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Thrilla in Manila - Austin Hair in The Philippines


Thrilla in ManilaThe Philippines is becoming a top destination for wakeboarding worldwide. With its continually warm tropical climate, it's no wonder people choose to come here to escape the wintertime blues of their home countries. I was no exception. I got the chance to escape winter weather and come ride in the Philippines this November in both the IWWF Cable World Championships and the King of Wake Republic. My trip was a two-week excursion that I will not forget.

When I arrived in Manila, my friend, Maria from the Russian team, took me to Clark City where the World Championships was being hosted. The small city is bursting with life and energy. There was a huge US military base here years ago, which paved the way for one of the largest red light districts in the country. If you end up on the wrong side of town, you’ll quickly be approached by street vendors, homeless people and many of the young "ladies of the night." Here is not a bad place to go bargain shopping for knock off watches and bootlegged movies. If you do end up here, it’s important to keep your guard up or you’ll find your money quickly vanishing.

Thrilla in ManilaThe weather was a constant 80 to 90 degrees in the day and night, which can be both good and bad. In the day this is awesome when you are wakeboarding. At night, it can be a little sweltering. The world championships were held at the Deca Wake Park. There were over 250 riders competing. The park was fun and it had five different features, including two kickers and three rails. The resort was awesome, as well. Here you could get massages for the equivalent of $25 US for an hour, which was a rip off if you considered you could get one off-site for $12. Naturally, we got a massage off-site everyday.

I was joined by both friends and family and we decided to make the most of the trip by visiting places recommended by the travel center at the resort. We decided to go to the nearby volcanic hot springs. At a price of 3,000 pesos, it sounds expensive. When you realize that this is only $70 dollars, it's not so hard to swallow. The tour started by driving through the village in the mountains to get to the riverbed. On the drive we saw the Filipino culture first hand. It's so different than the U.S. with tons of people living in much smaller vicinities and so many kids constantly playing together in the street.

Thrilla in ManilaAfter a bit of driving we arrived at the riverbed. Here we took a jeep for a 20-minute drive using only the riverbed as a road to the middle of the jungle where the hot springs were located. It looked like someone had taken the backyard of a five star resort and placed it right in the middle of the jungle. It was beautiful, isolated and completely surreal. We relaxed in the hot springs for about an hour before it was time to go. After the hot springs, they drove us to a spa at the mouth of the river bed. Here they covered us in warm volcanic sand and then gave us a mud bath to cleanse our skin. The day was concluded with a giant feast of fresh Filipino food. Although it was hard, I was beginning to adapt to the Filipino culture.

Worlds went pretty well the first day. Then, I had an unfortunate fall in the second round on day two. I found myself with some free time earlier than expected, so I drove three hours south to the Republic Cable Park, located in Calamba City. We drove straight through the traffic in the heart of Manila during the morning hours to arrive just after lunch time. I decided I would stay here until the next week when they were hosting a WWA contest.

Thrilla in ManilaRepublic is a great cable park. It’s got several unique features. The thing that I liked best about the park was the tension for the air tricks. Fellow team Jobe rippers Declan Clifford and Moti Levi met up with me to ride at the cable. We had a sick shred and everyone was trying new tricks. I learned nose grab S-mobes on the cable and almost landed an air Pete on the two-tower system. Dec was getting switch S-mobes on the two-tower system and landed every trick in the book at the full-size cable. Moti was going huge and taking his poked stalefish roll to blinds to a new level.

We decided to take advantage of our new location by going scuba diving in Tagaytay. After a two-hour drive, we arrived at the beautiful Eagle Point resort. I’d only ever been scuba diving three times and I was blown away by the beautiful fish and coral reefs. They say the Philippines has some of the best scuba diving in the world. For a mere $100 US we got a practice dive, two chartered dives, an instructor and full equipment rental. This would have cost $300 in most dive locations around the world.

Austin Hair and Daniel GrantWhen I went back to Republic, I started riding for four to five hours a day. Normally, I can’t ride for that long for more than one day without being extremely sore and tired. However, I had come prepared. I brought freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and protein by a company called Living Fuel that I took with me to the park. Freeze dried means it’s in powder form, so it’s light and compact until you add water. I haven’t found anything better to eat after a good work out. All the extra nutrients and protein it had made me recover faster and gave me more energy to keep riding longer, so I was able to put together a pretty good run for the contest.

Thrilla in ManilaI had a stand up pass the first round, putting in the S-mobe, a switch Pete Rose and few other tricks, advancing to the next round. On the final day, I landed some more of the same tricks, which put me in the top 10. Daniel Grant and James Windsor ended up in the head to head final round with Grant just barely edging Windsor out for first place.

Going to the Philippines was an eye-opening experience. I was disappointed to get eliminated early in the Worlds in Clark City. However, after seeing how many of the Filipinos lived first hand, I had a much greater appreciation for all of the benefits of an industrialized country. In America, nearly everyone has their own car, access to education and healthy food options on a daily basis. Although wakeboarding is important in my life, I learned that life is great regardless. Wakeboarding is a bonus.

Austin is sponsored by JobeVita CocoSupraSmithCape FearZinkaSage and Living Fuel.


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