The Stories and Legends of Costa Rica Surf

The Stories and Legends of Costa Rica Surf


Mario Arturo Salazar Zúñiga, born November 11, 1947 in San José, lives in  Brasil de Mora in Ciudad Colon, known in Surfing as “Polaco”, began trying to surf in 1958 in San Isidro of Puntarenas, then later in 1967 in la Boca de Barranca. The idea to go surfing was because in the 50s there was a documentary about astronauts. A scientist spoke about the capsules and that it would be good to utilize surfing for equilibrium, balance, coordination and physical fitness. My grandfather Arturo Zúñiga (RIP) had a furniture store and he had a balsa board. After forming it into a surf board I went to San Isidro. I was never able to stand up very well, I just glided a little bit. A North American from California came and I was with José Segovia. The three of us went to Boca de Barranca to ride waves with a fiber glass board and I bought my first board from that foreigner. Back then there were a lot of sharks that passed under our boards, and you could see lots of fish between us and the waves. One time we went to surf at the pier in Quepos; it had a good break back then. This enormous shark came towards us, the size of a big boat, and in another boat there was a dead shark with a bite in its belly and our opened arms were not long enough to measure the size of it. My father was a pilot and he liked to travel to Jaco and there was absolutely nothing, just the Madrigales that had a place for people to stay on cots with a blanket. I brought my board and propped it up in the plane’s cabin. We landed during low tide there in Jaco, in the 70s, and we surfed the whole zone of Jaco. My father flew all over Costa Rica and along the Pacific coast and I saw Playa Hermosa from the plane and thought that more than 10000 surfers could surf there, but there was no access to that zone, only by plane, because there was no bridge in Boca de Barranca, nor was there a highway from the coast from Caldera. The most beautiful from that time were the waves in Boca de Barranca during 1968. They were 10 to 15 feet and the waves at Doña Ana were 7 to 9 feet but they were faster. When Roy Quiroz and I glided across the wave, there was a guy they called “Tarzan” that learned to surf those waves. I am so Costa Rican and all of my family went to live elsewhere and I stayed in this beautiful country enjoying her waves. My thinking as a Surfer is that it is a direct link with nature, and because of that I never participated in tournaments. For me, it is more spiritual than competing with another Surfer. Surfers back then, we were like brothers, we helped each other out, when someone did not have a board, the other made it easy for him to still ride waves; there were plenty of waves then. I have surfed many places in Costa Rica and I would like to be able to ride a wave at Roca Bruja and Pavones. I went to Mazatlán in México in 66 with José Segovia. We rented a board to be able to stand up but we could not maneuver. I currently work in tourism with the Costa Rica Tentation agency. I would tell a young surfer to give your heart and soul to a very physical sport.



José A. Segovia Pinto, born in San José on June 26, 1949, lives in Sabanilla, known in the Surfing World as “Japay or Chepe”. Began surfing at age 18 in 1968. I started to surf with Mario Salazar when we bought 2 foam boards without fins at the Universal Bookstore and went to Boca de Barranca. Of course I could not catch a wave. I shared my first board with Mario Salazar; I bought it from a North American that came by Javier (el pana) Palacios’ house, who at that time lived in Panama. We went to Boca de Barranca and we lost all the waves because we did not know how to do it. Surfing is like therapy, you only think of the wave and I got sun burned, spending hours in the water. The bad times came later seeing people fighting and hitting each other among surfers. In 1975 there were 100 surfers in Costa Rica. In 1970 or 1972, while in a swell, a North American was cut in the head by a fin and got 6 stitches. The next day she came surfing with her head wrapped and got back in the water to surf.  Back then the best was clean water, few people, friendships in and out of the water, trips to look for waves in other places, camping out, bonfires, night surfing, and memories that I will never forget.  There is a story about Steve Love. I saw him take the biggest swell that I have ever seen from the 4th point of Doña Ana to the Boca Barranca point. He rode the wave about a mile. He was a master and a good person. My thoughts and feelings as a Surfer: very proud, athletic, passionate, you can not live without going to surf. The country of Costa Rica needs controls, there should be an adequate way to manage the surf. It has its positives and negatives. The Surfers from back in the day were the best. You enjoyed riding the waves more. I surfed many places in the Pacific and the Atlantic, like Pavones, which is an incredible place. I traveled to Salamar in Ecuador, Rio Tetas in Panama, Peru and Brazil. I did not participate in tournaments and if they would have invited me and I would not have done them. I was a judge in a local tournament.  The last time I went surfing was in 2002 in Playa Grande. I went to Louis Wilson’s and he loaned me a board and I went to ride some waves. I was an active surfer the first 8 years, later I was very sporadic. I lost the desire with so much fighting. I was a naturalist expert for 22 years. I would tell a young surfer to look for a place with few people, enjoy it, do not do it to compete and show off. I would go back to surfing if my friends invited me. I do not have a board. I would begin with 6 foot waves to gain some confidence and warm up. With 2 days in the water I think I could ride a wave well, I am a goofy surfer. Something I cannot forget was when we went to Puntarenas to have a famous “churchill” at night, play guitar and make bonfires.



Roy Quirós Céspedes, born in San José, Costa Rica on July 8, 1951, lives in Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, began surfing at age 13 in 1964. Has been riding waves for 44 years. The idea to go surfing came about in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, watching surfing.  We took turns with my first board in Boca de Barranca when I went in 1968 to surf. My surfing style is Back side. At that time it took between 4 or 5 hours to get to the point at Boca de Barranca, and you did not have to fight for waves. The best was the sensation of freedom, independence, and self knowledge. Costa Rica has incredible places for surfing. Today it is easier to get to the points and people are really kind. My feeling as a surfer is that you have to live life with intensity, take care of your spiritual side and maintain balance. Surfers back then were people that enjoyed nature 100%. It was like a little family, we were few. Surfers today are really competitive. I have surfed many places like:  Pavones, Mata Palo, Drake, Uvita, Dominical, Quepos, Damas, others between Quepos and Barranca, Tivives, Mata de Limón, Doña Ana, La Boca de Barranca, Mal País, Coyote, Samara, Guiones, Nosara, Marbella, Lagarto, Junquillal, Negra, Avellanas, Langosta, Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Naranjo, Roca Bruja, Potrero Grande and other points that are still secret. I surfed Playa Bonita, Puerto Viejo Salsa Brava and Playa Negra in the Caribbean. I have met many well known surfers over the years. I have surfed in Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Brazil. In Dominican Republic, during the 70s, many places had not been surfed and people thought we were crazy to get in an ocean full of sharks. There were few local tournaments and I participated in international tournaments in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In some I qualified in 1st place. I am semiretired. I surf about 30 times a year. I am the captain and manager of Sport Fishing (Pesca Deportiva). I would tell a young surfer to have discipline, consistency and be careful with the extremes. Through surfing I learned to share, to have discipline and to go another mile beyond my own limits.