Some of the top international surfers will grace the waves of Esterillos Este in Puntarenas this week for the Essential Costa Rica Open, part of the World Surf League (WSL) tour.
The Qualifying Series (QS) event begins Wednesday and will conclude on Sunday, weather permitting, as 192 male and female surfers vie for 3,000 points on the pro surfing world tour.
Just one month after hosting the 2016 World Surfing Games in Jacó, the country is the site of a WSL competition for the first time since 2002.
Esterillos is the hometown of star Costa Rican surfer Carlos “Cali” Muñoz, who will be coming home to compete in the event after the Azores Airlines Pro in Portugal last month. Muñoz is No. 47 in the Men’s Qualifying Series and will look to bolster his ranking for a chance to be in the top 10 at year’s end to qualify for a spot on the World Championship Tour.
The town’s favorite son said he’s looking forward to coming back to compete on the wave he grew up on and to having his community host an international event.
“It has some really good waves with both rights and lefts that can be ridden at any tides during many different swells,” Muñoz told the World Surf League earlier this week. “I think the ideal surf is when the swell is southwest and the tide is low, going into high tide, with glassy conditions in the morning. The vibe is all pura vida and it’s a good beach for a family weekend with a really mellow town.”
Other Costa Rican surfers joining Muñoz in the men’s and women’s brackets include: Jair Pérez, who qualified with a win at the Essential Costa Rica trials last month, Noe Mar McGonagle, Isaac Vega, Jason Torres, Leilani McGonagle, Emily Gussoni, Lisbeth Vindas, and Camilla Summers, a 14-year-old surprise qualifier out of Puerto Viejo.
Noe Mar, who just won an individual bronze for Costa Rica at the World Surfing Games and is currently ranked 106th in the QS, may be the Costa Rican with the best chance to win the men’s tournament aside from Muñoz. The 20-year-old surfer from Pavones said in August that he’s been looking forward to having a WSL event on Costa Rican sands.
“We’ve been waiting for this to happen for a long time and it’s basically a dream come true,” he said. “It’s always good to compete in my home country and this brings a lot of opportunity to our surfers, especially to demonstrate their level of surfing and for the Latin American surfers in general to earn QS points. I’m not super familiar with the wave, living far from Esterillos, but I do know the waves are fun and consistent.”
The men’s side starts with a Round of 144 surfers, where Costa Rican resident and Venezuelan native José Joaquín Lopéz will begin his journey through the bracket. The women’s competition begins with a Round of 48.
The 2016 Essential Costa Rica Open Pro will be streaming live on the World Surf League’s website. Judges will decide at 7:30 a.m. local time whether or not to start action at 8 a.m. based on the waves.