In a year when Costa Rican surfing received significant international acknowledgment with Jason Torres first-ever Pan American Surfing Games gold medal and Lisbeth Vindas top-30 ranking in the Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series, the country s Circuito Nacional de Surf featured a professional, top-level competition of skill that has resulted in the closest year-end race in the tournament s six-year history.
Which is why Antonio Pilurzu, head of Costa Rica s Surfing Federation, is saying that the Circuito final, which returns the contest to the central Pacific coast s Playa Hermosa, in front of Hotel Backyard, this weekend, is the most important date of all of the six contests this year. Of the top five guys right now in the Open category, any one could win for the entire year, because the six-star contest winner will receive 2,500 points, and it s just that close in the rankings.
Going into the finals, only 960 points separate first-ranked Isaac Vega of Tamarindo (5,200 points) from the just-arrived-atnumber-two Torres of Jacó (4,240 points).
José Montoya (4,095 points) of Dominical, a threat in the Circuito since year one, moved up to number three after Copa Mango Nosara, edging ahead of the new hotshot surfer from Limón, Luis Castro (4,020 points) and Pavones Durby Castillo (3,965 points).
For Vega, who just returned from the Vans Pro in Huntington Beach, California, where he made his World Qualifying Series debut, there s a lot of pressure, especially since he s been in the lead all year. The greatly improved, confident, smooth and powerful surfer is looking to repeat the pattern of earlier this season, when he used experience gained at other international contests to win first-place trophies at the Pinilla Classic last November and Copa Mango Dominical in February.
In addition, just last month, Vega was awarded top prize in the Copa Mango minitournament, a contest within the Circuito that tallied points for the Hermosa, Dominical and Nosara dates.
Pilurzu had a few other predictions for the finals, including another exciting water battle between Torres and Jairo Pérez in the Junior category for the big win. In the Women s division, Ana Caraway of San Diego, California, he says, will take away the year.
Caraway is one of the foreign surfers who have entered the Circuito this season and made a mark, though their participation has raised some eyebrows among the competitive community.
The Circuito is open to everybody, Pilurzu explains. If Kelly Slater were to come down here, he would certainly be welcome to compete, and everybody would be watching.
Costa Rican surfers need to grow, he adds, and when international surfers with more experience enter the Circuito, it s a good opportunity for our guys and girls to raise their level of competition.
This was particularly evident when European champion Aritz Aranburu from Spain won last month s Copa Mango Nosara.
The kids got to see how they have to compete to get results, Pilurzu says. They watched him: Was he partying? What was he eating to win? It s the same thing with Ana. These are opportunities to see how international surfers eat, sleep, live and win surf contests.