Costa Rica has become home to the first Central American chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit organization well known in the United States for its efforts in protecting oceans, waves and beaches.
The organization will get its Costa Rican start in Tamarindo beach, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, which last year lost its Blue Flag for beach cleanliness.
Initial projects will include monitoring water quality, regular beach cleanups, programs to clear the beach of cigarette butts, and restoration of a fresh water lagoon in Tamarindo, according to Louis Maresca, Surfrider head in Tamarindo.
“Other projects we work on will come from our body of members. It’s our Surfrider. Someone may see something that needs attention that no one else saw. For example, the other night at 2 a.m. somebody saw water flushing down into the ocean because somebody was cleaning out their septic tank,” he said.
Maresca said the organization will work with area businesses to help them avoid polluting, “without pointing fingers.”
Although many non-surfers are members of Surfrider, the organization’s support comes largely from surfers, surf organizations and surf companies.
Surfrider’s success in Costa Rica is contingent on Costa Rican involvement, Maresca said, and the organization is offering free membership to all Costa Ricans. Membership is normally based on donation.
The initiative to bring Surfrider to Tamarindo was started by several concerned surfers in the area, including Maresca, who teaches private surf lessons and owns a surf school in the United States; Jerry Hirsch, of the Tamarindo Community Improvement Association; and Harry Crissy, who is working on his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.
Surfrider has more than 50,000 members in 60 chapters in the United States, as well as chapters in Japan, Brazil, Australia, France, Canada and Spain. Leaders hope the organization will be expanded throughout Costa Rica, to clean up other popular surf beaches and address national pollution issues.