The weather has changed at the Costa Rican Surf Federation, and according to José Ureña, the new president of the country’s official organization for the sport, it’s a bright, sunny day with great conditions to ride down the line.
Ureña, owner of Jass Surf Shop in the central Pacific beach town of Jacó, has been involved in surfing for 24 years, both as a competitor and organizer. His accession comes with the blessing of his predecessor, Antonio Pilurzu, owner of Cala Luna Hotel and Villas in Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast, who seven years ago began working with seed money from Quiksilver’s Jeff Booth to raise the profile of Costa Rica’s surf and surfers. The goal was to help youngsters focus their competitive abilities while uniting the fragmented national surf factions, earning the respect of the international surf world and pumping up surf tourism in the country.
Mission accomplished, with the creation of the countrywide National Surf Circuit tournament, now in its seventh season. In his previous role as vice-president of the federation, Ureña worked tirelessly as tournament director, making sure that International Surfing Association (ISA) guidelines and rules were followed. His efforts have contributed to the Circuit’s success, evidenced by the approximately 150 surfers entering each event on average.
In October, Ureña, 35, coached the Costa Rican National Surf Team to an overall eighth place ranking out of 33 and an historic copper medal (fourth place) in the ISA Nations Cup Tag Team event at the 2006 ISA World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach, California.
During that event, he and Pilurzu attended an awards ceremony where they were notified that Costa Rica had become an official member of the ISA, the organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the international federation for all wave-riding sports.
Pilurzu, who will remain in an advisory position with the federation, said he realized it was time to make way for a new group of people who would let “fresh air” into the ideas and plans to be implemented in the next six months.
“After several years of intense work, the moment has arrived for yielding my place to José and to other people who also have very good intentions,” Pilurzu said. “I think that I’m leaving a great inheritance and a proper structure that has been proven throughout tournaments on many Costa Rican beaches.”
The former federation president emphasized the great accomplishments that have evolved from the National Surf Circuit, including the official legal sanction of the federation by the government; the organization of the first Central American Surf Championship last July in the Central Pacific’s Playa Esterillos; the attendance of a national surf team at two World Surfing Games (California in 2006 and Ecuador in 2004); and the firstever Tico gold medal earned at the 2006 Pan-American Surfing Games (by Jason Torres in the Junior category).
“I think that enough successes for this discipline have been obtained, and Tico surfers have gained such an affluent place in Latin America, that the projects the federation has in place must be carried forward,” Pilurzu said. “The federation already has strong sponsors, the logistical foundations are well in place, and because there is already a strong administration, I yield my place to the new people ready to take control.”
Taking the reins with Ureña on the federation’s new board of directors are vice-president Rándall Chaves and treasurer William Agüero, both from Boca Barranca on the central Pacific coast.
“One of the great advantages I’ll have in my work will be the legacy that has been left me,” Ureña said. “We know the extraordinary work that Antonio Pilurzu and his collaborator, Surfos publisher Cristophe Commarieu, have accomplished. In Latin America, Costa Rica is held up as a model of organization in the sport because of its high level of surfing.”
“This new group we have forged has the advantage of knowing surf and its mystical people,” Ureña added. “We have a great desire to work with the new generations of surfers who are waiting for us.”
Ureña, Chaves and Agüero were already on the job as the fourth date of this season’s National Surf Circuit moved into Playa Jacó Jan. 6-7 with the Copa Mango Jacó, where, for the third time in as many Open competitions this season, they watched a new winner claim first place.
What’s more, when Jacó’s Diego Naranjo received his Open award, the veteran pro and national surf team member placed it right beside the trophy he had received earlier for first place in the Longboard category. While Naranjo may well go all the way to 2006-07 National Champion on his premier ride, the shortboard, he has also been making waves and taking prizes this year all around the world as a longboarder. At the World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach, he rode the log for Costa Rica and fared nicely for only his second international try.
As a matter of fact, one of the reasons Naranjo is making a full run in the Circuit’s Longboard division this year is to prepare himself for the next world competition.
The last few times the federation has put a national surf team together from Circuit rankings, the Longboard category proved to be the most challenging to fill because the top surfers were all foreigners. Naranjo is walking the nose for now, but, like everything he attempts in the ocean, the athlete is going for it full force.
“I want to be Longboard champion,” he said. “But I’m also doing it to inspire more surfers to try it, especially the Juniors.” With the top spot in the Open still up for grabs – Tamarindo’s Isaac Vega won the Pinilla Classic in Avellanas, and Nino Myrie of Puerto Viejo, on the southern Caribbean coast, took Trofeo High Tide in Tamarindo – Naranjo is poised to win as many Circuit dates as he can attend, given his packed international competitive agenda.
“As to winning in Costa Rica this year, I want to, of course,” he said. “I’m happy that I began great this season and hopefully everything will follow in a good way in the next few months.”
For the next two contests – Copa Mango Playa Hermosa, on the central Pacific coast, Feb. 3-4, and Trofeo Freestyle Nosara, on the NicoyaPeninsula, Feb. 24-25 – at least, it looks like Naranjo will be in Costa Rica. He makes his 2007 Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series debut at the Copa Brahma Pro Peru in Lima March 8 through 11.