A lost surfboard from Hawaii found its way 8,000 kilometers away to Sarangani, Mindanao—and now a school will benefit

Published September 23, 2020, 12:41 PM

by Marie Buenaventura

When Giovanne Branzuela, a teacher from the Ubas Elementary public school in Sarangani, Davao Occidental first saw the surfboard—he wanted it. The young school head has always wanted to learn how to surf. After all, the province gets good waves between October and March.

But his friend, Norsion Mahaling, a fisherman who bought it for P500 from a man named Sally, the one who found it, didn’t want to sell it to him just yet. Norsion had a child who wanted to surf. 

“Punong puno ng shells ang surfboard nung unang makita (The surfboard were full of shells when they first saw it),” Giovanne tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Nakapulupot pa sa fishnet (It was wound around the fishnet).”

Norsion—nor Giovanne and Sally—could not remember when the surfboard first washed up on Sarangani’s shores, but it was sometime in late 2018. It was still OK, but had lost its center fin. All that Giovanne can remember is that he first saw the surfboard in 2019—and he has been pining for it.

In July this year, Norsion decided to sell it to Giovanne—and so Giovanne finally got the surfboard. Except that the honest teacher, upon closer look, realized that there was a name on the surfboard. He concluded someone must’ve lost it, maybe one of those tourists who come for surf season—so he decided to shoot a message on FB to Lyle Carson. On FB, he saw Lyle Carson holding a similar surfboard, and thought he found the right man.

He was mistaken. The name wasn’t the owner’s name, but of the master surfboard maker (known as a “shaper”) who created the custommade surfboard for the real owner. Lyle Carson’s surfboards have test ridden Grant Twiggy Baker, Jensen Hassett, Kala Alexander, Garret McNamara

Unaware of this, Giovanne sent Lyle a photo of his surfboard, and told him he found his surfboard in the Philippines

Lyle posted the message on his FB and tagged the real owner—a guy from Hawaii named Doug Falter, who lost it two years ago, in Feb 2018. Doug thought some local guy in Hawaii would find it—he never expected it to travel all the way to the Philippines. 

A special surfboard

Doug messaged Lyle—and an unlikely friendship was born. 

“I told Doug that if there was a way for me to return, I would do it,” Giovanne says. “But because of the pandemic, he can’t travel here yet. He said I could use it if I wanted to in the meantime.”

Giovanne says the board means a lot to Falter, a photographer from Florida who moved to Hawaii. “Dough tells me that board is special not just because it was expensive but because he had many achievements in it,” he says. This board is Doug’s first custom shaped one, and he has won some of the biggest surfing competitions in Hawaii on it. 

The two plan to meet—and Doug will be handing Giovanne his own beginner’s surfboard and teach him how to surf in Sarangani and in neigboring Balut Island. Giovanne, while waiting for Doug, says he will be watching YouTube tutorial videos, since surfing lessons are expensive anyway.

Another fruitful result of the surfboarding washing up ashore—Giovanne has found himself a donor for his small and struggling public school, where he has recently been named head. “Doug is very kind,” he says. “When I mentioned that I needed unused magazines and storybooks for supplemental readings in class, he readily said he would like to help, and is now conducting a fundraiser so he could help our schoolchildren here. As soon as he can travel, he promised to come get his surfboard, teach me to surf using my beginner surfboard, and of course meet the kids in school, and help them.”