You wouldn’t dare tell Mike Clifford to act his age. After all, on any given day, the 59-year-old owner of the Langosta Sports Bar Surf Club can be seen skateboarding in Oneida Park, or surfing in Langosta waves.
You’d be surprised to learn that he once worked in banking, but left the corporate life for a stint on a cruise ship before founding his “neighborhood bar”.
Married for 21 years to Wendy, today Mike is not only into punk rock music and sports, and hosting people at the bar, but is an active member of the Tamarindo Surfrider Foundation. He admits he has the life he’s always dreamed of.
THE Tamarindo News sat down to with Mike over burgers and fries served at his bar.
THE Tamarindo News: Are you still skateboarding?
Mike Clifford: What is it Jay Adams says? “You didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old, you got old because you quit skateboarding.” As a matter of fact, when I went home to Huntington recently I went to the new Vans Skate Park. I can still do the basics: front side, basic carve, grinds, that stuff. Wherever we’re skating, I’m definitely the oldest guy. Grandpa can skate. I’m still skating, surfing, golfing, and now playing Dodge Ball. I try to do things to keep moving.
TNN: Tell me about your early life? MC: After high school, I took a lot of years off. I graduated in 1975 and then graduated college in 1985. Afterwards, I worked in banking for seven years. Everyday doing that was torture. There was a hostile takeover of Security Pacific, where I worked, by Bank of America, and I spent another year there hating every minute of it. Then, two neighbors were moving to St. Thomas. I said, “I’m going too.” I stayed there for five years. TNN: Is that where you met Wendy?
MC: I was working at the VI Dive School, and so did she. We couldn’t have been more different. I was this punk from Huntington and she was a preppy from Boston. I called her Sorority Smack. We ended up married. The key is she lets me be me.
TNN: How did you end up in Costa Rica?
MC: Windstar sailing has a scuba diving program and they came to St. Thomas asking for couples who were scuba instructors. After we married, we were ready to make a change. We spent five years as scuba instructors for Windstar and then five years as cruise directors. The ship went to Caldera, Nicaragua, Cocovado National Park, Quepos and back to Caldera. We worked six months on and two months off, and in October 2000 we took a month and came to Tamarindo. On our very first visit here, we bought our condo.
TNN: As a surfer, you must have loved it here.
MC: I’ve been surfing for over 40 years. I had been trying to get to Costa Rica since I was living in St. Thomas. I knew that Costa Rica was a surf destination due to the Huntington connection with Robert August, Bud Llamas. The whole Huntington Beach scene was on to Costa Rica early on, so it was natural to want to come here and surf. I surfed all over that first time: Langosta, Avellanas, Grande and that left in front of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. We retired here in 2006.
TNN: Talk about the Langosta Sports Bar Surf Club.
MC: We were looking at property in Tamarindo, but that fell through, so this lot was suggested and ended up buying it in 2002. We weren’t sure what we wanted to do, maybe a water sport business, but we came up with the idea of a sports bar. We spent enough time in bars, why not own one? The idea was to have a place to play games, talk to people—and not yell at them. We opened in September 2006. This was our dream, and it’s absolutely a neighborhood bar where everybody knows everybody like Cheers. We are happy. Right now there’s a new generation of kids hanging out playing ping pong, darts, pool, foosball, horse shoes, and sling ball. And we’re only open Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday (he laughs). We keep a very busy schedule. It really is a labor of love.
TNN: Most people are not aware that you are one of the original California punks.
MC: As a matter of fact, Walter Campbell, a graduate of UCLA film school, recently made a documentary on the LA/OC punk scene and interviewed me. Wendy gave me a trip to California for my 50th birthday to see Social Distortion. And I’m going to Boston in February to see them again. When it comes to music I live in the past. I’m a 1st generation punk, 2nd generation skater and I’m a product of the ‘70s in surfing. And I’m a Raiders fan for life. My youngest brother always jokes that my life is so uncomplicated. He even has a hashtag #LiveLikeMike.
TNN: Is football a really big deal with you?
MC: Yes, the Raiders. And I’m in a local Fantasy Football league called the TB Rivals and there’s 12 of us. I’m in the finals right now.
TNN: Why did you get involved with the Tamarindo Surfrider Foundation?
MC: The Surfrider Foundation was started by Greg Gordon of crsurf and Lou Moresca, who now lives in Hawaii. I joined the board here because I was a member of Surfrider since the ‘80s when it started in in Southern California. I’ve always been concerned about the ocean. The Tamarindo chapter still supports beach cleanup, and we do necessary educational programs. 2017 is going to a better year for that, too. Ideally, we need more education for youngsters to know about the importance of keeping the beach clean, as well as not throwing trash in the rivers either, because it filters down to the ocean. We are preparing a presentation in Spanish and English to be used in schools.