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Derek traded sunshine for cold water surf

Derek Gutierrez from Costa Rica is just about to rewrite the history of Swedish surfing.

“My goal is to run the World Qualifying Series tour, something no Swede has done so far”, reveals Derek.

Derek traded a warm ocean and big swells for cold water and wind waves. Here’s the reason why…

Photo: Caroline Bengtsson

Photo: Karolin Bengtsson

It all started on a paradise beach in Costa Rica when Karolin Bengtsson, from Falkenberg on the Swedish west coast, was on a vacation trip that would change her life. She likes to take pictures and one day at the beach, she framed one of the surfers, one that ran with great style and landed plenty of tricks.

Karolin later went for a drink at a bar next to the beach and asked the girl at the next table if she knew who the surfer on the images was. She knew it for sure – he was her boyfriend’s best friend.

This is the beginning of a story that some years later gave Sweden a new member of the surf national team and the coastal town of Falkenberg its best surfer ever. Today Karolin and Derek live in Falkenberg with their ten-month-old son and thrive on the west coast.

“When I first came to Sweden the plan was to stay here a short time and then I would move to Santa Monica in California to study, but there was something special about Sweden and I felt at home right away”, says Derek.

He had come on a tourist visa so he was unable to stay. Instead, Derek and Karolin went back to Costa Rica and applied for a new visa at the Swedish Embassy. With all the paperwork in order Derek returned to Sweden.

Photo: Per Larsson

Photo: Per Larsson

“I didn’t know if it was possible to surf here, but some friends of Karolin told me about a surf shop in Varberg, Surfer’s Paradise, just a few miles north bound and I got there to check it out. The guys at Surfer’s were very kind and welcomed me into the surf community at once”, says Derek.

“It turned out that there are plenty of good surf spots on the west coast, even in Falkenberg it’s possible to surf if the wind is right”, he says and admits that this new knowledge made the decision to stay in Sweden feel even better.

Photo: Per Larsson

Photo: Per Larsson

Living in Falkenberg as a surfer is really good, you have many spots to surf close by, both north and south along the coast. Derek moved to California when he was a kid and he’s therefore comfortable surfing in cold water, wearing heavy wetsuits.

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“But I started surfing in Costa Rica, when I was ten years old because we went there every summer with my family. I wanted to start surfing in San Diego, but my parents didn’t think it was good for a kid to surf in cold water. Costa Rica became so strongly associated with my surfing career so when I started competing it seemed as the right thing to do to join the Costa Rica team”, says Derek.

After he got Swedish citizenship last summer Derek was immediately offered a spot on the Swedish national team. Now he aims to complete the World Qualifying Series (WQS) tour in 2017 and has a lot of support from the national team.

Meanwhile, he jumps into the cold water of the Nordic Sea as often as he can.

“It is different to surf here in Sweden. But it’s a special feeling to be out in the black water and feel the elements. It is difficult to surf here, but I see it as a challenge”, says Derek.

Photo: Per Larsson

Photo: Per Larsson

When the wind blows on the west coast and surfers gather on the best spot for the day, then chances are big that you’ll find Derek in the line-up. And just as in Costa Rica, Derek stands out here as well. With a powerful and smooth style and tricks that few other surfers in our cold latitudes can land.

When the autumn storms are raging or winter puts a white blanket of snow on the west coast beaches, Derek is out there getting in shape to represent Falkenberg in the WQS.

Photo: Mikael Pilstrand

Photo: Mikael Pilstrand

About Derek

Patrick Ståhl is the coach of the Swedish national surf team. We asked Patrick to say a few words about Derek.

He is focused and committed. He told me about his ambition to join the WQS in 2017 over a year ago and it is fantastic to see that his plans begin to take shape.

What does he mean for the national team?

Derek grew up in Costa Rica and participated in their national team. Costa Rica is one of the best nations in surfing and in 2015 they won the World Cup in Nicaragua, so obviously it means a lot that Derek is a member of the Swedish national team now.

Surfing enough to get in shape for competition level is something that takes a long time. To learn with some of the best surfers and experienced and talented coaches is a very good experience that Derek shares with the rest of the Swedish team.

How will he perform at the WQS?

How good it will be in the WQS is hard to say. Competition today is fierce and there are many talented surfers who have the same goal of success in the WQS.

It is not enough to just be good, you also need to go all in and have some luck, the margins are small, it’s a bit like in tennis or golf, if he lowers his putts and get his first serves he can do really well.

Follow Derek Gutierrez on Instagram


About the WQS

The World Qualifying Series (WQS) is a series of competitions to qualify for the WSL, the World Surf League. Of the 50 participants in the WQS ten go on to the next year’s WSL.

WQS competitions are held in connection with the WSL but only the five best results are counted, which means that a WQS rider do not have to participate in all competitions to qualify.


Featured image by Karolin Bengtsson

Words by Alvaro Susena

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