On a far flung island, deep in the tropical recesses of the Phillipines, a village wakes to howls of ecstatic joy.

“I Woke up the first morning, went down, walked out the boardwalk and we were just seeing perfect spitting barrels,” remembers Ty Watson, of what greeted competitors in the World Qualifying Series 3000 event held at Cloud Nine in the Phillipines.

“Heaps of guys have never experienced anything like that. They’re just running down every day going, ‘Arrrrrghhh, it’s barrelling off its head!’” he says.

From day one until the event’s conclusion the waves were mindless - four to six foot, not a drop out of place, and pumping. An experienced and well-travelled competitor, having finished third in the coveted Australian Junior Series, surfed World Junior Championships in Keramas, Canggu and Narrabeen, and dozens of WQS heats around the world, Ty is well positioned to judge the caliber of the waves in this event and he’s in no doubt.

“Definitely the best waves I’ve had for a WQS,” he says, “Usually a ‘QS is one foot onshore Japan or something.”

With some similarities to the waves down his end of the Australian east coast, Ty excelled in the conditions on his way to a quarterfinal finish. His run was ended by the event’s standout, local hero, John Mark Tokong, who would finish runner-up in the final to American Skip Mcullough, a landscaper from California.

“That was sick. He surfs and reads the wave so good, he’s obviously got had more barrels out there than anyone ever and he’s only about five foot tall so if he’s on a four foot wave it looks six to eight foot,” says Ty of Tokong.

Made up of an eclectic field of local legends, cash-prize mercenaries, tube pigs and up-and-coming talent, the event is part of a new and improved second-tier World Surf League Qualifying Series which gives the more nomadic, core QS surfers to chase points throughout some of the world’s best and most remote locations - including Chile, Indonesia, Mexico and the Phillipines.

In many ways it resembles a return to the glory days of pro surfing - the beginnings of the ASP Dream Tour concept in the mid-nineties when the world’s best were taken out of crumbly, out-of-season European and Japanese beach breaks, and dropped in mindless Grajagan.

“Last year I went to Chile and did the Arica comp. It was sick, such a good experience, the waves weren’t amazing but you could see the potential. Apparently this year the waves were really good, the swell direction was perfect and all the boys scored some sick barrels. So you’re travelling to these good spots and getting barrelled for comps instead of travelling halfway around the world and surfing one or two foot waves,” says Ty, adding, “It’s pretty cool. For me I prefer to go to waves that are barrelling than beachies and stuff.”

When Ty first came to Cloud Nine ten years ago, the journey was a “mission,” requiring a plane and two long, slow, crowded ferries. These days it’s a “mellow” two flights from Sydney with island now well on its way to becoming a surf tourism hub, complete with a bustling restaurant, cafe, and motorbike culture.

“All the boys were partying, they were going out every night,” says Ty.

“They were calling it better than Bali,” he says.

During the event, Ty’s accomodation came complete with a nine hole golf course and dreamy north-facing pool looking out over the jungle toward the ocean. With the help of his sponsor, a local car dealer on the NSW (the Dedley Cecil’s), and the contest winnings he pocketed from his quarterfinal finish, he broke even from the trip. Not bad for a week in paradise surfing mindless waves with three other guys.

“You wanna be on the Primes to qualify on tour to be in contention but it definitely is such an awesome vibe on those 3000s when the waves are pumping. Everyone is in good spirits. There’s no bad vibes going around. It’s pretty cool,” he says. - Jed Smith