Costa Rica’s promising young surfing duo of Carlos Muñoz and Noe Mar McGonagle are on the cusp of breaking into the World Championship Tour but they’ll have to wait another year before they can try and become the first Central Americans ever included in surfing’s highest league.
Earlier this week, both McGonagle, 19, and Muñoz, 22, won their second-round heats in the season-ending Vans World Cup in Hawaii against some of the world’s top qualifiers. But in Wednesday’s third round at the iconic Sunset Beach in Oahu, the swelling waters were not as hospitable for either of the Costa Rican riders, who both finished last in their respective heats.
McGonagle was given an especially tough draw against current No. 1 ranked and former champion Mick Fanning, as well as fellow World Championship Tour surfer Dane Reynolds. McGonagle landed the heat’s first wave but could not gather much momentum after that as Reynolds and Fanning ended up advancing onto Round 4. The 19-year-old Tico from Pavones had an opportunity to score big points in the waning minutes but misjudged the collapsing wave and wiped out after a promising start to the ride.
Despite a pair of wipeouts, McGonagle showed some toughness by riding out the heat until the buzzer sounded and actually tallied a heat-high seven rides, though none of them scored higher than 5.63.
In the subsequent heat, Muñoz had a golden opportunity of his own with a huge wave midway through the heat, but the back of the wave came out on him and flipped him into the water early. With a combined score of just 7.57, the bushy-haired surfer from Esterillos Oeste also finished at the bottom of his heat, as Brazil’s Adriano de Souza, the world’s third-ranked surfer, overcame the Tico with a 6.33 wave at the end to get a score of 9.50. Even still, de Souza, who was in contention for his first world title, was knocked out of the competition early as Hawaii-native Ian Walsh and Australia’s Stuart Kennedy topped his score as the two riders to advance from the group of four.
Because they failed to finish the season in the top 10 of the Men’s Qualifying Series, McGonagle and Muñoz will not qualify for the World Championship Tour for next season. Muñoz currently ranks 31st in the qualifying standings and McGonagle follows behind at 38th. Both have earned more than $25,000 at tournaments this year.
World Surf League qualifying series competitions will begin again in January as the rising Ticos look to make history by becoming the first non-Brazilian riders from Latin America to classify for the World Championship Tour, which will be limited to the top 34 surfers in the world in 2016.