Stab High Site + World Surfing Reserve Playa Hermosa Is Under Threat - Stab Mag

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Stab High Site + World Surfing Reserve Playa Hermosa Is Under Threat

What’s happening in Costa Rica?

news // Feb 20, 2024
Words by Michael Ciaramella
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Sign this petition to help protect Playa Hermosa. 

In 2021, Stab selected Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica as the site of its annual aerial spectacle, Vans Stab High Presented By Monster Energy. 

Hermosa was chosen for its consistency of swell, four-mile long beach (meaning we could bring 40 surfers there without disrupting the local lineup), and proclivity for conjuring extra large ramps. 

The event provided some of the biggest and best airs ever seen in competition, both by males and females. Matt Meola and Erin Brooks were our deserving winners, while Eithan Osborne and Matt Meola split the Monster Air check.  

Erin Brooks set herself apart in Costa Rica, nailing her first backside air reverse and a downwind frontside full-ro for her first Ladybirds win. Photo: Jimmy Wilson

Sadly, the wave that produced these moments — and provides waves to tens of thousands of surfers each year — is currently under threat by dollar-sign-eyed developers. 

Worse still is the fact that it’s happening at one of just 11 World Surfing Reserves around the globe, which are meant to be areas protected from unsustainable development in order to maintain the sanctity of their surf ecosystem — kinda like running a margarita stand at an AA meeting. 

Let’s break it down.

This used to all be green…and wet. Místico’s beachfront, recently (and our Stab High site in the top right).

What’s happening in Hermosa?

Long story short: developers are looking to exploit Hermosa’s rich and vibrant land for cash, which will have a negative and largely irreversible effect on surfing in the area.

Driving down the beach road at Hermosa, one will witness acres and acres of land that were once natural wetlands, now covered with dirt for the future construction of residential and commercial properties.

While multiple development projects are currently underway across Playa Hermosa, the one with the largest square-acreage of impact is called Místico, which is located toward the southern end of the beach, right next to where Stab High was filmed and abutting the Punta Mala Wildlife Refuge. 

Místico’s proximity to Punta Mala means anything they do on their lands will directly affect the natural water flow of the area, not to mention the habitat of the Refuge’s endemic flora and fauna. 

Making matters worse, there are proposed plans to close the beach road that gives surfers and beachgoers access to a large portion of Playa Hermosa… but not to those who either own or rent a property within one of the new or existing wetland-smothering developments. 

Hermosa already has closeout tendencies. Let’s not encourage it. Eithan Osbourne by Jimmy Wilson.

How will this affect surfing in Hermosa?

Two ways, mainly. 

  1. Building beachfront homes and commercial centers in Hermosa’s natural reserve requires pouring vast amounts of dirt over the wetlands. This will not only disrupt the local ecosystem (birds, turtles, crocs etc), but it will alter the natural water flow in the region. This means drying up the small rivers that spill into the ocean at various points along Hermosa, creating the sandbars that make the wave ideal for surfing. Basically, no river mouths + long period swell = one giant closeout. 
  2. Proposed plans include making the current beach road (which is public and open to all) completely private, available only to owners and renters within the beachside developments. Depending on where they draw the line of privatization, local and visiting surfers may lose access to anywhere between 40 – 80% of surfable parts of the beach. This includes the zone where 90% of the airs in Stab High were filmed. 
I think we can all agree that this is worth saving. Photo: Jimmy Wilson

Who’s fighting to stop it?

A group of concerned local citizens called Salvemos Hermosa (Save Hermosa for gringos) are leading the charge against the developmental powers-that-be. 

Among their ranks is Costa Rica’s most famous surfer, former CTer and Hermosa(-adjacent) resident Carlos Muñoz, who spoke at a recent paddle-out/rally against the beach-altering development. 

And, with any luck, surfers from around the world will rally to Hermosa’s defense, as they did with the tower construction issue in Tahiti. 

What can you do to help?

Sign this petition, and most importantly, spread the word. 

Most of these developments hope to finish construction under the cloak of darkness (and legal intervention), when no one is looking. If enough of us shine a spotlight on the situation, the Costa Rican government has no choice but to get involved — and with a strong history of protecting their natural lands, federal involvement means a likely victory for the local Hermosa community…and all the international surfers who enjoy this incredible wave. 

Sign this petition to help protect Playa Hermosa. 

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