Sixteen year-old Central Coaster Sandon Whittaker (AUS) has taken out the 2016 World Surf League (WSL) Siargao Surfing Cup Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500 in two-to-three foot waves at Cloud 9. Whittaker came up against local favourite Philmar Alipayo (PHL) in the Final, at the biggest annual sporting event in the Philippines.
Whitaker surfed a great final day making the most of the waves on offer at Cloud 9. He utilised the lefts and rights, walls and barrels to post solid scores all event. It was his lightning quick backhand snaps that saw him post a heat total of 12.85 (out of a possible 20) to win the Final.
"This is a dream come true," Whitaker said. "This is only my third QS event so I had low expectations, especially being a 16-year-old with all the older guys, it doesn't feel real. Coming up against Philmar was scary because local knowledge is so important here. I've seen him switch-footing in barrels and doing all sorts of crazy stuff so I knew it would be tough. With this win I'm keen to look toward more QS events and try and get into the QS6,000's next year."
The young goofy-footer not only had to overcome 63 other hungry competitors but a viral illness that almost forced him to pullout of the event just yesterday. This win is not only the perfect remedy for Whitaker but the best result of his young career.
"When my heat was coming up yesterday I could here the announcer calling my name and I was still at my hotel ready to give up because I felt so sick. The people I'm staying with were all showing me so much support along with my dad so I thought I'd have a go and have a crack and not disappoint them. I'm feeling a lot better now, just an amazing vibe."
Local surfer Alipayo was the crowd favourite all day and showed he can really mix it with guys who follow the QS. His backhand tube-riding was something to be admired not to mention his air game. It was Whitaker's competitive awareness and use of priority that left Alipayo hunting smaller inside waves during the final. He was unable to overcome the young Aussie in the end but still came out with the best result of his career.
"I'm stoked I made it to the final - it's the best result and day of my career," Alipayo said. "I'm still disappointed that I did not win but Sandon is an amazing surfer and has an epic backhand. Without the barrels he was going to be hard to beat. It's been a really good day and I can't wait for next year."
On the way to the final, Alipayo ousted Australasia QS Championship hopeful Shane Holmes. Holmes displayed raw power all contest and the Semifinal was no different. Holmes threw his trademark power hacks earning him a stranglehold on the heat; until, in the dying seconds Alipayo found a set, took off deep and weaved through a tight tube getting spat out of the end. This got him the nod from the judges earning a near excellent 7.87. Holmes took off on the next wave but it didn't offer enough to retain the lead and finished the event with a respectable equal 3rd place to go with his two seconds for 2016.
"It's annoying to go out like that in the dying seconds," Holmes said. "Third is still a good result so I'm really happy with it but would have liked the waves to pump the whole time. The two previous days had amazing waves and today was still okay, that's just surfing I guess. I'm turning my focus towards the Taiwan Open of Surfing now hopefully I can get the win there."