This weekend was the finals for the Costa Rica SUP contest series and I’m amazed at how fast the level has risen in the two years I’ve been competing. Paddle surfing is a new sport in Costa Rica, and it’s growth has been slow due to board size and economic factors. Size because traveling with paddle boards is difficult, even folks who may ride SUPs back home are usually traveling with shortboards. This means we haven’t had much exposure to the sport until recently. And economic because the barrier to entry is incredibly high for many of the locals.
It has started to grow. About 5 years ago the Federation of Surfing here in CR added SUP surfing and racing to the calendar along with the Masters and Longboard events. It helped that a local hero, Alvaro Solano, a guy who absolutely kills it on a shortboard, was an early adopter and got backed by Yolo. This gave the sport a certain credibility. Alvaro can surf whatever he wants, anywhere he goes.
Pairing the events the with Masters and Longboard contests exposed the sport to the best 35+ surfers in the country and those are the guys that control most of the lineups here. As the sport is becoming more accepted, and more surfers are paddling, there are more boards in country and a bigger second hand market.
In Nosara, where I live, locals started surfing about 15 years ago. The majority’s first boards were hand-me-downs from ex-pat friends. And now we’re seeing the same trend in the SUP world.
It’s fun to watch the sport grow, but I’m freaking out at how fast the progression is happening. The next few years in Costa Rica paddle surfing are going to be incredible to watch. I won’t be surprised if we see a Carlos Munoz in the paddling scene given our year round waves and great vibe.