San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tico Juniors Meet Goals at World Championship

Just after the Costa Rican National Junior Surf Team pulled its highestever placement in the 2007 International Surfing Association (ISA) World Junior Surfing Championships, held May 4-13 in Costa de Caparica, Portugal, Costa Rica’s Playa Hermosa, on the central Pacific coast, was announced as a finalist for three world championship surf games.

Nataly Bernold, Jairo Peréz,Anthony Flores, José Calderon, Anthony Segura, Carlos Muñoz, Mykol Torres, Danny Bishko, Debbie Zec, Lupe Galluccio and Rudy Jiménez gathered at the awards ceremony and listened as ISA president Fernando Aguerre placed them 14th out of 28 countries.

Then, Aguerre announced that on June 15, the location of the 2008 World Junior Surfing Championships would be chosen from among France, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

Jose Ureña, president of the Costa Rican Surf Federation, told The Tico Times that Playa Hermosa is also in the running for the debut of the first-ever Pan American Junior Surfing Games, set for 2008. Previously, the juniors have competed along with the rest of the divisions, as they will this November at the 8th Pan American Surfing Games in Iquique, Chile, and as they did at the Panamericano de Surf Peru 2006, where Jason Torres won the junior gold medal for Costa Rica.

If the World Junior Surfing Championships end up in Playa Hermosa next year, it’s likely that the 2010 ISA World Surfing Games will make their way to that spot as well. That’s the granddaddy of all surf contests, in which countries from around the globe vie for medals.

The federation is in talks with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) and Hermosa area hotels, businesses and surf companies, and is looking into necessary commitments for the ISA, doing everything possible to get these events here, according to Ureña.

At the top of the grid in the contest in Portugal was Australia with 6,508 points, followed by Brazil with 5,018 points, Hawaii with 4,392 points, New Zealand with 4,166 points and the United States with 4,148 points. The Ticos earned a respectable 2,280 points for a middle ranking.

Ureña’s goal at the outset of the competition of 261 surfers from around the globe was for his team to rank in the top half of the chart. As team coach, he spent an hour and a half in meetings every day with the surfers, reviewing heats and developing strategy.

He looked to Pérez, the 2006-07 National Surf Circuit Junior Champion and the elder statesman of the team, for help in accomplishing the task.

“Jairo was the leader of that team,” Ureña said. “He’s the oldest and is the best competitor under 18 in Costa Rica. He was a great example to the younger kids in the way he focused, prepared and trained.”

In the end, Pérez, Bernold and Muñoz ended up in the semifinals of the secondchance “repercharge” rounds in their respective categories.

“Keep in mind that both Bernold and Muñoz are just 14 years old and surfing against kids older than they are,” Ureña said.

“The difference is huge, but they still ended up in those semifinals and have abilities well beyond their ages.

“Also, in the junior games, the competitors are the best in the world. In the older games, the ISA World Games, you are not necessarily getting the best competitors on every team because the athletes are off doing the World Qualifying Series or World Championship Tours.”

The task at hand was even more daunting considering that the water in Portugal was cold, and that 90% of the Costa Rican team had never before competed in wetsuits, which added weight to their frames and restricted their movements. Muñoz reported that he could not feel his feet, that they were “frozen.”

Nevertheless, Muñoz, on his premier international competitive trek, ended up the top-ranked Tico, ranking 25th overall in the boys’ category.

“The first goal we had was to be among the 15 best countries on the planet, and without a doubt we surpassed that objective,” Ureña said.“We are very thankful to the families and parents and to the Costa Rican Sports and Recreation Institute (ICODER), because without their support we would not be able to attend these types of events.”

While Costa Rica waits for the ISA to make its decisions about Playa Hermosa, the federation has plans in place for a national Triple Crown surf contest for June, July and August. The first will take place June 9-10 in Dominical, on the southern Pacific coast.

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