied, “I didn’t have any game plan, I just enjoyed the waves and that’s it. I’m super proud to represent my country in this competition,’’ he added.
Casugay was content with his second place result, saying, “It was a bit hard to catch the right waves. At first I was leading but it’s okay, I still managed to get a spot in the second round.”
In the first heat of the Women’s Division Round 1, Dhea Natasha Novitasari from Kuta Beach in Indonesia posted a 12.33 heat score total to advance to Round 2 along with Thailand’s Bunjarak Promchareon.
Heat 3 saw Thailand’s top surf athlete and local crowd favorite Annissa Flynn showing her homebreak knowledge by breezing to her heat win with a total score of 13.31.
“I was fortunate to catch a wave with about seven minutes left,” said Annissa. “The conditions this afternoon are a bit tricky and it’s quite hard to catch a wave when you need to, but luckily the ocean sent me my much-needed wave so I could advance further.
“I won my heat and I’m super grateful. International events like this in Phuket haven’t happened in several years, so I’m super excited about this event and I’m happy that the ASC is back. We’re competing and it’s much fun, so if it happens you’re in Phuket come along and enjoy the food, the beach and let’s have a great time,” she added.
Heat 5 saw an amazing performance by Japan’s Hiroka Yoshikawa, who earned not just one but two excellent scores of an 8.75 and an 8.25 for an impressive 17 point total to dominate her heat and advance into Round 2.
Phuket Beach Festival International Surfing Competition event manager Chatchai Somporn expressed his satisfaction that the event has turned out well and everything has been running according to plan.
“Creating an international surfing competition here at the Phuket Beach Festival was an idea from the Thailand Surfing Federation, and with the help of the local municipality and the Thailand government we were able pull it off,” he said.
“Of course it wouldn’t be possible without the ASC as it has sanctioned this international surfing competition. We invited the best surf athletes from around Asia so we can prove that Thailand, especially Kata beach, has the potential to run an international surfing competition,” said Chatchai.
“We wanted to promote Thailand as a surfing destination and also showcase our hospitality, food and tourism, particularly sports tourism. So we are ready, Thailand is ready, for all the surfers who want to come to Phuket,” he added.
There is more longboard action today. The event can be viewed live each day on https://www.youtube.com/c/AsianSurfCo and all the scores as well as the schedule is on Live Heats at https://www.liveheats.com/events/40439/schedule