Aweek after becoming Costa Rica’s National Surfing Champion, 2005-06, Tamarindo’s Isaac Vega is sitting on the grass above the El Diria’s Amphitheater watching African roots/ reggae band Mekatelyu perform. Like any teenager, he’s enjoying the concert with a few bros, including Luis Castro, the youngster from Limón, who came out of nowhere to win third place National Open this year.
Although second shuffled out to Circuito Nacional de Surf Dominical veteran José Montoya, the fact that two of the country’s title holders docked their boards to behave exactly like the 18-year-olds they are, really sums up the entire season. This was the year of the hot-shot surf kids – not just in their expected age-group categories – but above and beyond. There was a changing of the guard, new leaders with new attitudes and their own developed moves on the waves.
One tiny man – 10-year-old Playa Esterillos Mini-Grommet Alberto Muñoz –became the first surfer in the Circuito’s sixyear existence to win 1st place in that division at every one of this season’s six beaches. Meanwhile, the contests themselves drew record inscription numbers.
As to new King, Vega, his victory was hard-fought all year and came down to the last horn. Although he took 1st place in the Pinilla Classic and Copa Mango Dominical, Isaac was out in the Quarterfinals in Hermosa’s Grand Finals tournament. That meant a stressful wait as his closest competitors took destiny in their own hands. As fate – and skill – would have it, one by one, Torres, Montoya, and Castro dropped out, leaving the top four contestants in the Finals to win the date, but not the season.
“I am very happy,” beamed Vega at the trophy ceremony. “I’ve worked very hard, doing a lot of physical training and practicing the mental concentration that is required to select good waves.”
This surfer had indeed vastly improved, now a self-assured, smooth stylist, with defined cutbacks, quick snaps, powerful, complete rides. Two years ago he wondered why he couldn’t transfer the confidence of his free surfing to competitions. Last year, Vega clinched the National Junior Title.
Now, with the assistance of physical coach Scott Kadawsky, mentor Federico Pilurzu (2001 Costa Rica National Champion), manager Yeffrey Rojas, his family – particularly surfer brothers Willy and Bryan – and others, Vega is the Costa Rican champion. Moments after his coronation, Vega was sequestered at Hotel Backyard with Quiksilver’s Quinn Campbell, discussing his surfing career.
“We’re really pleased with Isaac,” Campbell said. “He one of the young Costa Rican generation of surfers who are taking over. We really like his consistency.
If you look at the events he does, he shows up, and does what he has to do. We think he has a great future with Quiksilver, because he really takes opportunities and maximizes them.”
As for Luis Vindas, who returned to Costa Rica from international competition and won this Circuito homebreak stop, he is, without a doubt, our best aerial specialist. Older sister Lisbeth, who also prevailed on home turf, reclaiming her usual Women’s first-place spot, said: “He’s the best surfer in Costa Rica, and with this win he will be motivated when we get to South Africa.”
Before then, however, the Vindases stopped at the Reef Latin Pro in Malibu, Panama and made a little splash. Walled in the Semifinals, Luís was cited for his “great wave selection” and approached by the local media; he is currently ranked 11th in the Asociación Latinamericana de Surf Open. Lisbeth placed fourth in the Women’s in Panama and is ranked fourth in that category.
Back in Costa Rica, there’s the ongoing reinvention of Jacó’s Jason Torres. Last season, he was on competitive suspension by the FS for personal problems. Not only did he roar back into the CNS with s u r e f o o t e d maneuvers that were rewarded in Hermosa with a 2 0 0 5 – 0 6 National CNS Junior Championship, but on his last wave in the last heat of the Junior Finals in the Reef Panamericano de Surf Peru 2006 Copa Motorola cocky Jason made good on his pre-contest verbal threat to Wor l d Junior C h a m p i o n Jefferson Silva of Brazil and became the first Tico ever to win a Gold Medal at a Pan-American Surfing Game.
He’s been hard to contain ever since, and Myrie reported that he was “killing it” this past weekend at a Jacó Christian Surfers contest, winning first place Juniors, again.
Torres’ Jacó pal, 16-year-old Jairo Pérez, said at the beginning of this season that he had one goal: “To win first place Boys again.” Mission accomplished – Pérez held his second National Boys Championship trophy aloft for all on Hermosa Beach to see. A week later, in Panama at the Reef Latin Pro Junior Finals, Jairo was the first surfer to go for the barreling rights, ending up in second place for that tournament.
The spankin’ new Junior Women’s category produced a lot of fresh athletes who began with more heart than skill, and finished with style, and finesse as well as passion. These are the names that we grew to know: Natalie Bernold (Tamarindo), Jordan Huntley (Jaco), Angie Forigua (Hermosa), Ariele Weller (Esterillos), Justine and Julie Javalle (Tamarindo), Andreina Samudio, (Jacó), Malia and Lupe Galluccio, (Hermosa). The sisterhood was thrilled for Lupe when her name was called for the National trophy.
In a season of tremendous success, federation president Pilurzu announced in February that the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) and the Costa Rican Institute of Sports added surfing to the 2006 Sports Games. Although the full program will begin its 34th edition today at the El Carmen de Pérez Zeledón School, representing 20 sports disciplines and 50,000 national students at 4,000 primary and secondary schools, the actual surfing finals will take place July 1 at a beach that has yet to be decided.
“One of the goals of the ministry is to promote surfing because we know it is very important in our country,” said Juan Félix Morera, MEP’s advisor of National Physical Education.
According to Morera, the addition of surfing to the competitive curriculum – which already includes track and field, basketball, handball, chess, volleyball, baseball, soccer, swimming, table tennis, skating, karate and more – is going to provide a new avenue for the development of young athletes looking toward a future in the sport while promoting the activity as well.
Meanwhile, the federation still finds it difficult to raise funds to send national surf teams to international competitions, including the World Junior Surfing Championships this May in Maresias, Brazil. According to Pilurzu, to send 12 competitors and three adults, the federation will need to secure $20,000 in sponsorships, and that money has not come into the coffers.