Costa Rica is a dreamy place to call home as a surfer – warm water, a plethora of beachbreaks, points, and reefs; and an easygoing, "Pura Vida" vibe. There's been a strong push from the likes of Carlos Muñoz and Noe Mar McGonagle to put Costa Rica in the competitive spotlight; both helped Costa Rica win last year's World Games in Nicaragua. There's also a healthy crop of teenage rippers following their lead, and 16-year-old Aldo Chirinos Flecha is looking like the next Tico to make a run for the world stage. Aldo grew up surfing the punchy waves in and around Playa Negra, and his penchant for power is serving the goofyfooter well. After a solid winter of surfing the North Shore and sharing waves with his idols, Chirinos discussed his Hawaiian debut and hectic travel schedule, as well as his thoughts on the Costa Rican current that is circulating in Central America.

What's the state of Costa Rican surfing right now?

Costa Rica is hot right now (Laughs). Noe and Carlos are surfing well, the World Games will be here again this year, and we're also having our first WQS this year near Playa Hermosa, with the Costa Rican Open. It's a 3000, which is great for Latin American surfers looking for points. Did I mention we have some world-class waves? (Laughs) But we're all very proud and excited. We are seeing more and more opportunity to get exposure, and seeing Noe and Carlos competing at a high level gives us confidence that anything is possible.

You’ve put a lot of dedication into traveling outside of Costa Rica for surf contests. How hard is it to leave your beautiful home?

Traveling gets a little overwhelming sometimes. I get tired of all the hours on the plane, rushing around airports, going through immigration and all of that drama. But in the end, the experience is all worth it. Sometimes leaving for so long is hard, because I miss my friends, my family, and also my dogs (Laughs). But in general, I do like it. I do tend to miss my home spots, though, and the great waves and natural beauty we are blessed to have here.

Do you train outside of the surf? What are the best and worst parts of your game?

I do train out of the water. My trainer and coach, Carlos Velarde, is like my uncle. He has helped me with everything: technique, competitive coaching, and board measurements. I'm working hard to increase my variety of frontside aerials right now. Backside surfing is my strength, because I grew up surfing in Playa Negra, which is a perfect right point. I'm lucky to call it home.

What do you learn from the North Shore? Does it help sharpen your big-wave game?

Traveling to the North Shore is a unique experience as a visiting surfer. You learn to deal with open-ocean power and harnessing speed on waves much larger than you're typically used to, and using boards much bigger than usual on a regular basis. It's opened my mind. I really enjoy the opportunity and challenge of surfing bigger boards. My experience surfing Pipe has been unbelievable, but humbling. You have to remember to respect the locals and your elders on the islands at all times — it's awesome that they are kind enough to share their home breaks with us.

What's on your radar for next year?

My plan is to keep competing in as many Pro Juniors and comps as I can. Hopefully I can translate that experience to the WQS one day. Of course, I'd love to make the World Tour, but no matter what happens, I plan to go to college. Either way, hopefully I'll be able to make my way to the North Shore every winter and continue getting to know Pipe better.