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The Female Forces of Surfing in Nosara
By Shelby Stanger
Photos Courtesy of Graham Swindell and Nosara Shack

Tinis Gomar

“I can’t believe that’s a girl,” I overhear a male tourist say in the water as he watches a petite Tica careen down the face of a double overhead wave, making sweeping S-turns along its green face.

Ten years ago, it was rare to see a female surfer in the water at Guiones. Today, watching a girl surfer is more of an everyday occurrence than an anomaly.

Surfing has always been mostly a macho sport throughout Latina America and the rest of the world, but there is a handful of girls in Nosara, changing surfing’s face for generations to come.

Jesenia “Jesse” Alfaro is said to be the first local Tica in Nosara to surf at Guiones. Just last month, she took first place in the Christian Surfer’s Contest at Marbella, beating out all the guys as well as the girls. The 31 year-old mother has taken fourth, third and second place at different events on the Circuito Nacional de Costa Rica in the Open Women’s division.

Being the first female to surf here, Jesse didn’t have other female role models to look up to. At 19, she learned to surf the hard way: trial and error. “I started on a longboard but it was huge and heavy and I just got my ass kicked,” said Jesse. Growing up in Guiones, she never considered surfing herself until dating a surfer. Luckily she also has cousins like Pio Ruiz and Tanayo Matarrita who showed her the ropes.

Jesenia “Jesse” Alfaro
Jesenia “Jesse” Alfaro

Besides Jesse, there weren’t any local girls who surfed until Francela Gonzales moved to Guiones in 2004. The two eventually became friends, sharing a love of a sport they both say changed their life.

Originally from Nicaragua, but raised in Costa Rica since she was six, Francela first saw girls surf in Jaco when she was 19 and decided to take a 180-degree turn in her life. “To me surfing looked like freedom and I wanted to do something really drastic,” she said.

Growing up in San Carlos, a small town north of San Jose, Francela didn’t want to be like the other girls in her town, who she said, just went away to school, then came back and raised a family and never left again. While attending the Universidad de Costa Rica with a scholarship to study meteorology, she visited Jaco on a summer break and decided to move to the beach.

“It was the scariest and best decision I ever made,” she said. Three years later she saw Guiones on a day that was perfect: eight foot and offshore. “I moved the next week,” she said.

  Twenty-five year old Tinis Gomar, a surf instructor at Coconut Harry’s, remembers the first time she saw Jesse surf in Guiones. “I was so inspired by her beautiful style,” she said. “That was eight years ago and I’ll never forget that.”

The natural athlete who grew up skateboarding and horseback riding, spent most weekends outside of her home in San Jose at the beach boogie boarding with her family. When Tinis turned 21, she traded her bike for a surfboard and like Francela and Jesse, did everything she could to surf, including riding the bus every day at 5am from San Jose to the beach.

Moving to Guiones has been the perfect fit. Not only can Tinis surf locally or travel to the many amazing spots in Costa Rica like Mal Pais and Hermosa, but also she gets paid to share the sport with women and men who want to learn. “Surfing is one sport that makes me keep going and is a challenge every day. That’s while I’ll never get sick of it,” she said.

Izzy Tihanyi, the founder of Surf Diva, the first all-girl’s surf school in the world, opened an all-girls surf school in Nosara in 1998.

She was first invited to town to teach a supermodel living in Guiones to surf. Like most people, Izzy fell in love with the town instantly.

“Not only were the waves so friendly and inviting, but the locals in this town were amazing and so welcoming of girls,” she said. “The pura vida in the air is definitely felt in the water as well.”

The past year, Izzy visited Nosara and was shocked at how well the level of surfing has risen here. “You always hear about three girls in Costa Rica: Andrea Diaz, Brooks Wilson, and Lisbeth Vindas, but the local girls like Jesse and Francela are charging just as hard,” she said. “It was so exciting to see them drop in on huge waves and surf them with so much grace and femininity. I think that’s what’s so great about the girl surfers here. Not only do they rip, but they are gorgeous and have beautiful style.”

Andrea “Angie” Miranda Seevers, who runs the Del Mar Academy, a new surfing school for girls in town also think Guiones is the best place to learn. A Tica herself who learned when she moved to Jaco, Angie sees surfing as not only a workout and a challenge, but as something spiritual and grounding. “Surfing brings me close to nature and teaches respect for Mother Nature,” she said.

“When you are in the water, watching the waves form, the light on the water, the fish, the sand, the colors, it is almost more than your mind can process at once. Also, when the waves get big, the ocean teaches you that you are nothing.

Because of those reasons”, Angie wishes more locals would surf, especially the local Ticas. “I guess here surfing is still not seen as a real sport,” Angie added. “Many people think that surfing is just for beach bums, and not something that should be supported as a sport, given that we have some of the best conditions in the world to do it. I think a lot of local Ticas still have the mentality that it is more of a guy sport too.”

Angie and the other girls all said the local guys in Nosara have always been supportive, but surfing in an expensive sport overall.

Andrea “Angie” Miranda Seevers

Francela and Jesse both volunteered last year with Surf Simply who had a program where they taught local kids yoga and surfing. “There were a lot of girls and they’re really into it, but it just sort of stopped,” said Jesse.

With the mean income of most families in Nosara at about $500 per month, surfing is extremely costly. Used boards cost about $300, and transport to the beach from town is not always easy.

Overall, all the females interviewed expressed interest in giving back to the younger generation of girls. From giving volunteer surf lessons, to shaping boards for kids, each of them said they are going to start doing something in the near future to get more local girls in the water.

One thing they all agreed on though, was they hate that comment, “She surf like a guy.”

“Girls now rip! They are at the same level as some men, and they are graceful and beautiful and powerful,” said Francela. “Whenever anyone says I surf like a guy, I turn to them and say, ‘No I don’t. I’m proud to surf like a girl.’”

Shelby Stanger is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in Outside, Men´s Journal, CNN.com and more. www.shelbystanger.com


More photos can be viewed at www.nosarashack.com.


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