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Surf Expo has always been one of my favorite events of the year, to meet people and check out the newest products in the surf industry. Everyone is either a buyer or a seller, and you make an appointment to place your orders for each brand.

So there we were at the 1990 Surf Expo in Orlando, Florida, showing all our products and doing our thing. Along came this larger gentleman who approached us, said hello and started talking with a major Southern drawl. He said, “I know I don’t have an appointment, but I know who you are. I’ve seen that ‘Endless Summer’ thing.

I don’t surf, obviously, but I know what it’s about.” Our visitor, whose name we learned was Russell, explained that he was a major developer and builder of schools and hospitals in Florida and Texas. He continued talking to us about the vacation he had taken recently with his wife to Central America, and a beautiful town they stumbled upon in Costa Rica named Tamarindo.

He knew some fishermen from Florida who had taken their boat to explore Costa Rica’s Pacific coast via the Panama Canal. Upon reaching Tamarindo, these fishermen had been so awestruck by the natural harbor that they decided to give the boat charter business a shot for a few years. Unfortunately, it proved difficult to attract clients to Tamarindo because of poor road conditions and the small size of San José’s airport.

However, Russell continued, these fisherman had also been very impressed by the world-class waves they encountered while traveling all along the coastline. So his reason for starting the Surf Expo conversation was to propose, “Why don’t y’all come down here and do some filming and let everyone know about the waves and culture and what Costa Rica’s all about?” I responded, “Well, Russ, that involves a lot of money.

If I bring along eight or 10 surfers and a film crew, who need to eat and find a place to stay, that could be a big waste if we don’t find anything.”

To which Russell responded in his Southern drawl, “Well, I’m gonna tell ya, we got great waves, good fishing, cold beer and a lot of —” (and here he used a crude word for sexually available women).

All my Surf Expo companions replied, “WHAT?!” I thought to myself, “My God, I think he’s got it covered!” So we told our new friend we would see him later, exchanged contact information, and that was it.

Meanwhile, Russell went back to Costa Rica and talked to the department of tourism, explaining who we were and what we could do for the sport of surfing in Costa Rica. I guess he pitched the idea pretty well because a few weeks after the Surf Expo, he called me in California and said the tourism department agreed to fly 12 of us down to Costa Rica, all expenses paid!

Russell explained that he had some cabins on the beach (current Selina Hostel location) where we could stay. His fisherman buddies would show us around and drop us off where the waves are. So we agreed. Why not? To make a long story short, we came down and the waves were incredible as we had been promised.

We had a great time overall going to the fiestas and watching the bull riding. “No kidding,” we raved, “this place is amazing!” This was about the same time when the plans for filming “The Endless Summer 2” were being laid out. When I mentioned to the producers what a unique experience we had just enjoyed in Costa Rica, they really latched onto the idea of starting the movie in Tamarindo.

Luckily enough, I was invited to be the mentor to Robert “Wingnut” Weaver and Pat O’Connell for this movie. If you’ve seen it, you can tell what a great time we had immersing ourselves in the Costa Rican culture. To this day, I truly believe it was Russell who helped put Tamarindo on the map as one of Central America’s best surf towns.

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The Howler Magazine
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