HISTORY AND LEGENDS OF SURFING IN COSTA RICA
The background of Surfing in Costa Rica is the guideline for writing this historical summary, from the evolution to the development that surfing has had. La Boca de Barranca and Doña Ana were one of the places where surfing began in Costa Rica. The Vietnam War (50 and 60) popularized the sport through the North American soldiers. At the end of 1967, and the beginning of 1968 you could surf gigantic waves of more than 15 feet in Boca de Barranca during the summer. Mario Arturo Salazar Zúñiga or “Polaco”, began in 1958 in San Isidro of Puntarenas at age 11 when there was no one surfing. Later in 1967 in Boca de Barranca when he was 20 years old, according to our investigation, he is the first surfer that starting surfing of Costa Rica. Later came José Segovia and a North American that bought him a fiber glass board, then Randy Cooper followed accompanied by Danny “the Fake.” Roy Quiroz appeard when he came back from Brazil in 1968. At that time Mario Salazar took off some 300 meters into Boca de Barranca and rode a wave 3 or 4 minutes to the Hospital (at that time it did not exist). Randy Cooper, who they say was one of the foreigners to ride a wave at Boca de Barranca. Also there was a little group of American Surfers that had a rented house in front of “Chanita” (the highway today), like Ben, the Hawaiian. In Doña Ana some surfers rode waves at nigth with teh full moon and phosphorescent tubes.
At that time there were perfect 7 and 8 feet waves at Doña Ana that they called “Zippers” and the swells came in every 15 days. They were such good waves that people 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. In 1968 Surfers did not exist in Costa Rica, not foreign or Costa Rican. Mario Salazar’s father was a pilot and he flew to Puntarenas and went over Boca de Barranca and saw good waves. The place had a bad reputation, 1st, many people drowned because of the rip currents and the waves, also the river made a current like an (F) toward the ocean to the right side, there was a sand bar, passing before and after the sand bar, in the direction toward the Hospital which did not exist at that moment. The people who lived in the town commented that the river brought food to the sharks. It happened that Mario Salazar and José Segovia wanted to learn to surf and they bought 2 Font foam boards without fins at the Universal store. They made their way to learn at Boca de Barranca, of course they did not ride one wave. They practiced considered himself a surfer and he had more experience.
They traveled every weekend, then every week. The highway from Roble to Boca de Barranca was of rock, the only cabins were Chanita and Manuel’s bar. There was no bridge at Boca de Barranca. They crossed in Cundino Arias’ father’s boat, carrying the boards. Sometimos when they surfed Doña Ana at night the water was clean, pristine and they threw the water in the air and it sparkled with light. When they surfed Boca de Barranca, they used a smoke signal from the old Fertica tower and the point on the beach to know the off shore. In 1968 Roy Quiroz came already knowing how to surf because he learned in Brazil in 1963. Now there was a group of 5 people Mario Salazar, José Segovia, Randy Cooper, Danny “the Fake” and Roy Quiroz. Other Costa Ricans and foreigners came also. Back then it was friendly, they shared the waves. Later it became problematic, there was a lack of respect, as if they ocean was just one person’s and it was not as fun any more. Back in the beginning there was no wax. They made little balls of candle wax to put on the board or they bought paraffin to wax it for going surfing. Some used a sock and a hospital tube as leashes. Others made rubber tubes and used nylon cords. They used burlap sacks to keep the boards because there were no stores and you had to make everything yourself. There were no racks to put the boards on on the roofs on the cars and many times the boards fell off. There was no bridge over the river and the highway to without success in the Font foam boards for a month. They went by car from San José to Puntarenas via the old highway through Grecia, Tacares and San Ramón.
It took 5 hours to get to Boca de Barranca. Time went by and they bought a board from a North American that passed by Javier (Pana) Palacios’ house, who was living in Panama at the time. They shared the board and the waves, even though they could not ride the waves, they got in the river and in front of the sandbar they began with no knowledge whatsoever. The current was so strong that they paddled to keep themselves in one place. When one used the board to try to surf the other waited on the Font board. Until finally José Segovia saw, being behind the wave, Mario Salazar began to get up on the wave and ride it. It was the first time a Costa Rican surfed. So José told him, “Polaco…it is my turn now” until he rode the wave and gave the board back. Later on the place became the stylish point, when other people started coming. At the same time Randy Cooper came and Danny “the Fake.” They rented a house in Boca de Barranca so they could live there from the end of 1968 to the beginning of 1969. At that time there were 4 people with surf boards without a leash. When they fell in the water they were without a board, just floating and looking for the board and all of a sudden it would be on top of you. Later, they moved on to surf the 1st point of Doña Ana when it was exact, then the 2nd point, going into the caves, they came out through the rocks and they jumped, then to the 3rd point. This was when José Segovia considered himself a surfer and he had more experience. They traveled every weekend, then every week. The highway from Roble to Boca de Barranca was of rock, the only cabins were Chanita and Manuel’s bar. There was no bridge at Boca de Barranca. They crossed in Cundino Arias’ father’s boat, carrying the boards. Sometimos when they surfed Doña Ana at night the water was clean, pristine and they threw the water in the air and it sparkled with light. When they surfed Boca de Barranca, they used a smoke signal from the old Fertica tower and the point on the beach to know the off shore. In 1968 Roy Quiroz came already knowing how to surf because he learned in Brazil in 1963. Now there was a group of 5 people Mario Salazar, José Segovia, Randy Cooper, Danny “the Fake” and Roy Quiroz. Other Costa Ricans and foreigners came also. Back then it was friendly, they shared the waves. Later it became problematic, there was a lack of respect, as if they ocean was just one person’s and it was not as fun any more. Back in the beginning there was no wax. They made little balls of candle wax to put on the board or they bought paraffin to wax it for going surfing. Some used a sock and a hospital tube as leashes. Others made rubber tubes and used nylon cords. They used burlap sacks to keep the boards because there were no stores and you had to make everything yourself. There were no racks to put the boards on on the roofs on the cars and many times the boards fell off. There was no bridge over the river and the highway to Caldera. They went past it swimming on the surf board. It is also worth mentioning that the opening of the Monseñor Sanabria Hospital coincided with the closing of the old San Rafael Hospital, administrated by the Board of Social Protection of Puntarenas. They ‘baptized’ the Puntarenas Hospital with the distinguished name Monseñor Víctor Manuel Sanabria Martínez, a motion presented by José Luís Molina Quesada, member of the Board back then. In February 1962 they confirmed the construction of the hospital. Later in August 1963 they bought land for the construction of the hospital, property of the Costa Rican Institute for Tourism (I.C.T). In March of 1965 they place the first rock in a public ceremony and began construction, which is more than 20,000 square meters. On Friday, October 12, 1973 the administrative offices of the Monseñor Sanabria Hospital opened. In May 1974, the hospital opened its doors for consults and hospitalizations. At the Caldera Port, under law 5582 is the legal support for the construction in October 1974. The construction began in 1979 and it was inaugurated December 17, 1981. The construction entailed dredging which minimized the currents and the big waves that came in. The Caldera Port began to export cement in 1981. It later opened fully in September 1982. The Mata Limón bridge was built the same year as the bridge in Boca de Barranca. Back then there was not a way to pass from Boca de Barranca to Caldera. It was a mountain of rock and they opened up the highway with explosives. The company was named Carrez and it no longer exists. The first 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 a 1000 people 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. It gave surfing a boost and held many tournaments in Costa Rica and promoted surfing at the national level, with 8 world and 26 countries with international tournaments from Hawaii to Africa, always promoting Costa Rica Surfing. At that time there was no female participation in the tournaments because there were few women, they only rode waves in exhibition. Costa Rica is a country privileged with 2 coasts, very close to each other. You can surf one coast in the morning and the other in the afternoon. They both have great surf potential, with different wave forms and sizes. This is an important attraction for surf lovers. 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. In no other country in the world will you find the courtesy for foreigners like in Costa Rica. A fundamental rule in Surfing 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 enjoyed by many good people, professionals, with good manners and habits. Note: To try to find all the information on the history of Surfing and all the people, was an exhaustive job of more than 8 months of research. We were able to find many, but others we tried to contact and could not. The information and each description of the Surfers that followed were authorized by their own person, with their own photos and testimonies. Also for the interest and importance of Surfing in Costa Rica, in this section we will include the following names of Surfers with whom we were unable to obtain information, or they are out of the country or they have passed on. Guillermo Miranda Quesada, Roberto 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, Mario Sotela, 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, Oscar (Maguata) Aguilar, Carlos Alfaro, Carlos Zaya, Rolo Masis (RIP), Henry Martínez, “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”, José Luis Guzmán, 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.