Nothing adds insult to injury like the pain of losing a beloved surfboard in a wipeout.
When photographer/surfer Doug Falter lost his custom-made Lyle Carlson surfboard in huge swells off Waimea Bay, Hawaii, he thought his favorite surfboard was gone for good.
Falter had just caught his seventh rad wave when he wiped out, and the surfboard leash came off his ankle. He swam after the board with all his might, but it disappeared from sight. After running across the bay and scaling huge rocks to try to get a good vantage point, Falter knew it was a lost cause.
Still, as a last resort, he took to social media, posting pictures in the hopes a sailor or fisherman might spot it on the water.
“I was really upset,” he wrote. “I managed to catch the biggest waves of my life on this board. That’s why it meant so much to me.”
Falter had heard of surfboards washing up in Kauai, but he never imagined his surfboard would show up 5,200 miles away in the Philippines.
Months after the surfboard was lost, a Filipino man purchased the long-lost surfboard from a fisherman for $40 because he wanted to learn how to surf.
Branzuela, a school teacher in the Philippines, after finding out about Lyle Carlson’s lost board, reached out to him and informed him that his board had been found.
“When I saw the picture of it, I couldn’t believe it,” Falter said. “I thought it was a joke.”
In the picture, his surfboard was water-worn, faded, and yellowed from months at sea.
Nonetheless, Falter recognized his custom-made “baby.”
“This is 5,200 miles away!” Falter wrote in utter shock. “[But] as bummed as I was when I lost it, now I am happy to know my board fell into the hands of someone wanting to learn the sport. I couldn’t imagine a better ending to this story than to see the sport of surfing begin in a place where nobody surfs.”
Now, Falter has an excuse to visit the Philippines.
He wrote on social media that he would have flown out immediately if it weren’t for travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
In the meantime, he has decided to raise money for Branzuela and his 144 students.
“If it weren’t for travel restrictions I would have raised money to bring boards for learning and surf supplies,” Falter said. “I could teach him how to surf and hopefully a few of his 144 students … For now the most I can do is raise money to send him a goodie package with wax, leashes, books and magazines for his students to learn English.”
For now, Branzuela will have to practice on his own.
“It’s been my dream to learn to surf and ride the big waves here. For now I can use his surfboard,” Branzuela said. “I told him I will take good care of it.”
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