HISTORY AND LEGENDS OF SURFING IN COSTA RICA
The history of Surfing in Costa Rica, is a historical guideline, about the evolution of Surfing from 1967 to present time. Barranca and Doña Ana beaches, on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, are the birthplace of surfing here. At the end of 1967, and the beginning of 1968 you could surf gigantic waves of more than 15 feet in Boca de Barranca. Although, before 1968 there might have been a few adventurous visiting surfers that enjoyed the sport of kings in Costa Rica there is no evidence of any local or foreigner who enjoyed the sport on any regular basis. Barranca had a terrible reputation: The locals believed that the river brought food for sharks. It was a beach where many people had drawn because of strong currents and huge waves. 20 year old Mario Salazar’s father, was a pilot, and on one occasion while flying to Puntarenas with Jose Segovia they were able to observe from the air, a place where the waves broke in perfect form for surfing, dawn below, the river Barranca went into the ocean and made a current like an (F) leaning towards the right producing a sandbar in the middle that made the wave brake with perfect shape all the way to the Puntarenas hospital which was under construction at the time.
That view from the plane enticed them, to want to learn to surf, their problem was that at the time there was no place where you could buy a surfboard in all of C.R. so they bought 2 foam boards without fins at Libreria Universal. They would venture on the foam boards deprived of fins, leash, or wax, and nobody to learn from or copy, resulting in a lot of swimming without the benefit of catching any waves, they practiced in the foam boards week after week without success for a month, until they bought a real Surfboard, (no leash yet, and oly candle wax), they would take turns, one on the foam board, and the other on the real bord. they began to learn from cero and nobody to copy or learn from. The current was so strong that they had to paddle all the time to keep themselves in one spot. While one used the real board the other waited on the Foam board. Until finally José Segovia saw, how, Mario Salazar began to get up on the wave and ride it. It was the first time he had seen anybody surf in Costa Rica. Jose, Inmediatly asked for the board, until he rode his first wave too. That’s how Mario and José learned to Surf and became part of the legend.
Segovia mentioned that by 1968 there were other american surfers who lived in C.R. who had joined them Randy Cooper, and his friends Danny. Randy’s father, rented a house in San Isidro for them to stay when in Puntarenas later on, there were maybe one docen surfers, all of them without a leash. Every time they wiped out, they would find themselves looking for the board which sometimes was still up in the air so they could avoid it from falling on their head, or else had to swim sometimes all the way to the beach to get it. They learned to predict weather by reading the changes of wind in the smoke of the old Fertica chimney, they would know in advance when the wind was changing to off shore. They would drive fron San Jose to Boca de Barranca, via the old highway through Grecia, Tacares and San Ramón. It took 5 hours to get to Boca de Barranca. As weeks went by they bought a board from a North American that passed by Javier Palacios house. They traveled every weekend, then every other day. The highway from El Roble to Boca de Barranca was still gravel the only cabins were Chanita and Manuel’s bar. There was no bridge at Boca de Barranca, and as they were lazy they normally crossed the Barranca river in Cundino Arias’ father’s boat, dragging their boards. Sometimes when they surfed Doña Ana at night, the water was so pristine that it was common to have iridescent water, so bright that you could hurl water in the air and it would sparkled with light , like fireworks.
In 1968 Roy Quiroz came already knowing how to surf because he learned in Brazil in 1963. by then there was a small group of surfers mainly Mario Salazar, José Segovia, Randy Cooper, Danny, Roy Quiroz, Rodrigo Crespo, Guillermo Miranda and maybe a few others, Costa Ricans and foreigners were begining to come in numbers. Barranca and Dona Ana became a popular spot where most Costa Ricans learned how to Surf. Surfers had allready discovered that at Dona Ana beach, across the river, they could surf three more points where the waves would brake, and the beach was much nicer, by then there were more than 15 surfers and there was a drift of surfers from Barranca to Dona Ana’s 1st point and 2nd point, where surfers could watch the waves from the rocks and would jump directly in the Water at second point, then swim to the 3rd point which had a hairy take off in front of a rock wall . Dona Ana had 7 and 8 feet waves They were such good waves that surfers like Gary López, who was a Hawaiian world champion, came to surf them. Boca de Barranca was one of the best places to practice the sport. Surfers came to go through a tube in a 8 foot wave, 400 meters long or more.
By 1974 Surfing was already very popular and there were plenty of surfers, local and foreigners coming in larger numbers. The mood had changed from a very friendly group that would share the waves for the sheer pleasure of surfing among friends, to a more competitive drive where the surfers where more selfish.Changing the mood from a very friendly group that would share the waves,, to a more competitive group that was more selfish.
In the old days, there were no surf shops and you had to make everything yourself, there was no wax, so surfer improvised: using candle wax melted on their boards. When leashes became a thing, some of the old guys, used a sock and a laboratory rubber hose as leashes, others used nylon cords. Others, burlap sacks to gard their bords . Roof racks, where hard to find, so many a surfer who tied the board to the car with ropes, had them fly away.
The construction of the hospital Monseñor Víctor Manuel Sanabria Martínez, had a great influence on Barranca In May 1974, the hospital opened its doors for consults and hospitalizations. The construction entailed dredging sand fron the beach which minimized the currents and the big waves that came in.
Gathering the information on the history of Surfing and interviewing all the surfers, was an exhaustive job that took more than 8 months of research. We were able to interview many surfers. The information and description of the Surfers that followed was authorized by their own person, with their own photos and testimonies. On behalf of the historic importance, of Surfing in Costa Rica, in this section we will include the names of Surfers with whom we were unable to contact, they live out of the country or they have passed on: Guillermo Miranda Quesada, Larry Hustler, Gordon, Cristofer, Bret Harter, Ken Matley, Jan Larsson, The “Troglodita” A huge gringo, Eduardo Gerry, Javier Valverde (RIP), Alberto Mantilla, Ricardo (Chino) Solano, Richard Chileni, Kike Albarrazin (Care Gato), Javier (El Pana) Palacios, Heiner Morales, David Arguello, Mario Urpi Rodríguez, William (Seco) Rodríguez Vega, Rodolfo (Tabito) Torres Jimenez (RIP), Álvaro Coto (El Burro/ RIP), he was a great athlete and surfer, there is no doubt the Point of “Burro” at Roca Bruja is named for him, Álvaro Vizcaíno, Fernando Figuls, Carlos Alfaro, Carlos Zaya, Rolo Masis (RIP), “El Indio” of Boca de Barranca who surfed with a wooden board from the beginning, Otto (Catalicho) López, Fernando Rodríguez, Alfonso Martínez, Cundino Arias, Jorge (Koki) Reyes (RIP),“Cangrejo” (RIP), one of the first to fix boards in Costa Rica, the one called “Tarzán”, Pedro Odio, Cesar (Rock & Roll), José (Pepe), Kenneth (Chereveco) Ávila Rodríguez, Luis Armijo, “Chino” Harold, Yanco Aponte, “Chino” Asan, Richard Loeb, Juan Carlos Burgos, Marco Salazar, Eladio Castro, Sergio Leiva, Rafael (Fabeto) Montejo, Eduardo Lizano, José Mafio (RIP), Rafael Li (Pecho/ RIP), Luis Chow (Maguito), José Chou, “Milory”, Ricardo (Chato) Valdepera, Mario Montero, Carlos Mateo, Francisco (Chico) Castro, Diego Carranza, Alberto (Cubano) Jiménez, Cris Withman, Oscar (Chicharrón) Sánchez Solano, Alberto Quevedo, Federico Alvarado, Walter (Teca) Fallas Angulo, Javier (Tigre) Fallas Angulo, Hugo (Gory Negro) Chollett, Carlos Matarrita, and possibly many others who surfed but we did not hear of them again.
The first surfers association was called the National Wave Rider Association (ANCO) which began at the end of 1980, its first surf tournament was in Langosta at the beginning of 1981. It was the Costa Rican Woodstock, there were thousands camping on the beach and there were prizes to go to Hawaii. It was organized by former president Mario Sotela Blen. The second association was named Association of Wave Riders (ACOS). It was lead by former president Frank Mora and its first tournament was in Boca de Barranca. As the years went by, many tournaments promoting surfing at national level Costa Ricans now compete and participate actively at international tournaments from Hawaii to Africa, always promoting Costa Rica. In the old days, there where no ladies participation in the tournaments because there were few women surfers, they would only ride waves in exhibitions.
Costa Rica is a country privileged with 2 coasts, very close to each other. You can surf the Caribean coast in the morning and the Pacific coast in the afternoon. Both coasts have great surf potential, with different wave forms and sizes.. If you cannot find waves in one place you can take off to another place where you can find more waves. This is reflected in the amount of Surfers that travel to our country.
A golden rule to fallow in any country, and one that should be respected is the IN SIDE. The person who is IN SIDE is the “owner” of the wave, and we should be able to respect one another. Surfing is practiced, mostly by good people, with good manners and habits.