All last Friday and Saturday, Gilbert Brown was “relaxing, being calm and concentrating.”
“Because that’s the most I can do when I want to win,” he said.
And that’s exactly what the 25-year-old surfer from the southern Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo did at last weekend’s 2007-08 National Surf Circuit finals, held in good conditions of three- to five-foot waves in front of Hotel Terraza del Pacífico in Playa Hermosa, on the central Pacific coast. After seven contests in five months at six beaches, Brown is the new national surf champion, and he certainly deserves it, after winning two of seven circuit events since December and making it to the finals at all the contests, including last weekend’s, after a hard-fought final heat.
That heat featured his longtime nemesis, Luis Vindas, 22, who, having won the last two circuit contests, entered the finals ranked second and eager to usurp the No. 1 ranked Brown.
In front of a 1,000-strong crowd, Vindas recovered from a gasp-inducing slide into the rocks that forced him to replace his broken surfboard with a borrowed, inferior one, only to come back with a couple of extraordinary wave rides that seemed to ensure the win. But an act of interference against Brown resulted in the judges taking away a high-scoring wave from Vindas, thus pushing Diego Naranjo, 26, last year’s national champion, to first place, followed by Brown in second,Vindas in third and 17-year-old Jairo Pérez in fourth.
Though Naranjo won last weekend’s contest, Brown earned enough points with his second-place finish in the five-star event to win overall and become the national champion.
This is the second time he has earned this honor, with the 2001-02 national championship under his belt as well.
“We did it. Now the pressure is over,” Brown said, the national championship trophy in hand. “I realized I had to watch my back and both my sides because I knew Luis Vindas could take it all. I prayed to God last night, and this morning before any heat, I knew I was going to win.”
In the women’s division, Lisbeth Vindas, Luis Vindas’ sister, also used a second-place win to scoop up a national championship trophy. Though the 24-year-old veteran surfer lost to young Nataly Bernold, 15, in last weekend’s contest, like Brown, she managed the overall points for a return to glory after two years, making this her sixth national women’s surf championship title, with no plans in the near future for retirement.
Among the juniors, 15-year-old Carlos Muños was, in a word, unstoppable. Not only did he make history by becoming the youngest national junior surf champion, but he also set a record by winning the national boy’s surf championship for the second year in a row.
For the 2007-08 National Surf Circuit final rankings, visit the Costa Rican Surf Federation’s Web site at www.surfingcr.net.