For the last few years, the Circuito Nacional de Surf de Costa Rica (CNS), has been the only countrywide surf tournament and feeder event for surf teams that compete internationally. The CNS all but bypasses the beaches of Guanacaste, with only Nosara on its schedule.
This year, former national surf champion Andrea Díaz of Tamarindo decided that the waves and surfers of Guanacaste should have more than a one-shot contest. Díaz partnered with Chelsea Liaius, founder of the Tide Academy School in Tamarindo, to put together a seven-contest Circuito Guanacaste on Costa Rica’s northwestern beaches.
Despite the CNS claim that it skips Tamarindo due to a lack of sponsor interest, Díaz and Liaius were able to garner support from international surf gear company Creatures and board manufacturer Surftech, as well as local businesses including Reserva Conchal, Las Mareas de El Tesoro, Best Western Tamarindo Vista Villas, Lola’s Restaurant, Witch’s Rock Surf Camp, Kelly’s Surf Shop, Condominios Del Sol at Marbella and Tiki Hut in Marbella.
The opener went down in Tamarindo this past weekend, and upcoming tournaments will take place in Playa Avellanas (Jan. 18-19), Playa Marbella (Feb. 8-9), and locations to be determined March 8-9, April 12-13 and May 10-11.
“As a coach, I wanted my local surfers to get more practice before going to a national event,” Díaz said. “And always I’m thinking about my responsibility with the town I live in. Because of that I wanted to use surfing as an instrument for kids to stay in school, stay healthy and out of the streets.”
The first tournament in Tamarindo this past weekend drew about 150 competitors, including a handful of veterans like former national surf champion Isaac Vega, who won. The even also turned out to be a showcase for the younger talent of the area.
The kids ripped in shoulder- to head-high waves on Saturday, and they even found ways to impress the judges on Sunday, when the waves dropped waist high. Standouts included Aldo Chironos, Dean Vandewell, Malakai Martinez, Serena Nava, Zulay Martinez and Katie Herrman – all under the age of 13. Many of these kids competed in more than one category, a grueling task even for adults.
Martinez was in and out of the water for a fight in juniors, boys and mixed groms. The son of two surfing parents, he is one of the fortunate Tamarindo kids who has been able to make the trek to the CNS, winning the Groms championship for two years in a row. Although Martinez says the CNS brings out a higher level of talent, including some pros, he found the debut of the Guanacasteco Circuito to be professional and accommodating to a new crop of talent in the province.
“Today there are some good guys out there, and I try to do my best,” Malakai said between heats. “I’m stoked to be surfing here because it brings attention to Guanacaste and we can get more sponsors. There are a lot of kids who can’t afford to travel to the [CNS], and it costs, my mom says, about $500 a weekend to travel.”
The Guanacaste Circuito allows kids to get noticed, which could lead to sponsorships, which then allows kids to advance to the next kind of competition, he added.
Not only did Malakai make it to the makeshift beach podium to collect a 1st place medal for mixed groms, he was took 3rd in juniors and in boys.
Katie Herrman, 9, has already been surfing for two years. She competed in four categories: dolphins – where her father Jeff pushed her into waves (2nd place), paddle-ins mixed groms, mini chicas (2nd place), and junior chicas (4th place).
“I feel like I’ve been doing pretty good,” she said. “I used to be going down the line, but my turning is better now; I do turns and go off the top … Yeah, I’m going to be the next champion from Tamarindo.”
Surfing legend Robert August, who starred in the surf film “Endless Summer” and its sequel, “Endless Summer 2,” was on the beach rooting for his daughter Christine. August convinced her to do the Guanacasteco Circuito and gave one important piece of advice: “Go out and have fun.” Having made her competitive debut at the Billabong Festival de Surf 2013 a week ago in Jacó for the 25th anniversary of Mango Surf Shop, Christine did enjoy herself in the junior chicas and mini chicas divisions this past weekend.
“It’s great,” August said. “All the kids understand that they just need to go out and do the best they can … It’s a good way for people to get together and say hello.”
Adding credibility to the festivities – and hired for the rest of the Guanacaste Circuito – was Gustavo Corrales, head judge of the CNS. He is an International Surfing Association certified judge who works in his off time from the Circuito Nacional to certify instructors and judges. The Guanacaste circuit is important, Corrales says, it helps the ISA with a school scholarship program, and is working with the Federacion de Surf de Costa Rica to initiate a program that will fund five underprivileged kids to travel to the CNS contests around Costa Rica.
“The Guanacaste Circuito has been great,” Corrales said. “We have the potential for a main circuit in Costa Rica right here … It’s great for the sport and the province. It will raise up the area.”