San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tico Junior Surf Team Represents Country

AS was the case the year before at theworld championship in Tahiti, the hopes of Costa Rica’s national junior surf team rested on the maneuvers of Jairo Pérez, from the central Pacific beach town of Jacó, who by dayfive of the 2005 Quiksilver International Surfing Association’s World Junior SurfingChampionship in Huntington Beach, California, was the last Tico standing in the competition.While his remaining teammates cheered and waved the Costa Rican flag from shore, Pérez made an excellent start in round four of the Under 16 Repercharge,until two minutes from the end of the heat, when another surfer locked the youngster from catching the wave heneeded to get the points to pass.This lack of defensive experience led to the Costa Rican team’s elimination from the championship, underscoring Tico greenness at this top competitive level.YET Pérez, Ronald Brown (who, earlier in the day, lost his second-place position in round three if Under 18 Repercharge because Lady Luck served up a beautiful wave on the outside for his competitor to score high on while he watched from the inside in shock) and the rest of the team all took something away from the championship that would advancetheir skills. And, to a man, these athleteswere proud to represent their countryagainst the best junior surfers in theworld.The Oct. 8 Parade of Nations was the boys’ first chance to meet all their counterparts.Lined up on the Huntington Beach pier, the Tico team, along with legendary surfer and part-time Tamarindo resident Robert August, marched with the Costa Rican flag through the contest area, and then poured sand brought from Costa Rican beaches into a large box, tomix with sand from other contestants’ homelands.August turned out to be the brace of the Tico visitors’ trip. Not only did all 12 of the delegation stay at his home, but, according to Antonio Pilurzu, head of Costa Rica’s Federación de Surf, “He cooked every night for them, gave them transportation and wetsuits, bought them gifts, and on Monday bought all of the kids tickets to go to Disneyland. There is no other surfer like him.”THE competition began Oct. 9. On opening day, the guys found excellent conditions that included six- to eight-foot waves, sunshine and a little wind. As the week progressed, the swell reduced.Jacó’s Juan Carlos Naranjo was the first Tico to get into the water. He was a little nervous, but surfed better that day than all of the Tico team, coming in second in his heat against Australia’s Thomas Wimmer, who placed first, Barbados’ Jonathan Reece who came in third, and Uruguay’s Marco Giorgi, who took fourth.Next, Isaac Vega from Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast, surfing for thefirst time in an event of this magnitude,was also uneasy, and didn’t surf at his truelevel. Even so, he qualified with an impressive score and a second-place finish,between first-place Mitchell Colebornfrom Australia and Barbados’ Nial Thomas in third.Up next was Brown, from the southern Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo, who started with a regular performance on an unimpressive wave.Although this young surfer has the skills to shine in a challenging tournament of this kind, in his first heat out he didn’t evolve as he has in Latin American competitions.Fortunately, he showed enough skill to pass to the next heat, placing second between Australia’s Timothy Wrench in first and Barbados’ Eneko Nichols wellbehind him in third.FOR Jacó’s Juan Calderón, it was a different story. The youngster had difficulties in his first international commitment, struggling to bring forth his power in the maneuvers. After being eliminated, he got a second chance with the Repercharge Round, but still did not pass. Ironically, it was Calderón’s friend from Costa Rica,Giovanni Perini, surfing for Italy, who beat him out for the second-place spot.Australia’s Tim Stevenson won first placeand Barbados’ Dane Tuach was fourth. (Perini went down in the next round, and lost his Repercharge as well.)In the Under 16 contests that day,Derek Gutiérrez from Quepos, south of Jacó, had an energetic debut. Courage and a willingness to take risks won him second place behind Australia’s Joshua Bull. He wavered in the next round against strong challengers Clay Marzo from Hawaii and Brazilian Miquel Pupo, and ended up in Repercharge, where he faltered and was taken out of the competition.Quepos’ Ariel Aguerro showed excellent form but was overcome by the more experienced Australian surfer Jamie Skilling, as well as Tico teammate Pérez, in the opening heat of the Under 16 competition.He rallied in his second-chance Repercharge, but faltered in round two of that group. Nikola Ruhlow from Playa Carrillo, on the northern Pacific coast, suffered the same fate, placing last in his Under 16 heat behind Australian David Delroy Carr and Barbados’ Lewis St.John, and faltering in Repercharge.REGARDLESS of individual results, when it was announced last Sunday that Costa Rica had placed 21st in the competition, all eight members of the country’s national junior surf team stood proud, having trained hard, surfed hard and represented their country with pride and dignity.Most importantly, the Tico team fared better than in last year’s championship in Tahiti, where they were best remembered for inexperience in the water and on land.On Monday, while organizing the luggage for the trip home, Pilurzu summarized the strengths and weaknesses shown over the week.“The kids had a disconnection from their coach when they were competing,” he said. “They were also very intimidated, and need to learn to be more aggressive,to just take away waves from others legally.On the plus side, they had an unbelievableexperience, and got to see what internationalsurfing and competition are all about.”“Next time,” he added, “these kids will see that only the guy who works hard, trains a lot, surfs great and really wants it will get to the next competition and win. That’s our next step.”

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