To say that the National Surf Circuit grand finals were strange is an understatement. For one thing, a number of the key categories – including the granddaddy of them all, the open – were already decided going into the event last weekend in Playa Hermosa, on the central Pacific coast.
This year, the Jacó-based House of Vindas ruled again, with 26-year-old Luis Vindas becoming Costa Rica’s national surf champion for the second year in a row. His trophy was an amazing coup, secured well before the finals after Vindas won the first, second and fourth of the circuit’s five dates; his championship was announced last month after his win at the fourth date in Santa Teresa, on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Vindas’ sister, Lisbeth, 28, was billed as the big attraction at the grand finals in Hermosa. In a fight for her ninth national women’s title, she went into last weekend’s event as the underdog against Jordan Hundley of the United States, the rankings leader going into the finals. The task in front of Vindas was to win the date, while Hundley had to make it to second or better to win.
It got exciting for Vindas when Hundley was eliminated after the first round on Friday. Nataly Bernold, another former national women’s champion, looked to play the spoiler to Vindas’ game, but ultimately the nine-time champ surfed past everyone in her heats, all the way to the trophy.
“I can’t believe it,” Vindas said after her win. “It was difficult, but things were accommodating and happened the way they were supposed to.
“Today I feel very happy because of the positive vibes of the people who wanted me to win, and that helped so much and was the best thing for me.”
As for the youngsters this year, they made a name for themselves in a big way. Anthony Fillingim, 17, from Santa Teresa, placed second in the open category and won the national junior championship. He also won the Expression Session and $400 at the finals event. Sixteen-year-old Hundley, though foiled in her women’s championship aspirations, won the junior women’s crown.
One to watch out for is 11-year-old Leilani McGonagle of Pavones on the southern Pacific coast, who struck double gold with her national wins in the grommet girls’ and mini-grommet girls’ categories.
For a full list of National Surf Circuit results, see the Surf Federation of Costa Rica’s website at www.surfingcr.net.