In three days of hard-core surfing in conditions that culminated in seven to eight-foot waves, Costa Rica dominated the Central American Surf Championship last weekend, finishing first in team points, followed by Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama.
Costa Ricans Federico Pilurzu, Jasón Torres, Lisbeth Vindas and Luis Vindas earned individual titles in the open, junior, women’s and best-maneuver categories respectively, distinguishing themselves among the 109 surfers who competed in the event, which took place in front of Hotel Monterrey Del Mar in Playa Esterillos, on the central Pacific coast.
“I surfed pretty hard for three pretty good days,” Pilurzu beamed after his win, “and I just took it round after round. Now, I’m going to party!”
Day three ended with beautiful waves, sunny weather and compliant wind – in complete contrast to the rain and strong winds that challenged competitors with difficult waves and low visibility on opening day.
Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and one surfer from Panama – 11-time Panamanian National Surf Champion Gary Saavedra – finished on day one to advance to round two in the open. The Salvadoran team lost out in part because their strongest surfer, Jimmy Rotherham, didn’t show for his heat, opting instead to take an advisory role.
Meanwhile, Nicaragua put three men in the next round, thanks to powerhouse surfing by Gerardo Miranda, Roque Calderón and Augusto Chamorro. Saavedra and Guatemalan Cristian Méndez also advanced. Competition was intense in the open category on day two.
“This is not an easy contest, and there are no easy heats. I’m just glad to be here,” Saavedra said.
At the end of the day, Costa Rican phenoms Jason Torres and Jairo Pérez were showing everyone their spray. Both placed in the junior and open quarterfinals, facing their own surfing mentors. Pérez took down Luis Vindas in a stunning display of skill, and Torres dominated Nino Myrie.
On the third and final day of competition, Torres and Pilurzu faced off in the competition’s nail-biting final heat.
Shortly after they paddled out, Torres, who surfed a record six heats that day, was back on shore with a cramped right leg, flat on his back for 10 minutes, getting massaged and doing breathing exercises.
“He’s like a machine that needed more lubrication,” head judge Wade Sharp of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) explained. “It was grueling.”
With eight minutes to go, Torres got back in the water, caught a wave to the beach, ran up to the staging area, paddled back out, caught another, did four maneuvers, got barreled, rode to the beach and finished up the heat.
“I did too many heats; my muscles cramped up, and I cried like a baby,” Torres said, after happily ceding first place to Pilurzu in the open but still slam-dunking the junior title.
“Now, I just want to be humble,” he added, despite the fact that he is now a triple threat: Central American Junior Champion, Pan-American Junior Champion and Costa Rican Junior Champion.
Even with all his international tournament experience, Pilurzu’s win wasn’t easy. “I was kind of nervous out there in the water because I didn’t know what was happening on the beach with Jason (Torres) and, at the same time, there were no waves the first 10 minutes,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I thought I was going to get knocked out of this contest in the first heat. I didn’t think I was going to make it all the way to the end.”
Lisbeth Vindas said she was happy with her win in the women’s category, especially with 13-year-old Tica Nataly Bernold surfing at her tail.
Next up for Vindas is the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) U.S. Open, “because I gotta represent my country,” she said. “This was a really good first tournament. We showed that Costa Rica has a lot of talent and now we have new goals – we have to carry on with these contests because we have to get more Central American countries to start putting people on the WQS.”
Last weekend’s championship also laid the groundwork for unifying the five Central American surfing organizations under the Central American Surfing Federation.
“The meeting among the five federation heads was good, very positive,” said Julio Mejicanos, president of the Surfing Association of Guatemala.
He went on to explain that the structure of the new federation would be a committee made up of the presidents of all five groups, plus the Mexican Surfing Federation, acting equally. The next meeting will take place Oct. 14-22 in Huntington Beach, California, at the International Surfing Association’s 2006 World Surfing Games.
Sharp said he is impressed with the success of the first Central American Surf
“I’m really stoked with the finish,” he said.
“I’ve seen the surfing level here in Costa Rica triple – that means we are accomplishing our goals. It’s the greatest experience for Nicaragua to come and place second, and I plan to help Guatemala and the others with training advice. These other countries now have the motivation to press on.
“We accomplished history and we formed a bond between the countries for the love of our sport and pura vida.”