Interview by Rebecca Parsons

Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty, friendly people, perfect waves and killer coffee. But for whatever reason, you don't hear of many Ticos competing on the world stage. A lack of talent seems unlikely, so what is the reason?

We caught up with Jose Ruiz, who took third place  in Costa Rica’s SUP surfing championships and asked him that very question. Here, he tells us about growing up in Nosara, what the SUP scene is like in Costa Rica and the surprising reason why he stopped competing. –RP

Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in a small beach community north of Nosara. The beaches of my hometown are nesting beaches for thousands of sea turtles and when the turtles aren’t nesting, the beaches are open for surfing. As a child, I really enjoyed playing soccer and it wasn’t until I was 12 years old that I became interested in surfing.

My father owned and operated a campsite in town and one day a group of surfers came through. They asked to pay part of their bill with an old beat up surfboard—my father accepted and gifted me the board. I was young and to me the board was amazing. I prone surfed until about three years ago when I came into contact with Nosara Paddlesurf.

Was there anyone that inspired you to compete?

I began SUP surfing with the coaches of Nosara Paddlesurf. One of them in particular, Coco (Bryan Sandoval), used to compete on the national circuit in three categories: longboard, masters and SUP surf. He encouraged me to compete. At the time I didn’t see it as a competition—I saw it as good times with my friends and surfing.

Jose Ruiz proving why he won the Costa Rican SUP surfing championship in 2016. Photo courtesy of Jose Ruiz

What is the SUP scene like in Costa Rica?

SUP surfing has definitely been growing here in Costa Rica. It has been a slow process but it is absolutely noticeable.

Why do you think we don’t see many Ticos on the world tour/series?

There is a lot of talent here but the sport has not yet been taken too seriously by the relevant authorities. Hopefully that will soon change. The main reason Costa Ricans aren’t showing up to top events is money. Lack of good sponsors keep most of the talent unrecognized; this obviously delays the growth of the sport in our country.

Do you still compete?

No, I don’t compete anymore. I worked hard in the national circuit and paid my own way because the authorities had said that the top two surfers from each category would represent Costa Rica internationally. After ranking among the top two, I was pre-selected for the international competition.

Truth is, Costa Rica sent a team of SUP surfers who hadn’t even competed in the national circuit. After that, I stopped competing.

Ruiz now works as a SUP surf instructor at Nosara Paddleboards.

What do you do for work?

I work as a SUP surf coach for Nosara Paddlesurf. I also work as a tour guide in my off-time. I enjoy sharing the beauty of my home with tourists and giving them a taste of our day-to-day.

Why do you love standup paddling?

I love SUP because of how versatile it is, plus taking it to the ocean and waves gives me a feeling of being reborn.


Watch: Dreamy SUP surf edit from Costa Rica.

More about Costa Rica’s rich SUP culture.