Filipino Surfer Gives Up Chance To Win Gold Medal At SEA Games So He Could Save Competitor From Drowning

Surfers on the ocean.
Sam Mooy / Getty Images

A Filipino surfer threw away a chance to win a gold medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games — and instead saved a life.

Roger Casugay was taking part in the surfing competition during the SEA Games when Indonesia’s Arhip Nurhidayat was thrown from his surfboard and tossed about by strong waves. As Fox Sports Philippines reported, Casugay left the competition, disqualifying himself so he could help the endangered rival.

As the report noted, Casugay rode through the waves to Nurhidayat, helping the Indonesian steady himself on the board. The two then shared the surfboard as Casugay rode back to safety. When they reached the shore, Nurhidayat grabbed the hand of his competitor and lifted it up into the air, calling him a champion.

The Indonesian surfer could have been in real danger if Casugay didn’t take quick action. The Fox Sports Philippines report noted that a strong weather system had created dangerous conditions during the event, including unusually large waves.

“Surfing has been one of the worst-hit sports at the 2019 SEA Games due to typhoon Kammuri,” the report noted. “The event has been delayed thrice already due to bad weather, with the organizers prioritizing athletes and spectator safety over everything else.”

The moment caught some viral attention after the SEA Games shared pictures on its official Facebook page.

The SEA Games are a biennial competition involving athletes from 11 nations in Southeast Asia. For Casugay, the games likely presented a good chance for him to win a major surfing event. He came into the event having recently won the 9th Guiuan Odyssey Waves and afterward had some great things to say about countryman Rico Dumaguin, who had advanced to the finals for the first time ever.

“I’m so happy! It feels good. It wasn’t an easy heat; the waves weren’t easy and local knowledge played out in the final heat,” Casugay told ABS-CBN Sports. “Rico and I are good friends and even though we’re team riders, I know he’s hungry to win, and it’s always a good challenge. He did well!”

As the Filipino news outlet GMA News Online noted, Casugay was already something of a celebrity at home before his life-saving run this week. He was featured in an October 2017 episode of the news magazine show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, which showed off his surfing and also detailed how he met his wife.

The SEA Games announced that it was putting the surfing competition on hold after the incident.