Lost at sea: What sort of surfboard drifted 8,000km from Hawaii to the Philippines

21 Sep 2020 11:33 AM
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When big wave surfer Doug Falter lost his board in a wipeout in Hawaii, his best hope was for a local fisherman to pick it up. He never imagined it will be found a lot more than 8,000 kilometres away in the southern Philippines.

More than 2 yrs after watching his pale blue custom-shaped board disappear in the huge swell of Waimea Bay on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu, Falter was alerted via social media that it had been found near to the island of Sarangani.

And the brand new owner - local primary schoolteacher and aspiring surfer Giovanne Branzuela - was happy to give it back again to him.

"When I saw the picture of it, I couldn't believe it, I thought it had been a tale almost," Falter told AFP.

"I was sure that the board could not be found again."

Branzuela, who bought the badly weathered surfboard from his neighbour two months ago for 2,000 pesos (Dh152), said fishermen had found it floating in the sea in August 2018 - half a year after Falter lost sight of it.

They thought it may have fallen off a passing yacht and sold it to Branzuela's neighbour for a couple dollars.

Despite months drifting across the Pacific Ocean, the name of the board's shaper, Hawaii-based Lyle Carlson, was still obvious on the now-yellowish surface.

Curious, Branzuela looked him up on Facebook and sent him a picture of the board. Carlson shared the picture on Instagram, tagging Falter.

"It proved it's a surfboard from Hawaii. I couldn't believe it myself," said Branzuela.

"It's been my dream to learn to surf and ride the big waves here," he added.

"For now I could use his surfboard. I told him I will take good care of it."

The pair have already been chatting on Facebook and Falter plans to visit the tiny island to retrieve his board after coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted.

"That board meant so much if you ask me as a result of my accomplishments onto it," said Falter, a commercial photographer who used surfing about 15 years back in Florida before moving to Hawaii.

"It was my first big wave surfboard custom shaped for myself. I surfed it on the largest days I've ever surfed in my own life", he said, like the 2016 Eddie Aikau big wave surf contest in Waimea Bay when the swell was 20 metres high.

Falter said he really wants to give Branzuela a beginners surfboard in trade for his and show him how to catch waves around Sarangani and neighbouring Balut island.

For the time being, Falter shares short YouTube videos on surfing basics and is raising money to send supplies to Branzuela's school.

"It's an excuse for me to visit the Philippines and visit and basically complete the story," said Falter.

"I think it might be a great ending to instruct him how exactly to surf."