The day started with a small ceremony to bless the event and to pay respect to the 47 Chinese tourists who lost their lives in the July 5 Phoenix boating disaster, with Surfing Thailand’s Chanin ‘Joob’ Aiyarak and REnextop’s Lillian Chen leading the surfers into the water to throw flowers into the ocean.
This was followed by the surfers grabbing garbage bags and picking up any trash they could find on the beach to ensure that they set a good example to tourists and locals alike in keeping the beaches of Thailand clean for everyone.
Then it was straight into the Men’s Longboard, where Japan’s Masaya Tsukamoto was the first to put his toes on the nose and show what could be done in the tricky beachbreak conditions, in spite of not feeling his best.
“I’ve been fighting the flu the last couple of days and felt really weak out there, but I managed to get through my heat with a couple good waves. I’m hoping to feel better tomorrow and that there is less wind and glassier conditions, but I’m still having fun here,” he said.
In the Women’s Longboard Division, it was fellow countrywomen and WSL World Longboard Championship competitor Natsumi Taoka posting the highest scores of her division to win her opening heat.
“It was fun out there but it was hard to paddle out when the big sets came through,” said Natsumi. “Before my heat I checked the waves, and so I decided to sit in the middle and not take the big sets as they were closing out, so I just sat in the middle and got the ones with some better form, which worked out for me.”
When asked how she was enjoying Phuket so far she replied, “This location is perfect, and I really love Thai food, so I’m having a great time. This is my very first time to come to Thailand and I love it!”
In the Men’s Shortboard Division the first heat of the Round One was won handily by Indonesia’s Made Darma Yasa, who is from the holiday island of Bali and surf’s the Padma beachbreaks daily with his twin brother Darma Putra Tonjo.
Darma Yasa had no trouble posting a couple of good scores and winning his heat, and said afterwards, “Ombak bagus!!!” which in Indonesian means, “Great waves!
Phuket local Chatchai Somporn won his Round One heat and will advance to Round Two, where he joins four other Thai locals that made it through Round One as well.
When asked how he felt about having an international surfing event back in Patong Beach after a five-year hiatus he replied, “I’m really happy to be back in an international competition here again, after so long.
“I hope we can have it back every year, as it’s great opportunity to build up the next generation to show what we have and how far we can go. We can learn a lot from the other pro international surfers, so it helps us all get better.”
This is also the first time for most of the local surfers to surf under a four-man priority system, which is now used by virtually all professional surfing organisations around the world.
In the Surfers Meeting that was held at the NAP Hotel yesterday evening, Head Judge Keenan Roxburgh explained the priority system as well as the judging criteria for both longboarding and shortboarding, so the surfers would all be prepared adequately for this competition.
In addition to the training, Lillian Chen from REnextop, Tim Hain from ASC, and Chanin ‘Joob’ Airayak from Surfing Thailand gave speeches and welcomed the surfers to the event, then introduced the competitors to one another as they were given RAST hats and T-shirts.
In total there are 40 men and 12 women from countries including Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, as well as Ireland and Spain competing in the RAST #2 event, which runs from July 19-21.
The surfers have been told to stand by at the beach tomorrow (July 20) at 8am, as the weather and wave conditions will dictate which divisions will be going out first for Day Two action.