The Surfer with a Heart of Gold: Roger Casugay
Two days before his 27th birthday, Roger Casugay lets his life story unfold with admirable modesty. A quick chat with the newest rider for KS Boardriders reveals that he is in possession not only of the SEA Games Men’s Longboarding gold medal but also, a heart of gold. Here are things you probably didn’t know about La Union surfer, Roger Casugay.
1. Roger has grit-- or a gift for turning things around no matter the circumstances.
Life can be especially cruel if you don’t grow up knowing your biological parents. “I was given away when I was just 6 months old,” Roger says without a hint of despair. He had accepted that although the beginning of his life did not work to his advantage, it was entirely up to him to turn things around.
“I was raised by an Uncle whom I called my ‘Grandpa.’ He treated me like his own son and I will be forever grateful to him,” shares Roger. “He didn’t live to see me at the SEA Games. But he was with me that day and I know that he is still with me now.”
2. Beyond street smarts, Roger also relies on his strong instincts to get through life.
In the water, it is easy to see that Roger is in sync with the ocean. His movements are dialed and always in the right trim. Most surfers struggle to tap into that elusive flow but with Roger, it is second nature. It is instinct.
“When you surf, you shouldn’t wait for the perfect wave,” he remarks with waterman wisdom. “You have to be able to surf a wave perfectly even if that wave isn’t perfect.”
The San Juan local applies the same philosophy to pretty much everything in life. When times are tough, be tougher. Train a little harder. He puts emphasis on training because it is the foundation of discipline. Today, he continues to train with the Philippine team even with the national surfing tour on hold.
“One thing I learned from visiting my sister in Germany and my fiance, Lisa, in the Netherlands is that people really train themselves to accomplish their goals in Europe. Not all are born wealthy.” While some have a tendency to assume that all Europeans are rich, Roger believes that you must train your instincts, find your drive, and work for everything you want out of life-- no matter where in the world you are.
3. Roger knows what real commitment is all about.
The pandemic has separated Roger from his long-time partner, Lisa Verweij, who has spent the lockdown on the other side of the world. But if there’s something Roger is good at, it’s surviving a challenge. He isn’t fazed by distance or the virus.
“Lisa taught me how to become this version of myself that I like. I changed a lot because of her. So I feel that Lisa is here, always.”
Although their wedding plans had to be rescheduled, Roger kept himself preoccupied with building his and Lisa’s future house. “We want to make a beautiful life with our dogs,” he beams.
Every day, one could see Roger walking Rosa, Ola, and Pablo on the beach. Each dog is bigger than the average-sized dog and Roger has not faltered in his commitment to training them.
Another indication of Roger’s heightened sense of commitment can be seen in his sustained cycling habit. During the lockdown, La Union witnessed a boom in local bike tourism. While not all bike enthusiasts could keep up with the lifestyle, Roger rides his fixie everywhere until today, sometimes with Ola or Pablo running beside him.
4. Roger treats the elderly with deep respect.
“I learned how to love biking because of Lisa’s father.” Roger recounts how they cycled together in Europe. Lisa’s dad, whom he considers one of his mentors, also told Roger to “be a sportsman, not just an athlete.”
“You know, I love old people,” Roger says this and his sincerity floods the room.
Aside from learning from his elders’ “precious stories,” Roger also recalls how he cared for his Grandpa during the final stages of his life. “Everything he did for me before, I was also able to do for him.”
5. Roger keeps his inner child alive.
Despite the circumstances, Roger says he believes he still had an awesome childhood. Carrying a lifetime of lessons with him in his twenties, he speaks with maturity but his spirit remains child-like and free. He points to a gelato tattoo on his arm and grins. “This reminds me of Italy.”
And like a kid, Roger is happiest when he shares his joy with others. Right after winning the SEA Games, he asked Luke Landrigan and a couple of friends to help him mount a friendly surfing competition for the kids in Dalumpinas and Lingsat, the neighboring towns of the popular Urbiztondo.
“I wanted to bring surfing closer to the kids who aren’t on the main beach.” Today, his vision remains. The 1st Salty Kids Grom Comp was held on Roger’s birthday and he is looking forward to making it a yearly event once it is safe.
Follow @roger_casugay on Instagram to know more about what makes him a champion with a heart of gold!