Tokong leads PH Surf City delegation
Fresh from a pair of top-flight tournaments in Australia, John Mark Tokong will again ride the waves with the best in the world halfway across the globe in Surf City, El Salvador.
This time, the stakes are way, way much higher.
Tokong, the country’s top surfer, will lead a seven-athlete Philippine shortboard squad at the 2023 International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games in the oceanside South American getaway starting on Wednesday for a shot at booking a passport to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I feel really good at the moment, so I just plan to keep the confidence high and continue to focus on the goal,’’ said the 26-year-old Tokong, the first and only Filipino to get an invite in the World Surf League (WSL) Challenger Series.
Besides the opportunity to transform his Olympic dream into reality, the El Salvador meet could open the gates for Tokong and the rest of the team to gear up for the World Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia, on Aug. 5 to 12.
Joining Tokong in that bid are Philmar Alipayo, Noah Arkfeld, Bjorn Pabon, John Carby and lady surfers Nilbie Blancada and Vea Estrellado.
“My surfing and preparation have really improved,’’ said the Australia-based Tokong.
“There are some amazing people supporting me,’’ added the Philippine national champion since 2018.
Rogelio “Jay-R’’ Esquivel recently qualified to the World Beach Games following a podium finish in the men’s individual longboard at the ISA World Longboard Championship also in Surf City early this month.
Esquivel wound up with a copper performance (fourth place) behind gold medalist Antoine Delpero of France, Brazil’s Carlos Bahia and bronze medalist Edouard Delpero of France.
“I feel that Philippine surfing is really stepping up. We have so many amazing surfers now,’’ said Tokong.
Aping Agudo will join Esquivel in Bali as the nation’s female entry in the discipline. INQ