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Tico Junior Surf Team Competes

AFTER four months of biweekly training under the watchful eye of coach Álvaro Solano, the two-time Costa Rican National Surf Champion (2004-05), eight young men have been chosen to represent their country in the waves against 250 other surfers 18 years and under at the 2005 Quiksilver International Surfing Association’s (ISA) World Junior Surfing Championship Oct. 8-16 in Huntington Beach, California.Vying for team and individual gold, silver, bronze and copper medals against squads from around the world are: Juan Carlos Naranjo and Juan de Jesús Calderón from the central-Pacific beach town of Jacó, Isaac Vega from Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast, and Ronald Brown from Puerto Viejo, on the southern Caribbean coast, in the Juniors (under 18) category; and, in the Boys (under 16) category, Jairo Pérez from Jacó, Nikola Ruhlow from Carrillo, south of Tamarindo, and Ariel Aguerro and Derek Gutiérrez from Quepos, south of Jacó. (Italian-born Giovanni Perini from Tamarindo was also selected for the Juniors category but, unable to fulfill all the ISA Costa Rican-team requirements, will be competing for Italy this year.)“We have big expectations for our team in Huntington,” Solano said about the championship, which is hosted by Surfing America, the national governing body for the sport of surfing in the United States.Junior team member Aguerro also has big expectations. “I have patience and I will be concentrating. I learned that from Álvaro,” he said, adding that his coach also taught him: “When I finish the wave, I have to finish the last maneuver as well.” IN preparation for the big event, Solano put the eight youngsters through a strenuous physical endurance program and emphasized the timing of “the ride of the wave in relation to the wave itself.” He also stressed the importance of “precision in the ride, especially in critical moments.”The pro surfer wanted to make certain his charges understood that the conditions ahead would not be the same as the balmy water and wind they were used to in Costa Rica.Weather projections for Huntington were hard to make in advance, but Alvaro said he expects a swell and offshore winds – nice conditions for an international wave war. He also knows from experience that the youngsters will need to adapt to the cold water and surfing in wetsuits.“We have mentally prepared ourselves for this contest and the cold water, and the kids have been working very hard,” he affirmed. “Those wetsuits will add six to eight pounds to their bodyweight. We are going in four days before the contest starts to practice with the wetsuits in the water there in Huntington.“Training in cold water is a little like going under a cold shower; it makes your heart rate go up. I want the kids to get used to it.”ALTHOUGH some of these surfers’ names – Naranjo, Vega and Pérez – have been bandied about in print before, a few of the newly selected junior surf team members are new to the limelight.The good news is that they were chosen for more than just a skilled smack of the lip or a sweet 360.“Nikola Ruhlow has lots of drive,” Solano said about one of his choices. “He gets good results in the water, and gets good results in school. That’s important, too. He’s got the support of his parents, and for these kids, that’s really good.”“One of the main reasons we chose these eight kids was because we could follow up with them,” he explained.“They have surfing in their hearts. This Huntington trip is just one step in their surfing careers; it’s not the only thing they want to do.“The reason we put the trip together was to motivate them with international experience. These kids don’t just want an adventure; they really, really want to go do this, pull it off and win. They want to go all the way, to become professional surfers.”Anyone who knows Aguerro can tell you he definitely feels that way. Ever since he was selected for the team, he’s been telling everyone he meets how proud and happy he is to be going to the contest, and that he isn’t scared to be competing against 250 talented young surfers. However, he admitted, “I’m a little scared because it’s my first time on an airplane.”ANTONIO Pilurzu, head of Costa Rica’s Federación de Surf, will also travel to California to generate international support for Costa Rican surfing. He has been tirelessly fundraising, securing last-minute funding to pay for the team’s trip. Hacienda Pinilla Beach Resort came in as a sponsor; Quiksilver is donating wetsuits and towels; Freestyle is contributing a watch and custom backpack to each competitor; legendary surfer Robert August purchased some plane tickets; and Gautay is creating Circuito Nacional de Surf baseball caps and shirts for the team to wear to the championship’s celebratory ceremonies.“Last year in Tahiti was like a harsh cold shower for our boys, some of whom had never flown on an airplane before,” Pilurzu recalled of the December 2004 championship. “Most had not (competed in) any international contests and the whole experience was at times overwhelming. It is for this reason that it is so important we go to Huntington more prepared as a team. This time (coach Solano) will be with them to provide lots of psychological support.”“I am very excited and honored to represent Costa Rica and Tamarindo,” said Vega, who, with his mother’s support, will be traveling to the United States for the first time. “It is a good opportunity for me to compete and one of the steps to get my surfing level higher.My goal is to win, and to represent my team and country well all the way to the end of the contest.”


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