Brent Symes of Tweed Heads, Australia, was brutally attacked in knee-deep water by local thugs wielding bats and bottles after he accidentally drifted too close to their surf break.
The 36-year-old is a professional surfer and says he was lucky to have escaped with his life – Symes was watching the trials ahead of the Siargao Cloud 9 Surfing Cup in the water when the attack happened.
Police in Siargao have confirmed the five thugs are now in custody and facing charges of attempted murder.
“I thought I was going to die,” said Symes, “I have been locked inside my room for three full days, scared they’re going to come after me.
“During the attack I was assaulted physically and had my surfboard destroyed and also had many cuts on my feet from defending myself in the water.”
“I believe I did nothing wrong and the incident was a misunderstanding by local radicals.”
Symes, known to many as “Red Dog,” had been competing in the event and had gone through his first heat in the international competition.
Symes said he was watching from his board in a spectator area when he accidentally drifted into the competition zone without knowing.
He said: “I was granted permission to be a water spectator during the final heat of the trials.
“During this heat I found myself out of position and caught an inside wave to reposition out of the way of competitors” – Soon after, hearing something on the PA, I decided to come onto shore and exit the break.”
That’s when things turned violent and the thugs came after him with pipes and bottles.
“Upon my return to the beach I was mauled by local guys with bats and bottles and had to defend myself until I could safely exit the situation.”
“This was attempted murder – I’m in shock,” said Symes.
The World Surfing League said it was aware of the incident and it was in talks with local authorities to determine how the violence unfolded.
After the incident, Symes was assigned a full-time security guard during the event.
The league also said it was taking precautions against further violence: “We are aware of an incident regarding one of our competitors that occurred during the non-sanctioned local trials ahead of our Philippines event,” said a spokesman.
COMMENT: This incident is just another ‘black-eye’ for the island of Mindanao – the attack comes hard on the heels of the kidnapping of four people on Samal Island.