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11 Apr 2016
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Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast is rightly famous for its waves and we’re excited that the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games are returning August 6 – 14, 2016, after a seven-year break. 

In 2009, neighboring beach Playa Hermosa’s renowned breaks hosted the ISA World Surfing Games sponsored by Billabong, and now it’s Jacó’s turn to do the same. 

Making things even more exciting, the 2016 games represent a chance for Team Costa Rica to win back-to-back championships on their home surf. The home team took the championship title at Playa Popoyo in Nicaragua in June, 2015. 

Last year in Nicaragua Noe Mar McGonagle rode a near-perfect 9.93 wave, and another one in the eight-point range to seal his hold the gold medal. His sister, Leilani McGonagle, took the silver in the women’s division. 

Of the win, McGonagle said, “I didn’t do it for myself; I did it for Costa Rica. We come to these ISA events to do the best for our country, and I knew a win in my heat would give us the points we needed for the team Gold. Costa Rica is a small country, but we have a big heart and the most supportive people. I dedicate this to them.” 

Last year, the winning surfers took medals home to all parts of the world:
2015 ISA World Surfing Games | Medals

Gold Medal – Noe Mar McGonagle (CR)
Silver Medal – Nic Von Rupp (POR)
Bronze Medal – Shane Holmes (AUS)
Copper Medal – Leandro Usuna (ARG)

Gold Medal – Tia Blanco (USA)
Silver Medal – Leilani McGonagle (CR)
Bronze Medal – Ella Williams (NZL)
Copper Medal – Chelsea Tuach (BAR)

The games are an Olympic-style team competition, four men and two women for each national team, where surfers from some 30 countries compete for individual medals and the World Team Championship Trophy.

The event, organized by the International Surfing Association (ISA) returns to Costa Rica seven years after being held in Playa Hermosa, right next door to Jaco. 

The ISA World Surfing Games might get underway with the sport confirmed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. “With Team Costa Rica defending their title in their home waves and the pending Olympic announcement, this event has all the elements to be a monumental milestone for surfing,” notes Aguerre, president of the ISA.
Each year about 20 percent of Costa Rica’s visitors, around 400,000 people, come to surf and Jacó is an ideal jumping off spot for breaks up and down the coast. Jacó has plenty of retail and surf shops, as well as a healthy nightlife. Lodging choices range from dirt-cheap cabinas to the far more luxurious and comfortable Los Sueños Resort and Marina, which is just next door. 

“We envision a record-breaking world championship like in 2009, but above all we envision an extraordinary opportunity for tourism by showcasing the waves, athletes and people of Costa Rica,” adds Randall Cháves, president of the Costa Rican Surfing Federation.

Most beaches and surf breaks in the area are easily accessible. Boca Barranca is a left break in front at a river mouth, longboarders can ride its waves more than half a mile when the conditions are right, arrive early to avoid crowds.

Playa Escondida, an excellent point break just beyond Los Sueños Resort & Marina, has plenty to offer for rights and lefts, and the waves are best at high tide. Beach club members of Faro Escondido can access the break from the beach; visitors can rent a boat from Playa Jacó or Playa Herradura, and make their way around the cove to the break from the water. 

Playa Hermosa extends into the ocean and stretches for miles, making it easy to claim your spot on the constant swell. El Almendro, at Playa Hermosa, tends to have the best breaks, look for the sand bar opposite a huge beach almond or ask a local. Visitors to Costa Rica should keep in mind that there are two Play Hermosas: the one in Guanacaste is not a surf beach. The other, that which visitors will want to access during this year’s ISA World Surfing Games, is about 3 miles south of Jacó, 12 minute down the road from Los Sueños Resort, and one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica. 

Jacó is one of Costa Rica’s hottest surfing spots. Board shops are all over town, making it easy to rent a board, hire someone to show you where the best breaks are, teach you how to surf, or give you some pointers. Playa Jacó has smaller breaks for beginners or if you haven’t hit the waves in a while. For sure, the surf’s up at nearly every beach in the area, so just paddle out and catch a wave.