Stab Magazine | Some Bitter Rivalries Look A Lot Like Friendships

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Some Bitter Rivalries Look A Lot Like Friendships

A tale of two Ticos.

news // Oct 14, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

As reported here a few days back, 200,000 people were expected to attend Costa Rica’s Essential Pro QS 1,500. While we’ve yet to discover any official visitor stats, an orbital rotation of Playa Jaco would have witnessed tens of thousands on finals day.

And who could blame the Ticos for wanting to attend?

The sun was out, the waves were rippable, and Costa Rica had secured three of the eight quarterfinal spots.

Then by the end of the quarters, they owned three of the four semifinal spots. And, wouldn’t you know it, the event’s final heat consisted of the country’s two top surfers, Esterillos’ Carlos Munoz and Pavones’ Noe Mar McGonagle.

“We have an interesting relationship,” said Carlos. “We’re very good friends, and both proud Costa Ricans, but there’s definitely some competition between us.”

Screen Shot 2018 10 09 at 9.26.50 PM

They’ve been at it for years, these two. Photo: @noemar_

Every Saturday afternoon in Playa Hermosa, just five minutes from the site of the Essential Pro, there’s a mini surf competition in front of the Backyard Bar.

Anybody can sign up, and instead of structured heats, all 10-20 surfers paddle out simultaneously for a two hour “expression-session“. Except it’s not really an expression session, because judges are scoring the surfers’ every wave and a DJ is constantly calling out the leaders.

The winner of this weekly event gets $100, which to Carlos and Noe, who consistently surf for sizeable prize purses, is a neglectible sum. Yet, almost every single Saturday, the two of them show up and surf their absolute hardest for the raucous crowd.

For the other surfers in the event, it’s almost always a battle for third. Carlos and Noe are dominant over the field but evenly matched against one another, despite their difference in surfing styles.

A little compare and contrast from US Open 2017.

One week, Noe found a rip-bowl left that granted him a hard-hitting path to victory. The next week was more closed out and Carlos won by performing a Kerrupt Flip.

This constant competing has made the Ticos better surfers and strategists, which brings us back to the Essential Surf final.

Much like those Saturday afternoon contests at the Backyard Bar, it was always going to be Carlos or Noe who won this event. Only this time, they had to surf their way past every other competitor before finally facing one another in the final.

In the opening sequence, Carlos stroked into a right that was clearly a closeout.

Carlos didn’t care.

He bottom-turned and blasted the oncoming section with a explosive but controlled layback, resulting in 6.5 points for the single-maneuver wave. Not a bad start. 

Shortly after, Carlos snagged a running left-hander that allowed four or five turns down the beach, ending with an over-vert snap on the closeout. He received a low-eight and put Noe officially in combo.

That’s when things got interesting.

With ten minutes left on the clock and priority in his favor, Carlos started shadowing Noe. The tactic of “sitting on” an opponent is typically reserved for the last few minutes of a heat, but due to the gravity of the situation and his respect of Noe’s abilities, Carlos couldn’t leave any room for chance.

“Noe had been getting nines on the left all day,” Carlos said. “Everybody else had just been letting Noe do his own thing, and it wasn’t working out for them. So I stayed close and made sure he couldn’t get a good left. If he wanted to go right, that was fine by me [laughs].”


Noe dropped multiple nines on finals day with his relentless backhand hacks. Photo: WSL

At one point, Noe snuck away and three-times tagged a left for a high-six, thus nullifying the combo and putting him back in the heat.

Carlos became even more aggressive in his tactics.

“At that point I knew I just had to hold on until the heat was over,” Carlos said, “so I stayed even closer to Noe. I think he was getting pretty frustrated.”

As the final minutes turned to seconds, Carlos hunted Noe like a shark, giving him little room to breathe let alone catch a wave. And so he didn’t.

Finally the horn blew and the heat was over.


A fun mid-article game: find Noe Mar! Photo: WSL

Carlos returned to a beach of ecstatic, flag-waving Ticos, many of whom (including his fiance Tamara and baby girl Leah) met him in waist deep water. And wouldn’t you know it, Noe was right there with the rest of the crowd, waiting to congratulate Carlos on his victory – the ultimate sign of respect in what must have been a devastating defeat.

Noe also posted a heartfelt Instagram photo after the event.

Noe’s message, (crudely) translated: Although with all my heart I wanted to win, I am very happy for my great friend @munozcali you deserve it my bro. It has been our dream for about 10 years to be in the end of a WQS together man to man. This is a dream come true. Let’s go with everything for the rest of the year. Thank you very much everyone for the incredible support, the Tico fans are by far the best in the world.

As Noe alluded to, this is the first time that two Costa Rican surfers have shared an international surfing podium, making it a monumental occasion for everybody involved. On top of that, both Carlos and Noe have improved their QS positions to 41st and 50th respectively, which puts them in striking distance of qualifying for next year’s Championship Tour.

But if history tells us anything, it’s unlikely one will make it without the other.

Best of luck in Hawaii, boys.


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