📅04 September 2012
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(photo by Jared Catahay)

By Nate San Nicolas

At five years of age, Joeito Santiago followed in the footsteps of his father Eddie, unbeknownst to him that one day, he would become the humble legend and quintessence of Guam surfing.

Throughout his childhood, Santiago didn’t have much to look forward to, as he lived a rough financial life. But despite all those troubles, he could always count on surfing to help him escape from it all.

His father was his most promising inspiration, who introduced his eager mind to a sport that later became a lifestyle. And it was a lifestyle indeed, as surfing mended the bonds of friendships and comrades. Mentors such as Adam Branch, Rob Ross, Dave Jordan, and Edd Lacauta, not only assisted Joeito to advance his skill, but were also fellow companions throughout his journey of success.

The Guam legend enjoys surfing on the island because it’s much different from surfing anywhere else. The shallow reef breaks and straight up surfing make it a challenge, for there is no beginner level, as waves start at intermediate going straight to an experienced level of surf. But this challenge doesn’t faze Guam surfers as they consistently take to the waters day in and day out.

Surfing on Guam has altered in various ways from past to present. There was, “more soul surfing back then,” as Santiago puts it.

Joeito Santiago has been long considered the best surfer on island. (courtesy photo)

The surfers of the past had more dedication and work, as equipment wasn’t always available, forcing them to make boards and parts from scratch. The competition level wasn’t as high, for it was more a way of life.

But as time changed, so did the ways of surfing.

Younger generations enjoyed the benefits of better boards, as technology advanced. The level of competition rose, and according to Santiago, “the younger generations are more inventive than the past.” Joeito is proud of the younger generations, and encourages them to exceed beyond their dreams. “Keep true to yourself, and keep true to your roots, where you came from. Keep Guam local and respect the island, ocean and land.”

On a global scale, surfing deals with a lot of respect, and it doesn’t end on Guam’s terms. Respect must be earned in the waters everywhere you go. Santiago understands that visitors enjoy surfing here on Guam, but respect still must be earned.

“Let the locals dictate the pace of the surf.”

Sessions are made to have fun, and surfing etiquette is key to maximizing that fun. All are invited to surf, says Santiago, as long as everything ends on a good note.

For Joeito, surfing still remains a lifestyle in his days and it doesn’t seem to be fading away any time soon. His visions for the future of Guam surfing is to see the younger generations set goals and dreams and surpass those aspirations. But most importantly, Joeito strongly encourages the youth to make school and getting an education their top priority, for “surfing is a lifestyle, not a job.”

He is satisfied with what he’s accomplished so far, and would like to thank all his family and friends for the support they’ve given throughout his journey. And although he’s climbing at in age, Joeito still continues be an inspiration riding the waves stronger than ever.

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