Costa Rica’s continued rise on the surfing scene took another giant leap on Tuesday when it was announced that the country will play host to a world surf tour event for the first time in over a decade.
The World Surf League (WSL), the sport’s international sanctioning body, will hold the Costa Rica Pro men’s and women’s qualifying series event from Oct. 5-9 at Esterillos Este in Puntarenas.
Costa Rica surf legend Diego Naranjo announced on his Facebook page Tuesday night that his surf company Orange Wave worked for 10 months to assure a WSL event in Tico waters. On top of getting the official license from the league, Naranjo said he also had to clear some red tape hurdles with local authorities like those at the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT).
In working side by side with the tourism institute, the international surf event can help promote Costa Rica to surfers and fans from all over the globe, he said.
“There’s a strong movement that is happening all around us in Panama and Nicaragua with regards to designing tourism around surfing,” Naranjo told The Tico Times on Wednesday. “In a sense Costa Rica has been sleeping on this opportunity and we need to promote surf again to travelers.”
Costa Rica’s last official world qualifying series events were at the turn of the century with a pair of Billabong Pro tournaments in 2001 and 2002.
Brian Robbins, who is in charge of selecting event sites for the WSL, said Costa Rica stood out because of its penchant for year-round waves that don’t fluctuate too strongly between seasons and hours of the day.
“Costa Rica is unique because you can probably surf most beaches all the time,” Robbins said. “The beach we’re looking at in Costa Rica has a reputation for working at all tides, which allows you to surf all day. That means it’s a fair competition that doesn’t give disadvantages to surfers at different times of the day.”
The Costa Rica Pro has been designated a 3,000-point event, meaning the winner will receive 3,000 points in the qualifying rankings. By the year’s end, the top 10 surfers in the qualifying standings will be eligible to compete in the World Championship Tour next season. Costa Rican stars Noe Mar McGonagle and Carlos “Cali” Muñoz have been mainstays in the qualifying series and currently rank 74th and 76th, respectively, after finishing within the top 40 last season.
For Muñoz, who hails from Esterillos, the Costa Rica Pro will be a homecoming in which he should figure as one of the favorites to win. Naranjo said that all of the top Costa Rican surfers plan to compete in the October tournament, including Santa Teresa’s Anthony Fillingim and Leilani McGonagle, the younger sister of Noe Mar.
Some 200 surfers could be expected to participate in the tour event, Robbins said. He echoed Naranjo’s words by saying that Costa Rica, with its big waves and gorgeous coasts, belongs among the most sought-after surf destinations worldwide.
“It was really the first Latin American traveling destination for surfing,” Robbins said. “Other countries have kind of joined in on surf tourism, but it was Costa Rica that hit the mainstream early on.”