World Surf League (WSL) North America is pleased to announce the return of the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro Men's and Women's Qualifying Series (QS) 1,500-level event to be held at one of Central America's prime surf cities of Jaco, October 4 - 7. It's been two years since the WSL was on Costa Rican shores and, with the help of Manrique Mata, Warren Baez, and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT). This event provides North America QS Stop No. 11 for the men and Stop No. 6 for the women, giving competitors a shot at more points toward the international rankings -- as well as the coveted North America Regional QS Title.
Mata, Event Producer, and his team have been working tirelessly to bring pro surfing back to one of the world's surf-rich countries once more. The opportunities on hand go beyond points and, with the support of the tourism board, this event being brought back to life means everything to all involved.
"It's very important for Costa Rica to have this event because we are a surfing nation, and some of our athletes have been amateur champions," Mata said. "As promoter and producer of the event, it is amazing to see our goal achieved because two years ago we had an amateur international event and now we will have this WSL event -- not only for men but also for women."
"It is a vital event because many of the local surfers are very good, but some of them have financial problems and do not have the means to travel outside Costa Rica," Mata added. "So, we bring the events here to their country and the WSL QS 1500 is their dream coming as a reality, they have the opportunity of being seen internationally, and who knows, maybe someday they can be on the Olympics representing Costa Rica as well."
Currently the highest ranked Costa Ricans on their respective QS tours, Noe Mar and Leilani McGonagle are just two of the native competitors ecstatic for this event's return. Both are lucky enough to have the sponsors needed to pursue the QS around the world, unlike many of their fellow countrymen, and recognize that opportunity as one to revel in. Noe Mar made his country proud at the previous Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro QS 3,000 with a Semifinal result and is looking to do the same at a new venue as he currently sits at No. 47 on the QS rankings.
"I'm really excited to have another big event in Costa Rica and I think it's good that RPM moved it to Jaco," McGonagle said. "It gets good there on the right tide and October is typically a great month for waves. Hopefully we get a big crowd like we did for the ISA in Jaco, that atmosphere was insane. It's nice to have a 1,500 so a lot more guys can get in. We have a few surfers pretty high up the rankings, but there's so many guys looking to get funds for more events and this is a great stepping stone for them. We've had a lack of events in Central America the last few years so it's nice to see a couple back and hopefully we can continue to help build even more."
Noe Mar's younger sister Leilani currently sits at No. 16 on the rankings after her first major QS victory earlier this year at the Barbados Surf Pro QS 3,000. This marks the 18-year-old's first full-time year on the QS and has the opportunity to claim a win for her home country.
"It's incredible to see an event back in our country and give some of the girls a chance at points without having to stress about travel," McGonagle said. "Women's surfing is growing every year and the level of competition is as well, so it's great to see Costa Rica back on the schedule at this time. We as a country love surfing, you see so many kids getting into the sport and without these opportunities to help them progress I think it'd hinder a lot of their dreams so this is amazing to see."
North America Tour Manager Brian Robbins has seen the evolution of Costa Rican surfing through competitors such as Carlos Munoz, and all the way down to their newest surfers like Aaron Ramirez. Robbins has also witnessed the sport of surfing continue to grow exponentially, particularly on the women's side, and provide those surfers a chance at doing what they love on an international scale -- starting in their home countries.
"We're really happy to see the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) through the Country Brand "ESSENTIAL COSTA RICA", step up again and give these competitors a platform in their own backyard," Robbins said. "Manrique (Mata) and Warren (Baez) have worked so hard on every little detail to make this event the best it can be which is incredible to see on their behalf. It'll be great to help them work through the process so that we can see this event continue to grow and provide even more opportunity in the future." The Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro Men's and Women's QS 1500 will run October 4 - 7 in Jaco, Puntarenas, Costa Rica.