The Olympics of surfing are coming to Costa Rica.
“There are no other words to describe it,” said José Ureña, president of the Surf Federation of Costa Rica, upon announcing that the 2009 International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games will take place in Playa Hermosa, just south of Jacó on the central Pacific coast. Some 35 countries are expected to be represented in the prestigious competition set for July 31 through Aug. 9 of next year.
“This is an Olympic game because you have more than 35 different countries and cultures, and they will become clients for our country in the future after the competition,” Ureña said. “And in each country, people are going to follow what their surfers are doing by Internet, because it is going to be broadcast live for eight days to 80 million people.”
Ureña claims it was the federation’s diligence that resulted in Costa Rica being chosen to host the games out of a field that included Brazil, South Africa and other hopeful nations.
Every year since the games’ 2003 inception, Costa Rica has sent a team to an ISA event. In addition, the country’s world-class surf and popularity as a surf tourist destination distinguished it as a host for the games, according to Ureña.
“This will blow out Costa Rica’s reputation as a surf country,” Ureña said. “At the 2006 ISA World Surfing Games, we as a team placed eighth, which gave our country a lot of exposure as a surfing nation. Now, with our waves, we have one of the best fields to organize this 2009 contest. If we send one of the best messages of what we have got … we’ll get a huge impact for years to come as a surf tourist destination.”
On a sporting level, the quality of surfers participating in the games will be unsurpassed.
The ISA scheduled the date of the games in Playa Hermosa one week after the completion of the 2009 Association of Surfing Professionals U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California, a tournament attended by hundreds of the world’s top surfers. Competitors can finish at the U.S. Open and then travel to Costa Rica. Ureña noted that this will only drive the Ticos to compete harder.
“Every country is going to try and bring their dream team,” he said. “Imagine all those kids here for two weeks, and our kids getting to surf with those guys. That’s how they are going to raise their level: watching how they prepare, train, get ready for their heats, surf. That’s how they are going to learn.”
The games and Internet broadcast will take place in front of Hermosa’s Hotel Terraza del Pacífico. Between the 35 countries’ athletes and staff, the ISA staff, federation and other personnel – about 500 people – and the thousands of national and foreign visitors who will attend the event, the games are expected to bring more than $1 million in commerce to the region.
In Jacó, the tourism hub five kilometers north of Hermosa, the Garabito Municipality, Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce and the Jacó Culture and Development Association plan to launch a campaign called “Jacó, Land of Adventures and City of Surf” to promote security and other important issues for the well-being of the national and international tourists. Among the program’s main goals are the creation of an attractive boulevard for pedestrians and cyclists, which will extend from end to end of JacóBeach, and the official inauguration of the MunicipalPark on the town’s main street.
For its part, the federation has begun a huge job with the GarabitoMunicipality on “every single detail – transport, security and where every surfer and their delegation is going to stay,” Ureña said. “We are working with the chamber of commerce, too, and looking for volunteers from the high school. We are going to need between 200 and 300 people, including volunteers.”
The ceremony officially confirming Costa Rica as the host country for the 2009 ISA World Surfing Games will take place when the Tico national surf team attends this year’s games in Costa da Caparica, Portugal, Oct. 11 to 19. It is likely that at that time Costa Rica will also be awarded the World Junior Surfing Games sometime in 2010, Ureña said.