Local duo John-Mark Tokong (PHL) and Nilbie Blancada (PHL) have claimed famous victories at the 2022 Siargao International Surfing Cup pres. By San Miguel, World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 in pumping four-to-six foot surf at Cloud 9. After three years since the last event ran, the Island of Siargao was filled with positive energy and the local pair fed off it all week, as Blancada earned the biggest result of her career while Tokong took his third QS win at his home break.
John-Mark Tokong always comes into his home event at Cloud 9 as the one to beat having dominated the event since he first won it back in 2015. Tokong has in fact won the event three times, from four finals and six starts, arguably the most dominance of a QS location by a local of anywhere in the world. In 2022, after Siargao has spent the last few years dealing with the pandemic, along with a super typhoon that flattened the island less than 12 months ago, Tokong came into the event with more reason to win than ever.
"I'm so proud to take this win along with Nilbie (Blancada) not just for Siargao but for all of the Philippines," Tokong said. "It's been a really tough time for us here in Siargao and to see everyone down here cheering and smiling is so special. Having the international event back and all of the competitors from around the world has been so good."
Tokong stood out, all event, eventually meeting good friend Oney Anwar (IDN) in the Final. The pair went wave for wave, each posting solid heat totals but Tokong once again was too strong, finding deeper, longer tubes, to post a near excellent 15.80 two-wave combination (out of a possible 20) to once again be chaired to the famous boardwalk a victor.
"It was great to share a final with Oney - he is like a brother to me," Tokong continued. "I'm just so stoked we got incredible waves on Finals Day for all of the competitors and that things are coming back to normal here in Siargao."
Continuing the trend that local knowledge means everything at Cloud 9, Nilbie Blancada (PHL) never looked like falling short of a Finals finish this week. Blancada's finesse and style in the tube along with her knowledge of which waves to take off on had her consistently posting the highest totals of each round. The Final was no different as she threaded some long tubes to overcome Japanese Challenger Series hopeful Anon Matsuoka (JPN). Blancada's win was a historic one as it was the first time the men's and women's event ran as one and the first time a Filipino woman has won a WSL rated event.
"I can't even explain what I'm feeling right now," Blancada siad. "There has been so much positive energy from everyone in the town this week so I'm so happy to give some of this back to the community. Having the border open and surfers coming back to Siargao is so important to the local community and this event is a great indicator of that - to win it just makes it even more special."
Indonesia's Oney Anwar (IDN) has been competing here in the Philippines for close to 10 years now and his runner up finish felt just as good as a win to him, and to the local fans who all adore him. Anwar was in seering form, in the tube, on the face and in the air, but it wasn't enough to overcome Cloud 9's "Little Master" Tokong.
"He's so hard to beat out here that guy," Anwar said. "Getting second to Marama (John-Mark) is cool, he's such an amazing surfer and person so it was great to share the water with him. The best part about making the final was just getting more time out at Cloud 9 - the waves were pumping today. Today was a day where you really remember how lucky we are to have this job. I'm stoked to be back in the Philippines, it's such a beautiful place with nice weather and great waves."
Although Anon Matsuoka (JPN) was unable to clinch the win, she was elated to have made the final in such incredible surf. The powerful goofy-footer is keen to learn from her loss in the final and work on her back-hand barrel riding before returning in 2023.
"It was so great to make the final," Matsuoka said. "This is such an amazing wave and it was so fun to surf heats out here. I think I need to work on my backhand barrel riding though. That is the big thing that became obvious to me and I want to improve on moving forward."
The 2022 Siargao International Surfing Cup QS 1000 event will run at Cloud 9 from October 15 - 21.