The consensus at the National Surf Circuit’s Torneo Banco Nacional last weekend at Playa Guiones, near Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula, was that the level of surfing was so high and the surfers so good across the board that competitors had to gear up from the very first heat, with big drive, strong focus and all the skill they could muster.
Even with three of the circuit’s biggest stars – reigning champion Diego Naranjo, Luis Vindas and Nino Myrie – away at the Latin American Surf Association (ALAS) Reef Classic in Chile, the 300 surfers inscribed in the Guiones tournament pushed hard to get through to the end.
The four who managed to make it to the final heat in the “open” category – Matías Braun, 24, of Montezuma, on the southern tip of the peninsula; Carlos Muñoz, 15, of Esterillos, on the central Pacific coast; Gilbert Brown, 25, of the southern Caribbean coast town of Puerto Viejo; and Juan Carlos Naranjo, 20, of the central Pacific town of Jacó – really earned their medals and trophies over the two days of work.
The man of the hour was Braun, who has changed his game after judging a small contest in his home turf of Montezuma and learning what the judges look for. That skill set was obvious on Sunday as the surfer often sat back and waited in his final run of heats, searching for just the right wave in the mushy surf, then selecting a good one and running it down with a series of maneuvers that wowed the guys in the tower. During the final heat, he ran a spectacular right with a serious of snaps and a reverse, then came back with another right and a 360 in the last five minutes.
“It’s all a blur,” he said, holding his trophy after the awards ceremony.
Muñoz’s second place came as no surprise to José Ureña, president of the Surf Federation of Costa Rica, who noted the young gun has been in the circuit system since he was 10 and is destined to follow in the footsteps of another “contest machine,”
namely 17-year-old Jairo Pérez of Jacó.
Muñoz hinted that his youth was perhaps to his advantage in this small surf, as his low center of gravity allowed him to find the hollow when others couldn’t, and to ride up and down the wave more easily. The youngster had a hell of a weekend across the board, also winning the boys’ division and placing fourth in juniors.
Brown, currently the top-ranked surfer in the circuit, was at a disadvantage during last weekend’s tournament, having injured his knee the previous week at Salsa Brava, the treacherous break in his hometown of Puerto Viejo. As a precaution, he opted not to surf the entire week prior, and was surfing the Guiones tournament with a brace, perhaps explaining his third-place finish.
Fourth-place Naranjo was also suffering from a knee injury, the result of hard training.
As to the high level of surfing in the circuit, Ureña said it comes down to one word: “motivation.”
“The surfers finally realize that the federation they have is the best in Latin America,” he said. “Saturday (the opening day of each circuit tournament) is no longer a day when you can relax and take it easy; you really need to work that day.”
“And then there’s someone like Diego (Naranjo),” he added. “He won the national championship last year and he is more motivated to win. Why? Because everyone is on the same level or better now.”
For information on the circuit and surf federation, visit www.surfingcr.net.