Attracting surfers from nine countries, the 7th annual Single and Unattached Classic Single Fin Invitational supported by Vans and Clean Beach Coffee wrapped up on the beach in front of Mona Lisa Point in San Juan with sunset drinks, DJs spinning tunes, the awards presentation to announce the winners, then a live band and plenty of revelry to celebrate this unique and soulful event with the local and international participants that had come from near and far to join in.

Almost 100 surfers from 9 countries – Australia, Brazil, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and the USA – joined in the 7th annual Single and Unattached event.

Topping the list of winners, in the Men’s Division is first time Single and Unattached participant 19-year-old Kaimana Takayama from California, who pockets 50,000 pesos, a beautiful trophy, and lots of great memories to take back home with him.

“I’m so honored that I got the invite to come,” said Kai after receiving his awards. “It’s my first time here and everybody I’ve met here is so kind, they treat me like family. This is honestly one of the best events I’ve ever done, it’s a world class event.

“And the Filipino surfers …I came here and I really wasn’t ready for the high level of talent that the Filipinos have…So when I got here and saw them surf I was like wow, I have to really step up my game or I’m gonna get whupped! It was no cakewalk to win this event…if anybody at home thinks they can come here and get some easy money, they need to think again coz they will get smoked!

I’ve really enjoyed myself, and to be honest the biggest part of it all is that I’m thankful to all the local people for sharing their spot with me the way that they have. I’ll be coming back again next year, guaranteed!”

In the Women’s Division, it was another newcomer to the event, Hawaii’s Rosie Jaffurs, who took the top spot. Rosie traveled to the event with fellow Hawaiian Keoki Saguibo, who also joined in the event in the Men’s Division.

“This is my second time coming to the Philippines but the first time to compete in the Single and Unattached,” said Rosie. “I came the first time about 4 years ago to do a surf camp with Carla Rowland, so she and Ian were my connection and helped us to come here and join this year. The waves here are great, and the people even better. The people I’ve met here are the nicest people in the entire world, and I’ve traveled to quite a few places around the world.”

“I feel like these people here have just as much aloha here in the Philippines’s as the people in Hawaii, if not more. And I tell myself I could never leave Hawaii, but if I left I would be coming here. The waves are just as good as home, and I know there are so many places to explore. My secret is that I want to travel around and look for untouched waves. I will be back for sure and thanks everybody for having me here.”

Keoki Saguibo is a world renown surf photographer and ex-longboard pro, and was stoked to be participating in the event. “This is my first time to the Philippines, but I’ve been wanting to come for a while as I have roots here, but I never pursued it until after Rosie came here a few years and then told me about her experiences,” said Keoki. “She told that of all the places in the world I could go, I really needed to come to the Philippines. There are world class waves here, all around the Philippines, but what makes it really special are the people. I would even come back here if the waves are flat, if only to experience more of just being with the people. I’ve been all around the world and in many great surfing spots, but is this the one where the surf community even tops the waves. Way beyond expectations! Next year I’m telling all my friends and we’re all coming here for sure.”

The week-long logging event included a talk by Retired Environmental Scientist Ruben Guieb at the MAKA Studio on Wednesday the 13th of June, who educated the competitors and audience about the effects of large-scale fossil fuel combustion and its effects on biodiversity, surfing, agriculture, water security, and food security, brought on by the proposed plan to build a coal fired power plant just 30 kilometers north of San Juan.

Keoki had this to say after the talk; “When we first got off the plane in Manila, people were asking where we were going and we said La Union….and they said ‘oh ya, Surf Town’. So I’m wondering why, as such a well known tourist destination, the government would ever approve something like a coal fired power plant that would ruin the environment that makes it what it is. Seems kind of strange to me. As surfers, we are the first line of defense, and like with this contest we need to send the message that big corporations and the government should look at the big picture here and not just at spreadsheets and short-term economic effects. So I really hope this place stays natural and we can keep surfing here for many years to come.”

Aside from promoting the love for surf, part of the Single and Unattached 2019 thrust was to promote a love for the environment, which one of our major sponsors, Clean Beach Coffee represents. Key environmental events include a surf-inspired art exhibit at MAKA Studio, the ECO Community Market hosted by the San Juan local community and Urbiz Garden where guests had access to eco lifestyle alternatives, artist products, local products and produce, and beach clean ups. The Single and Unattached participants also had the opportunity to join the sea turtle hatching release by CURMA and a Coral Planting session.

The surfing competition was run earlier than scheduled as the swell forecast was showing flat seas from the original dates of 13-17th of February, so an Expression Session for the late arrivals was run on the 13th and luckily the forecast was wrong and those competitors were treated to perfect 2-3 foot glassy waves. Winning the Expression Session was Indonesia’s Dean Permana, who was over the moon that he got to surf even though the competition proper had already been completed.
“This is my second time in La Union, but my first time to join the Single and Unattached,” said Dean. “It has been super fun, and although I missed the main competition, still I got a chance to join the Expression Session and I won it. It’s so nice to be back here and I’m going to keep coming back every year from now on!”

Vans Philippines has been a long-time supporter of the event, and in his speech at the awarding party, Wendell Cunanan said, “First I want to say a big Thank You to all the competitors, judges, organizers and their staff, sponsors, photographers and everyone who came, watched and supported the event. It’s been one awesome week of fun, friendship and most importantly, learning and awareness.

“To our guests from Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and Malaysia, we super appreciate you all coming here. We learned so much from you and hope u learned a little about the Philippines and Filipino hospitality. To Buji and Nikki, it’s been 7 years of this Single and Unattached event so big congrats, and 6 years with Vans Philippines as part of it. I can honestly say this is one of the most fun and enjoyable events we have been a part of. We were blessed with adventure, waves and most of all, new friendships. Thank you again to everyone and see you for Single and Unattached 2020!”

A very special award by an anonymous Filipino donor was given to La Union’s own Jay-R Esquivel at the end of the awards party. The purpose of the award is to showcase the talent of Filipino surfers in a world class stage as well as provide the opportunity to experience new waves, cultivate talent, and inspire other athletes to pursue the surfing lifestyle in a respectable and influential manner.

The award is a round trip ticket from Manila to Hawaii for a length of two weeks, with food, transportation, and accommodation provided as well as media package including video and photos of the trip. Jay-R is the reigning Filipino Men’s Longboard Champion of the 2018 Philippine Surfing Championship Tour, and also the won the 2018 REnextop Asian Surfing Tour Men’s Longboard Championship. Congratulations Jay-R!

At the end of the evening, event co-creator and organizer Buji Libarnes was asked for his thoughts on his year’s event, to which he responded, “This event just keeps on getting better and better each year, so I think this year is definitely the best so far, no doubt.”

And as to what the highlights of this year’s event were, he replied, “We were blessed with three days of good waves, so we could properly run the contest in great conditions, and all the special people we had from all over the globe that came to participate, and the aloha they all shared with the locals, so the good vibes were just overflowing every day and night. Finally, the special award that was given by a very generous donor to Jay-R..there were people that people were literally teary-eyed and had goosebumps. He is so deserving and will really benefit from the opportunity and the experience, so the Filipino surf community was so happy for him. He truly is a role model and an inspiration to young Filipino surfers to excel at surfing and be the best surfers they can possibly be. We’ll see you all back next year, as we’ll keep making Single and Unattached an annual global event to look forward to.”