The Costa Rican surfing juggernaut has not slowed down since the national team returned from the World Surfing Games in October in Huntington Beach, California, toting medals and ranked eighth in the world.
In its seventh year of countrywide competition, the Costa Rican Surf Federation has now completed two dates of the 2006-07 National Surf Circuit. Based on last year’s overwhelming number of registered competitors for each circuit date, this year the federation broke up a few of the area tournaments into two separate events. The result is a schedule of nine contests in the six-month, seven-beach tournament.
The kickoff on Nov. 18 and 19 was Copa Mango Boca Barranca, which focused solely on the younger divisions, including Juniors (18 years and under), Boys (16 years and under), Grommets (14 years and under), Mini-Grommets (12 years and under) and Junior Women’s (18 and under).
At the contest in Boca Barranca, near the Pacific port of Puntarenas, reigning Costa Rican National Grommets Champion Carlos Muñoz from Playa Esterillos, on the central Pacific coast, took first place. Meanwhile two-time National Boys Surf Champion Jairo Pérez of Jacó, north of Esterillos, who last month returned from California with a first-place Men’s title from a U.S. National Scholastic Surfing Association contest in Encinitas, jumped up one category to win the top spot in the Juniors division.
“This season, I am competing with a strong desire to grow,” Pérez said. “The experience in California helped me so much. I had been training here a lot, and I got a desire to compete outside of the country. My goal is to always push myself to do as much as I can to improve.”
A week later at the Pinilla Classic, the season premiere of the Open, Women’s, Bodyboard, Longboard and Masters (35 and up) categories in Playa Avellanas, on the northern Pacific coast, small waves and poor conditions turned to an advantage for area resident Isaac Vega.
“It was very difficult, but I waited for the right waves,” said the Tamarindo surfer and reigning 2005-06 Costa Rican National Surf Champion, adding that this tactic and “being calm” contributed to his receiving first place in the Open, a trophy he also won at the same date of the circuit last year.
Thirteen-year-old Nataly Bernold, also of Tamarindo, claimed victory in the Women’s division of the Pinilla Classic, just one week after winning the Junior Women’s category in Boca Barranca. Bernold won because of her fearless attacks, and she continues to be one of the most promising athletes of the circuit.
Antonio Pilurzu, president of the Costa Rican Surf Federation, noted that each date of the circuit so far – and for the rest of the year – features a new surfing category, Novices, which is open to those he calls “lovers of the waves” who have never competed in a contest before.
“We adopted this measure to get new blood to appear at the contests,” he said. “It’s important that we maintain a process of constant renovation.”
In other surfing news, Guatemala has turned to Costa Rica’s surfers to help strengthen its competitive edge, and the federation has proved happy to assist. On Nov. 18, Yeffrey Rojas, head judge of the National Surf Circuit and Costa Rica’s only International Surfing Association-certified official, went on a “brotherhood mission” to Central America’s northernmost country, where he ran a judges’ clinic and observed part of the 2006-07 National Surf Circuit in Guatemala.
Rojas’ trip to Guatemala, along with the July 2006 Central American Surf Championships, which included Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama, is another step toward uniting the Central American surf world. Guatemala’s circuit now has a ratings system in place to select a Guatemalan national junior surf team to go to Costa da Caparica in Portugal May 4 to 13 for the 2007 Quiksilver International Surfing Association World Junior Surfing Championships.
“Costa Rica wants to promote surfing in all of Central America, so our federation is in a position to help Guatemala,” Pilurzu said. “When we talk to Julio Mejicanos (president of the Guatemalan Surf Association), we talk the same language. Julio is a guy who is really helping all the surfers there. In the surf world, if you don’t have a guy who is passionate and helping all the guys with his heart, you can’t get the results you need. And he’s getting the results.”