Though it may have looked like he took the trophy in a walk, the battle was anything but effortless, said Diego Naranjo of his win at the first event of the 2008-’09 National Surf Circuit last weekend at Playa Hermosa’s La Curva, on the central Pacific coast.
“It was not an easy finals heat by any means,” Naranjo, 25, said after the event. “I had Federico Pilurzu, who surfs the WQS (World Qualifying Series of the Association of Surfing Professionals), Jason Torres, who is No. 5 in the world, and this new guy Olman Morales, who is really coming up. They are super good surfers and it was hard to believe I did so well.”
Naranjo earned his highest score of the event early on, with his second wave; fortunately, it was a long one, and he snaked a good vertical, then a floater. He followed by paddling around for the rest of the heat and finished it out with a couple of good scoring waves at the end, enough to win.
Following his grand finals win at the end of last season, this triumph pulls in a second straight circuit title for Naranjo. However, with all the talent in the circuit these days, he’s not about to rest on his laurels. According to José Ureña, president of the Surf Federation of Costa Rica, this first of seven circuit contests drew a plethora of athletes not only looking for a national championship title, but also vying for the honor of competing in Hermosa in August, when Costa Rica hosts 50 countries for the 2009 World Surfing Games.
Joining golden podium stars such as Jairo Pérez, Luis Vindas, Juan Carlos Naranjo (younger brother of Diego), Carlos Muñoz and Matías Braun were returning idols Ronald Brown and two-time national champion Alvaro Solano.
Naranjo said he wants to make a run at a two-time national championship himself, but noted, “It’s hard to feel confident.”
“There’s a lot of talent on the circuit, a lot of young guys, old guys, middle-aged guys. I can’t relax,” he said. “Even before the finals, it was a huge show for everybody on the beach to watch the surfing because it’s that good.”
Muñoz, 15, winner of both the junior and boys’ championships last season, scored the same double coup last weekend in Hermosa.
In front of rivals Rudy Jiménez, Anthony Fillingam and Ariel Agüero, he took the best wave of the event, executing a perfect aerial 360 grab.
“It was very important to me to work that particular maneuver so well,” Muñoz said. “Once I managed to perfect it, my results in the competition improved a lot.”
In the women’s category, six-time national champion Lisbeth Vindas, 24, triumphed yet again, for a husband-and-wife sweep of the event – Naranjo and Vindas are married. In fact, Naranjo claimed to have chosen the spot that provided the left Vindas took to win.
The next circuit event will take place next weekend in Jacó, in front of the Bahía Encantada, following this weekend’s Latin American Surfing Professionals (ALAS) Latin American Pro date this weekend, also in Jacó.
For more information on the National Surf Circuit, visit the Surf Federation of Costa Rica’s Web site at www.surfingcr.net.