The World Surf League (WSL) Men and Women's Qualifying Series (QS) has arrived on Costa Rican soil ahead of the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro set for October 4 - 7 at Playa Jaco. This event marks a great occasion for the competitive surf scene in Costa Rica after a brief hiatus away from the WSL schedule in 2017, as well as a venue change to Playa Jaco from the previous site of Esterillos Este.
It's also a big opportunity for the local contingent to get experience at the professional level as they look to contest alongside North America's top talents, as well as international competitors, on hand with a live webcast streaming throughout the week.
One of Costa Rica's top veteran QS warriors Carlos Munoz has been contesting against some of the best surfers in the world for over seven years among the Top 150 beginning in 2012. Munoz made a few runs toward the Top 10 in recent years, finishing at an all-time best No. 26, and now hopes for the same spotlight on his fellow countrymen.
"We represent Costa Rica around the world at all the stops of the WSL and it's great to have this event at home," Munoz said. "It feels like all the work we have been putting in for all these years is paying back with seeing these events at here -- not only for me, but for all the Costa Ricans it's a great opportunity. We call it the ‘window' so they can experience the feeling, the adrenaline and why not the start of their dreams as an athlete. I'm really looking forward to trying to win it and build some momentum for the end one the year."
Kevin Schulz and Lucca Mesinas: The Chess Match Resumes
But, they will be amid a heated race for the North America Regional QS Title with the Top 3 contenders all in attendance. Current No. 1 Kevin Schulz has contest experience at Playa Jaco after competing in the 2016 ISA World Games. The San Clemente, California, native only has a 30-point lead over No. 2 Lucca Mesinas heading into the Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro and needs to capitalize on the extra event opportunity.
"The No. 1 spot on the regional ratings feels great, but with two events left, and the rankings being within less than 100 points, I know the job is no where near done," Schulz said. "Im looking to better a Quarterfinal finish at the least, so I am going into this event with every intent to win. I've surfed an event in Jaco before for the ISA world games back in 2016 so I feel super comfortable there. I am trying not to think about the ratings as much and just want to continue to surf committed, high performance heats and the Jaco beach break is a great place to make it happen."
Mesinas comes into this event with two wins already and looking for an unprecedented third among the regional series. But, the 1,500 points toward international rankings will be even more helpful as he's dropping a possible 840 and currently sits at No. 44. It's also familiar ground for the Peruvian with experience up and down Central America.
"After VB I realized that I had only three good results in the regional rankings so this QS in Jaco is giving me a big opportunity to change my points," Mesinas said. "It's super exciting to have this event back. I think Costa Rica is a incredible country to have events with the warm weather, the amazing food and for sure the epic waves. It is really good for the surfers to have a chance to get more points in such an amazing place. With three events left it is going to take a lot of hard work and determination to fight for the No.1 spot."
Women Look to Capitalize On New Opportunity
The Women's Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro brings in an exciting field of some competitors who already have some accolades to their names alongside an upcoming Costa Rican contingent that is looking to have a presence this week.
2016 North America QS Regional Champ Meah Collins returns to Costa Rica, the country where she solidified her title, in hopes of bettering her previous result. It's been a tough, first full year on the QS for the Californian and Collins continues to learn every step of the way. But, the 19-year-old's in familiar territory with a punchy beackbreak on offer and a chance at building momentum.
"I absolutely love Costa Rica with all the wildlife and raw natural beauty here so I couldn't think of a better place to have the next North America regional event," Collins said. "I haven't had the best results this year and at this point I am focusing more on just finishing strong to accumulate more points for 2019. In that light it is really exciting for me coming into this event with no weight on my shoulders of trying to make the cut. Obviously I want to perform well and win the event, but instead of being burdened with qualifying, I am just here to surf and have fun while doing the thing I love the most -- surfing!"
One of Costa Rica's top talents Nataly Bernold Gutierrez is ready for more after her WSL debut at the 2016 Essential Costa Rica Surf Open. The 25-year-old already has a Costa Rican National Title and Central America Championship Title, but is still looking to breakthrough on the professional level. This marks a massive opportunity for Gutierrez and her fellow countrywomen with plenty of up-and-coming surfers in attendance.
"It's very exciting to have this event here again, we don't have events like this all the time," Gutierrez said. "It means a lot to us, not everyone has the opportunity to go out of the country and compete at these events with the costs of travel, so this is a great opportunity. I feel prepared to compete with these talented women and want to give it my best."
Zulay Martinez as she looks to get a footing in the competitive surfing world. Martinez is joined by the likes fellow, young Costa Rica representatives Paulina Summers, Eva Woodland, Rubiana Brownell, and Coral Wiggins who've had WSL experience at both the QS and Pro Junior level. But, the 18-year-old is relishing in the opportunity to compete at home at this level of competition.
Event organizers will convene at 7:30 a.m. CST to determine a possible 8:00 a.m. CST start. Tune in LIVE beginning with Round 1 action from either the men or women.
The Essential Costa Rica Surf Pro Men's and Women's QS 1,500 will run October 4 - 7 in Jaco, Puntarenas, Costa Rica.