World’s Best Rafters in Costa Rica
A break in the rainy season made for ideal conditions for the International Rafting
Federation’s Pre-World Championships on Oct. 6-11. The International Rafting Federation (IRF) selected Costa Rica as the host site of the 2011 Rafting World Championships, to be held from Oct. 5-10 on the Río Pacuare, near the Caribbean slope town of Turrialba, east of San José.
More than 35 countries will participate in the whitewater rafting finals. Costa Rica was chosen by the IRF over Italy and Australia.
But first up were this year’s warm-up races. Czech Republic rafters outpaced the favored Brazilians to win the pre-worlds, while Costa Rica finished near the middle of the pack.
“I was really pleased with the quality of water in the river and the weather in general, because although it’s muddy, when it rains a lot it’s muddier,” said Rafael Gallo, director of the races and president of the IRF. “We were blessed with good weather.”
Gallo said that while some competitors hoped for wilder waters, overall the often-clear skies provided ideal practice sessions for countries and individual teams preparing for next year’s world championships. Six countries – Brazil, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, the United States and Venezuela – participated in the pre-worlds (participants have to pay their own way), as well as 20 individual teams.
TR Rafting Morava topped the competition for the men, while a Brazilian team finished second and a team from the United States placed third. The best Costa Rican team finished sixth. TR Teva Czech beat out three other women’s teams to win the female rafting competition.
The courses used by competitors were 17 kilometers of the Bajo Pacuare and 700 meters of the Río Cabeza de Güey in San Joaquín, near Turrialba. The competitions included time trials, head-to-head races, and slalom and down-river competitions.
Costa Rica also hosted the rafting championships in 1998. The championships take place every two years. In 2009, the finals were held in Bosnia.
Gallo, who owns the Costa Rican rafting company Ríos Tropicales, said the championships should bring more rafting enthusiasts to Costa Rica. During the pre-worlds, Gallo said some competitions drew 500 spectators, and he hopes for a grander audience during next year’s finals. The rafting committee hopes to have world championships shown by 10 different foreign television productions.
Said Gallo: “It puts the rivers of Costa Rica back on the world map.”