Surfers Increasingly Vital to Beach Town Economies
With the country’s business owners keeping an eye on every tourism figure to come out of the Costa Rica Tourism Institute (ICT), those ever intrepid surf travelers continue to provide solid financial revenue for the country’s coffers.
Contributing to this fact is that the typical surf tourist is no longer the free-roaming, backpacking explorer of yesteryear, but rather someone with a good income, ready to spend part of that money on the goods and services that come with a high-quality surf trip, according to Jose Ureña, president of the Costa Rican Surf Federation.
Officially, in numbers collected through surveys at JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport in Alajuela, northwest of San José, and DanielOduberInternationalAirport in Liberia, capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste, the ICT announced that 100,278 surfers visited Costa Rica during the first half of 2006. Additionally, these particular travelers remained in the country an average of 17 nights, spending $122 every 24 hours.
Meanwhile, 17,080 surfers passed through Liberia’s airport looking for great waves in Guanacaste, at beaches such as Tamarindo, Avellanas, Playa Negra and Nosara.
“The great amount of money these people leave here forms a vital part of the economy of places like Tamarindo, Jacó (on the central Pacific coast) and Puerto Viejo (on the southern Caribbean coast), to mention only three cases, but there are many more,” Ureña said.
The ICT report breaks down the visiting surf lovers as 75% from the United States, 12% from Europe and 6% from Canada.
“All of this data indicate clearly that we are in the forefront of great economic strength for the country because, in addition to these high tourist numbers, also the type of surfer who comes here has changed,” Ureña said.
“No longer is it people with little money, but rather young professionals, managers of important companies, real estate developers.
In short, the country is being positioned in the surf world as an attractive destination for clients of very good purchasing power.”
Ureña was quick to add that the federation does a lot of surfing promotion when Costa Rica’s national surf teams hits the beaches in other countries, as has been the case in Peru, Ecuador, Tahiti and Huntington Beach, California. The federation will have another big chance for Tico wave promotion when another national team heads for the 2007 Central American Surf championships to be held March 30 and April 1 in Guatemala.
Hosted by the Guatemala Surf Association (ASOSURF), the Costa Rican delegation will join teams from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama, to compete using established International Surfing Association (ISA) rules.
Each team will be made up of 24 surfers in Open, Junior and Women’s categories.
“For us, this is the fulfillment of a dream that demonstrates the great advancement surfing has made in Guatemala,” said Julio Mejicanos, president of ASOSURF. “We are working hard to organize all the logistical details of the event, so that it will propel the sport and promote tourism in our country.”
ASOSURF will award the first four places of each division a total of $4,600. The winner of the Open category will receive $1,000; the Junior champion will get $800 and the Women’s leader will earn $600. Last year, at the first Central American Surf Championships in Playa Esterillos, on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, those categories were won by Costa Ricans Federico Pilurzu, Jason Torres and Lisbeth Vindas, respectively, and the Costa Rican national surf team took the overall Central American championship.
The second edition of this event is still in planning stages. ASOSURF, which is sanctioned by the ISA, the Pan-American Surfing Association and the Autonomous Sporting Confederation of Guatemala, will initiate a series of programs with the competitors upon their arrival in Guatemala March 28 and 29. On March 30, a judging clinic will be held, led by Tico Jeffrey Rojas, the Costa Rican Surf Federation’s head judge, who is recognized by the ISA and the Association of Surfing Professionals. This will be followed by the official ceremony to inaugurate the event at 8 a.m., with the first elimination heats scheduled for an hour later.
Meanwhile, on the National Surf Circuit front, the Open rankings have shuffled around after last weekend’s Trofeo Freestyle Nosara, held at Playa Guiones on the northern Pacific coast. With Diego Naranjo of Jacó – who held the top ranking coming out of the Copa Mango Playa Hermosa competition held Feb. 2-3 on the central Pacific coast – out of the country at the Latin American Surf Association’s Reef Classic Latin Pro in Peru, the top spot was left open to Luis Castro or Isaac Vega of Tamarindo.
Though Castro lost last week to Jason Torres of Jacó, points accumulated leave him in first place at present, followed by Naranjo in second.
Thirteen-year-old Nataly Bernold, on the other hand, is so far ahead of her rivals in both the Junior Women and Women’s categories that her spots in the rankings are in little danger. In an upset at last weekend’s competition in Nosara, Bernold won the Women’s competition against her mentor, five-time national champion Lisbeth Vindas of Jacó, proving that longtime Tica surf monarch Vindas has a truly worthy successor.
For more information, results and a full rankings update, visit www.surfingcr.com.