The latest date of the 2008-2009 National Surf Circuit, the Torneo Witch’s Rock, held last weekend in Tamarindo on the northern Pacific coast, was significant for two reasons.
First, Jason Torres of the Central Pacific town of Jacó claimed his second consecutive circuit victory, affording him a strong No. 1 ranking that leaves him better poised to take the national title at the finals in May. And second, International Surfing Association (ISA) Managing Director Stephanie Keith culminated a visit to Costa Rica by checking out the circuit in Tamarindo, after meeting with the Surf Federation of Costa Rica and scouting sites for the ISA World Surfing Games, to be held in July and August in the Central Pacific’s Playa Hermosa.
Torres, 19, crowned a weekend of what José Ureña, president of the surf federation, called “conservative” surfing due to Tamarindo’s traditional January Papagayo winds.
They blew hard offshore both days of the competition and limited Torres’ aerial arsenal.
Despite the challenges, he held strong, playing it close to the vest, and at less than two minutes managed a nice right with his trademark 360 tail slide before exiting with a broken surfboard nose.
“I feel very well, physically and mentally,” Torres said. “The national title is something I yearn for very much while competing, and if that finally comes to me this year it would be one of my great dreams.”
The finals of the open category featured Torres, 15-year-old Carlos Muñoz of Esterillos on the central Pacific coast, Tamarindo’s own Federico Pilurzu, 24, and Jacó’s Juan Carlos Naranjo, 22. The contest suffered from a lack of swell; fortunately, the winds afforded what waves there were with perfect peeling shapes but no size – they were about two to three feet. The trick to catching them was positioning behind the sandbar, a feat Torres and Pilurzu managed, thus beating the push to get off their maneuvers. Pilurzu came in second, with Naranjo third and Muñoz fourth.
“Now comes a vital part of the circuit in Nosara (Feb. 7-8) and Santa Teresa (March 7-8),” Torres said. “These are two very important dates where all the surfers are going to worry about going as far as they can, so I’m going to have to try more than ever not to lose my concentration.”
The ISA’s Keith arrived in Tamarindo on Friday after a couple of days of meetings with the federation, including a full contest site tour at Hermosa’s Terraza del Pacífico hotel, where she reviewed the beach and infrastructure, including contest layouts, two podiums, Web site and VIP areas, as well as all the logistics.
“What I saw looked great,” Keith said, adding that she met with the mayor and two representatives of the chamber of commerce to discuss what the city is going to do to boost the economy, clean up and get people to the host city. “We talked about the government, police, fire department, working with hotels. We also reviewed, in Jacó, where the parade of nations will march and where the opening ceremony will take place in the new park. We got a lot done.
“This is the first event with Billabong, an international sponsor, and we are excited to take the World Surfing Games to the next level. This is a big deal. In essence, this is the premiere of the ISA’s biggest event ever.”
Keith then moved to Tamarindo and the Torneo Witch’s Rock, to get a sense of how the federation runs a surf contest. Overall, she said, she was pleased. “Costa Rica is very organized,” she commented.
One very organized Costa Rican is Pilurzu, who last month, after his annual stint on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series tour, directed the first Guanacaste Interscholastic Surf Tournament Dec. 13 and 14 in Tamarindo. The winners of the male and female categories, respectively, were students Otto Vargas, of Cartagena de Santa Cruz, and Tania González, of Villarreal de Santa Cruz. The overall top three schools were Villarreal, first, Santa Cruz, second, and Cartagena, third.