By Ellen Zoe Golden
If you are a surfer in Tamarindo, then you are very likely aware of Juan Diego Evangelista, the shaper of Cheboards. His factory is located just a little ways down the road from the center of town, and he and the workers he has trained create between 600-900 boards per year. And people love those surfboards.
Evangelista was recently scared that he would not be able to continue his craft, after falling 4 ½ meters from top of a moving shipping container and breaking three ribs, puncturing a lung, damaging his spleen and bruising his kidney. While many in the surf community worried about him, he himself was mostly worried about not being around for his family, which includes his pregnant wife, Mareika and their 1 ½ year-old son, Emilio.
“I was worried about my family and not having said goodbye to then,” Evangelista recalled about his accident from which he is now recovered. “I was worried I wouldn’t have more time to spend with them.” In his 34 years, he’s already broken 23 bones including these new ones. That’s due to his love of action sports—skateboarding, in-line skating, horseback riding, BMX, and of course, surfing.
“I can’t stop,” said the 34-year-old shaper. “With my work, I don’t have much time, that’s why everything I do must be fast. I wake up early and keep going until the night, when I use the TV to slow down. I never hang out at night. That gives me a lot of time for other things.”
In his factory, a huge warehouse adorned with his first-ever Cheboard—a blue and white shortboard—he lovingly creates the long, short and SUP surfboards he sells in the showroom upfront. In addition, Evangelista also donates boards to a lot of young kids from Villareal, CRIA, Educarte and La Paz schools, as well as many needy youngsters from the organizations, CEPIA and Surf for Youth.
Juan Diego began the sport at 7, by 11 was shaping his first board in his home back in Mar de Plata, Argentina. “From the beginning it was love at first sight,” he recalls. A visit to a local surfboard factory hooked him, and Evangalista ended up borrowing his grandfather’s tools to reshape the blanks of a bunch of ‘70s boards he got from a friend’s father. “I made a mess but I thought I was a shaper,” laughed Evangelista.
By 16, he was already working in the surfboard factory for Camoro Brujo, Extortion and Dopler, but “most of the work I did was at home at night.”
Even with all these efforts, his parents were not impressed with surfing. To wit, they sent Evangelista to dental school, where he remained for 3 ½ years. Finally, he gave up, and proclaimed “I’m going back to the beach.”
Traveling from Brazil to Argentina, back to Brazil, to Chile, back to Brazil and ultimately Costa Rica looking for waves, he then settled for 5 years in the Canary Islands for 5 years and created Cheboards. The name does not have anything to do with the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, but rather was a nickname given to him by friends, the same friends represented by 5 points on the red star in the Cheboards logo.
“I really like to make shapes. In the beginning, people bought my boards just to help me out. I always chose a place to live where I could own the area, where there weren’t many options for surfboards. That was the same thing I did when I came here (to Tamarindo). I saw a hole and there I was,” he said.
When Costa Rica called again four years ago, he and his wife set up a shop for him to shape epoxy or polyurethane centers, coloring with a choice from the rainbow, adding one of seven different types of glassing to provide the shell that covers the boards, or sanding to finish up.
. “I want to make people feel happy and confident with a board,” Evangelista explained. “I like these relationships with everybody. I want to make the best board for you. That’s the challenge. Every person is different, and I like to learn their surf habits: For example, do you surf once a day, once a month? It’s a lot of things.”
“Getting it right, in my heart, I explode with happiness,” he added. “It’s like the biggest barrel, or going out and getting the most waves.”