By Ellen Zoe Golden
After a two-month pre-selection process, Costa Rica’s national surfing coach Jim Hogan has chosen 12 athletes who will represent Costa Rica in the International Surfing Association (ISA) Junior World Cup that will take place September 23 to October 1 in Hyuga, Japan. This is very exciting for our Ticos as we all know that Japan is the site of the surfing debut in the 2020 Olympics.
The team, which is likely to have one or two members who will be in those Olympics includes: André Chacón (Jaco), Francisco Coronado (Brasilito), Joseph Méndez (Jaco), Aldo Chirinos (Playa Negra) for Men Under 18; Leilani McGonagle (Pavones), Zulay Martínez (Tamarindo) for Women’s Under 18; Malakai Martinez (Tamarindo), Oscar Urbina (Puerto Viejo), Sebastián Mora (Santa Teresa), Gabriel Córdoba (Puerto Viejo) for Men Under 16; and Coral Wiggins (Avellanas), Eva Woodland (Florida) for Women’s Under 16.
This Costa Rican team will once again work towards a Top 10 finish among all the participating nations, a spot they have obtained the last three times they participated in the Juniors World Cup. Last year, they were #6 among the 35 different countries.
“This has not been an easy decision,” explained Hogan. “As much talent as Costa Rica is blessed with, it was difficult to name a final list. However, this is an incredible team.”
To get to Hyuga and have enough time to practice, the team will leave Costa Rica on September 19. As a unit, they will continue tactical efforts, as well as physical and technical work, under the guidance of trainer and nutritionist for the national team, Mario Rios.
One name that you may recall from years past Juniors World Cup competitions is Carlos Muñoz from Esterillos. He’s been making big news again for Costa Rica surfing by following up his early July 1st place win at the Powerade Surf Open Acapulco QS1000 with a return to the podium in the Van’s US Open of Surfing in Huntington later on in the month. With 10,000 precious rankings points split between the winners, his 3rd place finish in the prestigious contest got him 6500 points. As a result, he shoot up the rankings from 107 to 19.
It was a slow and steady race. Carlos killed it from the start in his Round 2 seed with a 14.10 about 3 full points ahead of his closest competitor, 2nd place Brazilian Heitor Alves. Noe McGonagle of Pavones was also in this Round, and was also on fire taking 1st place with 12.93 in his round 2 heat. Muñoz and McGonagle had he unfortunate luck to end up in the same Round 4 heat, but Cali took it with less than .03 points ahead of 2nd place Dusty Payne of Hawaii, with Noe ending up in 3rd place. In this heat, Muñoz copped one of the highest waves of the event up until then with a 9.00 backside ride that took him through the pier.
“I am a new person, I have deleted negative things in my life that have not done me very well and this has been reflected in my surfing. Surfing is my passion and that’s why I’m so excited about these results,” Carlos said afterwards.
Quarterfinals found Muñoz in a banger with South African Michael February, who himself garnered a lot of attention for his strong confident surfing. After a late start, Carlos ran two waves demonstrating the backside hook he practices at home. The Costa Rican dream continued into the semifinals.
Recalled Muñoz: “I am very happy to advance from this difficult heat where not too many waves came. Michael surfs so well. I was waiting patiently when the waves came I made a couple of turns and made it through. I waited a long time there and once I got a wave under my belt I needed to go get another one. That was my game plan and it worked. I like to go hard backside so I did a really good bottom turn to set it up. I was hoping for that.”
The man-to-man semifinal was with Brazilian Tomas Hermes, and although the US Open has a history of underdogs coming out on top, not even a partial Superman maneuver could rack up a big enough score to surpass Hermos. Still, Muñoz ended up with an impressive 3rd place finish and momentum for his next date in Virginia Beach, the Vans Pro QS3000, in late August.
Finally, the ISA has announced that among its 37 chosen scholarship winners this year, three of these surfers are from Costa Rica. Congratulations to Camila Summers, Kalani Abrahao, nd Rachel Aguero.
The money is designated to further their education, pay for travel to surf contests, pay for contest fees, and upgrade their surfing equipment. By the way, Carlos Muñoz was awarded the ISA Scholarship two times, in 2008 and 2009.