This year's World Cup of soccer in Germany means one thing for gringo surfers: Pack your board bags and get to futbol-crazed Latin America for empty lineups! With all the hoopla surrounding la Copa Mundial, local surfers will be hard-pressed to paddle out while their beloved colors fight for soccer world supremacy during — that's right — day games. And how much do we really care about soccer north of the Rio Grande? Yeah, the U.S. enters the Cup fielding a solid squad, but peeling point breaks and hollow barrels have precedence over national pride.
Viva Futbol! There isn't a sporting event in the world that fires up Mexicans like the World Cup. It's the Superbowl, World Series, and Olympics all rolled together into one gigantic tortilla. The Mexican national team enters Germany with arguably its best team ever. With a FIFA ranking of fourth in the world, the usually disappointing Mexican national team has high hopes, and a comparatively easy grouping that should lead them into the second round. That translates into at least three weeks of local surfers parked in front of satellite-fed television screens screaming, "GOOOAAAL!" Best bet is to undertake mainland Mexico for the huge south swells of the summertime, and the farther south the better. Escondido should see a huge population drop, and considering the hardcore bands of locals that own the break, Mex Pipe will be open for business. Other spots like Barra Nexpa, Pasquales, and La Ticla, where locals aren't as predominant, should also see reduced numbers in the lineups.
The Costa Rican squad enters the World Cup as a dark horse. The team isn't expected to advance past the first round, but don't tell that to the locals. Experts said the same thing in '02 when the Ticos shocked the world by making it to the second round. Costa Ricans take their soccer very seriously, and being one of the smallest countries to compete in the World Cup, they see an opportunity to cement their global powerhouse status. But it's not all business. I was in Dominical for the World Cup in '02 and the guaro flowed like Coors Light at a frat party. Since the games were at night, hangovers were the only cause for lightened lineups, and those were easily cured by the adrenaline rush of watching someone get shacked. This year, thanks to a more accommodating German time zone, things will be different. Although the usual ex-pat brigade will scour Pavones, dropping in on its long, peeling lefts will be less arduous without the locals. The rest of the southern Pacific coast gets pounded by summer swells heeding the same results. Dominical, Hermosa, the Osa Peninsula — take your pick.
Ecuador makes its second appearance in the Cup following an inaugural selection in 2002. Although historically, los Tricolores fared poorly against European competition, this team is no pushover and has notched recent victories over perennial powerhouses Brazil and Argentina. Nonetheless Ecuadorians will take to the streets, not the waves, in support of their team. This gives gringos the perfect opportunity to check out the newly famed spots in the Galapagos or score some waves and a healthy dose of partying in Montanita.
The Brazilians are the reigning champs of the World Cup and the odds-on favorites to win it again. Soccer is nothing less than life in the Samba world. The team is loaded with star power, like European Player of the Year Ronaldinho, legendary striker Ronaldo, and all-world defenseman Roberto Carlos. It's pretty much a guarantee that the Brazilian nation will be planted in front of their televisions for the entire tournament. So the question arises: Doesn't the surf suck in Brazil during the summer? Sure, but anyone who has surfed the Pacific — from Mexico to Chile — has had to contend with itinerant swarms of aggressive Brazilian surfers. Not this summer! The effects will be felt at the lineups in Brazil's neighbor to the west, Peru. Although it isn't prime surf season for Southern Peru, the waves still fire at spots like Chicama, Pacasmayo, and the plethora of breaks outside Lima. For warm-water surf, Northern Peru will be sans the Brazilian hordes as well. Just in time to paddle into barrels at Organos.
Chile didn't make the World Cup, but thankfully for us gringos, their arch-nemesis Argentina did. The Argentine team garnered a number-one seed and looks to be a major contender for the title. So what does this mean for Chilean surf? First, Argentines tend to head west, colonizing the myriad left point breaks on the rocky Chilean coast. Los Gauchos won't be invading this year with their team in contention. Second, the rivalry between Chile and Argentina is bitter, not unlike baseball's Yankee-Red Sox feud. Not only are Chileans diehard soccer fans, they will sadistically watch the Argentine team in hopes of an opportunity to dance on their elimination graves. This will open up southern breaks like Pichilemu and spots in the Atacama Desert like Arica.
World Cup fever only occurs every four years and time is running out. So hop a bus, plane, or pack up your truck — lonely Latin American waves await.