The Costa Ricans may have started out at the Pan American Surfing Games in Iquique, Chile, with an allegedly hostile welcome from the home team – who, according to an official complaint lodged with the Pan American Surf Association, blocked the Ticos’ sea entrance, spit on various team members and were generally hostile on the first morning of training – but the blue, white and red finished off the event last weekend with a second consecutive Pan American Surfing Games fourth-place team finish. Brazil won overall gold in the event, Chile silver and Peru bronze, out of a field of 18 teams.
The Ticos’ shiny copper reward was thanks to the stellar work of everyone on the team, including Jason Torres (who won junior gold at last year’s games in Peru), reigning Costa Rican national surf champion Diego Naranjo, 2007 Triple Crown champ Luis Vindas, former national surf champion Gilbert Brown, two-time Central American women’s champ Lisbeth Vindas, reigning national women’s champion Nataly Bernold, national junior champ Jairo Pérez, national boys’ champion Carlos Muñoz and national women’s bodyboard champ Jimena Calvo, as well as Silvio Mangel, José Calderón, Orlando Solís and Mauricio Umaña.
A highlight of the tournament for the Ticos was a best ever third place in the Open category, earned by Gilbert Brown, 25, of the southern Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo, who slipped into that heat from the repercharge finals.
Under International Surfing Association rules, surfers who place third or fourth in the main round of a competition go to repercharge, a second-chance series that coincides with the main heats. The first- and second place winners of the repercharge finals face the first- and second-place winners of the main heats’ semifinals.
After a confident fight in freezing waters, Brown left the staging area with his own bronze medal hanging round his neck.
Placing just ahead of him was popular Brazilian Eric de Souza in second, with first place going to Peru’s Javier Swayne.
“Gilbert is really happy about his bronze medal, because in the end his win added good points for the team,” teammate Diego Naranjo told The Tico Times by phone from the Chilean airport just before boarding a plane to San José. “For Gil, his medal was more for the team than an individual victory.”
“The team was strong together, and even though the water was too cold for us it was really a pura vida experience,” Naranjo added.
In the women’s category, Lisbeth Vindas, 26, surfed well all the way through the games, but sadly did not make the finals and was eliminated in the repercharge finals. Young Nataly Bernold, 14, was also strong and confident for the team, blowing through the other women to round five of repercharge in only her third international challenge.
Bodyboarder Jimena Calvo, however, wrote a new story for Costa Rica in Chile.
The Ticos have never had any presence with the sponge in international competition, but Calvo, 17, dropped, spun and ripped all the way to the repercharge finals, adding desperately needed bodyboard points for the Costa Rican national team. She placed fourth in that heat and was honored by the squad every step of the way.
The entire group – 13 surfers and five support staff, including José Ureña, president of the Costa Rica Surf Federation – celebrated their medals with a birthday party for Brown, who turned 25 on Sunday.
“What a present he has,” Naranjo said.
“He’s the number-three surfer in the Americas right now.”
For more information, visit the Pan American Surf Association’s Web site at www.pasasurf.org or the Costa Rican Surf Federation site at www.surfingcr.net.