Surfing Sisters Ikit Agudo and Aping Agudo on female representation in a male-dominated surfing industry and empowering women through mentorship.
In 2022, Siargao-based artist Archie Geotina celebrated the power of women in his viral Pearls photo series. Filipina surfers rode the waves head-to-toe in Filipiniana dresses. Challenging colonial narratives of the Filipino identity while simultaneously depicting the strength of women, the photo series breaks the mold and subverts gender roles. The subjects within the series are none other than Ikit Agudo and Aping Agudo.
Siargao natives Jevy Mae F. Agudo (Ikit) and Jessah Agudo Bowling (Aping) are shedding light on female representation and diversity through longboarding. Impassioned activists and professional athletes, the Agudo sisters are redefining what it means to be women in the water.
Women making waves
Influenced by their brothers, the Agudo sisters took to the waves at fourteen years old and twenty years old respectively. The two sisters have grown into role models within the surf community–national longboarders that are changing the surfing game for women in the Philippines.
Ikit says, “I believe that it is crucial to raise awareness about female surfers’ accomplishments, to promote their representation in media, to support inclusive communities, to advocate for equal opportunities, to empower women through education and mentorship, and to foster collaboration and partnerships that promote inclusivity.”
In the hopes of creating a more balanced surfing culture, she advocates for women to be celebrated for their contributions and talents.
A surf instructor, Ikit shares the experience of surfing and “how life-changing [the] sport [can] be.”
She says, “What I love most about teaching is that the ocean is my office. I get paid doing what I love and what I’m most passionate about, I get to meet wonderful people from all over the world, and most importantly share the stoke.”
She elaborates, “I [get] the opportunity to inspire more kids, especially women to surf and be comfortable in their own skin.”
Beginning in 2019, the World Surf League has been awarding equal prize money for their male and female athletes. Facilitating more than 180 global events, the league became among the first internationally to offer equal pay regardless of gender.
Aping mentions, “I think female surfing, especially longboarding, is already getting the recognition now–the majority of the competitions have equal pay and we often have a similar number of competitors to the men.”
She adds, “It wasn’t like that when I started competing just seven years ago. The only thing I notice compared to other countries is that the Philippines lacks company sponsorship in women’s longboarding.” Both Ikit and Aping are self-funded or supported by the government.
Aping states, “It would be nice to see some of the bigger brands support some new generation female longboarders.”
Whether they’re cross-stepping or hanging ten, the Agudos continuously advocate for inclusivity within the water in the hopes that female longboarders will gain the support they deserve in the near future..
Surf craft and community
Championed by the two sisters, longboarding is known for its small purposeful movements. Likened to a hypnotic motion, the sport requires balance, agility, and high levels of skill.
At the pinnacle of the sport, the pair have won many prestigious surfing awards including the the 2018 REnextop Asian Surfing Tour (RAST) event in Bali, the 2019 World Surf League event in the United Kingdom, a handful of longboard events in the Philippines national league (earning them places in the Philippine National Longboard Team, a top 10 finish at the ISA Longboard Championships in El Salvador, a silver medal at La Union’s 2019 SEA Games and a top 3 finish at the 2023 Bali World Surf League event.
Ikit says, “[The competition that is] closest to my heart was when I bagged [the] silver medal during the 2019 SEA Games held at La Union. It was special because I got to represent our country and it was the biggest competition I’ve ever joined.”
Aping responds, “I was really proud of myself to finish [at the] top in the Philippines last year [especially because] it was my first competition after giving birth and it was hard to get back to my surfing level from before.”
She adds, “But I’m the most proud of the El Salvador event because I was the first Filipina to join the ISA event [with] a top 10 finish. The competition is [at] the highest level with the top 2 competitors from over 31 countries and we also placed in the medals for the team event.”
Known for Cloud Nine’s big barrels, Siargao’s magnetic surf scene is composed of clusters of outer reefs and inside reforms.
Growing up surrounded by a culturally rich and nurturing community has shaped the relaxed, refined longboarding styles of the Agudo sisters, as well as their values.
Fostered by Siargao’s warm and encouraging surf culture, they leaned into their proclivity to help others and continue to share their appreciation of the subtleties of cross-stepping, trimming, and nose rides with countless other Filipinas.
They demonstrate how surfing is a humble sport–pushing you to consistently learn from the environment, the waves, and those around you.
Aping mentions, “I love how close the surf community is [in Siargao]. During the pandemic, Siargao had no tourism, but the locals came together and supported each other through the difficult times.”
Surfing is heavily immersed in the senses and Siargao’s surf culture has mirrored this—spawning a way of life absorbed completely in the present moment.
Ikit remarks, ““What I love most [about] living in Siargao is that I get to spend time with my family every single day. I get to surf and teach, bike, [and] hang out at the beach with friends.” She adds, “It’s a very laid back and simple life, which the kind of life I prayed for and now I’m living it.”
Rooted in connecting with the elements, longboarding’s rhythmic movements draw out soft lines within the sea–making parallels to the slow and intentional manner of living that surrounds surfing.
Embracing the freedom that drew them to the sport, the Agudo sisters demonstrate that surfing transcends a mere pastime.
They draw attention to the core of surfing–a sense of belonging, community, and the tantalizing visceral sensation of riding a wave.
A family affair
A unique bond that goes beyond mere friendship or kinship, sisterhood to the Agudos is a source of strength and empowerment. Their relationship remains a constant throughout their surfing careers—the heart of inspiration and the touchstone for progression.
Despite being fierce competitors, they encourage personal growth within eachother. Built on shared values and experiences, their tight-knit bond exists within mutual respect and a foundation of friendship rooted in mentorship, empathy, and compassion.
Aping laughs, “ I love surfing with Ikit, she’s a really stylish surfer and we are both very competitive with each other. This helps us push each other to improve, but sometimes we do argue in the water if one of us is getting more waves than the other.” So goes the dynamic of their sisterhood.
Blissfully riding the waves and connecting with the ocean, the Agudo sisters are companions on the same journey, who aid each other to persevere in the road to an all-inclusive, forward-thinking sport.
Always sharing knowledge with eachother on how to perform tricks and perfect techniques, they have always been each other’s primary coaches.
Learning how to surf through watching videos on the internet, they relied on eachother for help since the beginning.
Ikit says, “It feels great [to share a common love for surfing] because we get to hang out doing what we love, spend lots of time surfing everyday, and travel to other countries just to surf, so the bond that we have is very special.”
A dynamic duo, their surfing journeys are further brightened by the joys of watching each other succeed. Despite different plans and individual accomplishments, they continously offer guidance to each other.
Ikit continues, “During competitions, we [usually] don’t think of [them] as ‘competitions.’ It’s more [like] free surfing to us [where we] enjoy beautiful moments.”
She adds, “We won’t be doing [them] as much [together] when we get older, especially if we have our own kids. That’s why I embrace every moment.”
Both the Agudo sisters hold significant and supportive roles in each other’s lives, demonstrating that their powerful bond is a major driving force in their success.
A lasting impression
With grit, determination, and passion in tow, their harmonious relationship paves the way for greater inclusivity and diversity within longboarding in the Philippines. By keeping an eye on the horizon, the Agudo sisters leave a lasting impression on the world of surfing. By taking to the waves to shed light on issues of female representation, the Agudo sisters celebrate how beautiful and diverse the surf world really is.
By inviting more women to surf, the Agudo sisters reveal the essence of surfing–feeling the stoke of a wave irrespective of gender.
For those interested in surfing, Ikit says, “The best advice I could give is to simply embrace your passion for surfing, seek supportive communities, find guidance and mentorship, focus on building physical fitness, learn about ocean safety, embrace challenges, and support fellow female surfers.”
Aping adds, “Before you even start surfing, it’s a good idea to learn surf etiquette. [By following the etiquette], you will gain respect from more experienced surfers and [in turn] they will be more willing to help you and share [the] waves.”
Ikit concludes, “By following these tips, you can embark on an exciting journey in surfing, improve your skills, and contribute to a positive and inclusive surfing community. And of course, always have fun–even if you wipe out.”