A few days ago at the the Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup, a surfer named Brent Symes was beaten up during the trials. Exactly what happened depends on who you talk to. Symes, via email, claims the whole thing was a misunderstanding.
“I was granted permission to be a water spectator during the final heat of the trials,” he wrote. “During this heat, I found myself out of position and caught an inside wave to reposition out of the way of any competitors. Once again out of position during the last 10 minutes of the heat, I was again drifting out of the channel.”
By this time, the organizers were calling him on the PA, and he decided to catch another wave in. “Soon after hearing something over the PA,” Symes continued, “I decided to come in to the shore. Upon my return to the beach, I was mauled by at least 5 local guys with bats and bottles.” According to Brent, he defended himself until he could safely exit the situation.
“During this attack,” he explained, “I was assaulted physically and had my surfboard destroyed. I also had many cuts on my feet from defending myself inside the water. I believe I did nothing wrong and the incident was a misunderstanding by local radicals. I never impeded any competitors and I was unaware I was offending locals. I am very remorseful of the whole situation, and have since talked with various locals and the mayor and although [it was] a bad situation, they were stunned at the attack on me!”
According to Symes, there were upwards of 300 people on the beach that day, and no one stepped in, not even the event coordinators. For three full days, he was locked in his room, scared that they would come after him again. After the third day, however, the WSL sent someone over to his room and called the police so that he could get to town safely. Symes has since decided to stay and compete. The mayor offered him beach security, and the WSL offered him a backup board, as well as security to leave the island after the event.
Certainly, if it went down as Symes claims, it was the shittiest of shitty situations. Being in a foreign country and upsetting the locals via a misunderstanding is bad enough, but upsetting them badly enough to get beaten with bats and bottles in front of 300 people is much worse.
After speaking with Brent and his wife, I looked around the internet to see if I could find any other reports. The folks over at Surfing Life spoke to “a well-known and respected local” named Dencio Dizon. He told quite a different story.
“Before the start of the final heat, there was a half hour break,” he told Surfing Life. “As expected, free surfers rushed into Cloud 9, as the waves were three-to-five feet and barreling. When the final heat was about to start, the four finalists were paddling out, and all free surfers were called to paddle in or move to another break a few hundred meters away. Everyone complied right away, except for Brent Symes. Despite repeated warnings and calls by the contest officials, he just ignored them and stayed out at Cloud 9. He even took three waves during the middle of the heat! He was in the line up with the four finalists, taking waves!”
But as Brent says, the whole thing could have been a misunderstanding. It is notoriously hard for surfers in the lineup to hear the PA system, let along people on the beach. And it just got worse when Symes caught a wave in.
“When he took another wave,” Dizon continued, “he wiped out and his board flew away, as he wasn’t wearing a leg rope. That sparked a few local boys to jump in the water, running after him and his board. A few punches were thrown and his board ended up broken. Needless to say, he got what he deserved. Or in my opinion, he got lucky, because he probably deserved more after hearing of his reputation. This same guy was also here last year, and he got disqualified after two interferences in his heat. ”
Whatever actually happened–which is impossible to tell without either being there or watching video of the heat in question–it’s safe to say that Symes definitely did not get what he deserved. In a professional contest, there should be no circumstances where a competitor getting beaten up is deserved.