From 2003 to 2005, Keichii Kobayashi of Guam gave professional windsurfers a run for their money on the slalom course of Bulabog Beach on Boracay Island, finishing as the top amateur sailor for three years in a row, but always a hair behind the dominant pro riders. In 2008, after five rounds of slalom racing, Keichii came back to the island to win it all at the 20th Neil Pryde Boracay Funboard Cup.
Armed with the latest Neil Pryde RS Racing sails, Keichii took two rounds early to snatch victory from a field which included top Filipino racer and SEA Games medalist Vingo Moreno, and Neil Pryde team riders Robby Swift (who unfortunately arrived a day late costing him two rounds) and freestyle specialist Fabrice Beaux.
58 windsurfers from over 16 countries descended on Boracay Island to compete in what Action Asia Magazine dubbed in 1994 as “Asia’s Best Boardsailing Blast”. “The format allows windsurfers of all levels to participate,” explains event organizer Michael Palacios. “We get full-on pro riders, national team representatives, and lots of weekend warriors, and everyone gets along quite well.”
The island of Boracay is also largely considered to be Asia’s boardsailing mecca. Powder-white sand, strong monsoon winds, and a reef that keeps the swells out of a waist-deep lagoon all combine to create a revelatory windsurfing experience.
The Neil Pryde Boracay Funboard Cup is also the region’s longest-running windsurfing event at twenty years in the running. Started in 1988 by Boracay windsurfing pioneers Roby and Nenette Graf, the event has grown into an international sports event which now includes kitesurfing, windsurfing, and speed disciplines.
Title sponsor Neil Pryde’s support — channeled mainly through the island’s leading windsurfing school Green Yard Funboard Center — lent huge credibility to this year’s event. Also involved was Action Asia Magazine, who resumed sponsorship of the annual Speed Trial event, won by Manny Cabili for the windsurfers and Tony Heiss of Germany.
Over a third of the international participants were Korean, and the two Korean windsurfing centres of Boracay Island, Windpia and Surf Station, went all out to support the event by hosting lavish dinner parties at their respective establishments.
The rest of the island also came out to celebrate, organizing nightly events such as fashion shows and exotic food-eating contests. Writes Neil Pryde rider Robby Swift on his blog: “I was invited to play a traditional welcome to the Philippines game which involved eating a semi raw egg, 2 of the spiciest pieces of sushi I have ever seen in my life and down a bottle of beer. I tried my best to win the game but my mouth couldn’t take it and I just turned bright red instead.”
Robby continues: “All in all, it was a great trip for me and I will be looking forward to coming back next year. I have told lots of my friends about it, so there could be a whole contingent of PWA racers making the trip to Boracay before long!”