Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica – The Chargers are one of the NFL’s hottest properties in the United States, and now this growth in popularity extends into Central America, thanks to Joe and Holly Walsh, owners of the Witch Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
A native of San Diego and a graduate of the former University High School and the University of California, San Diego, where he competed for two years on the Tritons’ surf team, Walsh moved to Costa Rica nearly 10 years ago with a dream and $20,000 in his pocket.
“I learned to surf at Torrey Pines when I was 16 and just fell in love with it,” explained Walsh. “After I graduated from college, I started interviewing for jobs just when my car broke down. I was actually at a Volkswagen dealership in Pacific Beach about to plunk down my last $20,000 on a new car to get me to and from work and I just decided my heart wasn’t into it. I kept thinking new car … surf camp? New car … surf camp?”
So instead of pulling into the driveway with a new Volkswagen Passat, Walsh instead rolled in with a used school bus that he purchased from the San Diego Unified School District. Weeks later, he and his father, P.K., a Tierrasanta resident, drove the yellow school bus down to Costa Rica. What followed is the stuff that dreams are made of.
When Walsh arrived in Costa Rica, he rented a loft apartment that backed up to Tamarindo Beach and began offering surf charters, using his old school bus to deliver groups of aspiring surfers to the best-known breaks throughout Costa Rica. Since then, Walsh, now 32, has turned his initial investment intoa thriving surfing business that includes the Witch Rock Surf Camp, an 18-room hotel and the Eat at Joes Restaurant & Bar that becomes the official home of Chargers football in Costa Rica every Sunday throughout the NFL season.
“During football season, fans from all over come here to cheer and watch the games and it is crazy,” said Carlos Arias, a native of Costa Rica who works in Walsh’s surf shop.
There is a sign in front of the establishment’s parking lot that reads “Reserved for Chargers Fans,” and the bar at Joe’s is decorated with the jerseys of Chargers greats like Junior Seau. Chargers pennants dating back to the 1980s decorate the ceiling.
“We used to have more stuff, like Charger Girls posters and calendars, but unfortunately some of it got taken by the locals,” Walsh said.
Thanks to a satellite dish located above the restaurant that nobody other than Walsh touches, he is able to show every Chargers game, home and away. And even wife Holly, who grew up in Littleton, Colorado, traded in her Broncos’ blue and orange for Chargers lightning bolts.
“I love the Chargers, not quite as much as Joe, but they are definitely my favorite team,” she explains.
The Chargers’ home base in Costa Rica is located at world-famous Tamarindo Beach, located in the northwest province of Guanacaste, about 100 miles from the southern border of Nicaragua. Central America is a haven for surfing and Walsh’s surf camp offers lessons for beginners at Tamarindo and surf charters for more advanced surfers that will take them to the region’s top surf breaks, including several that lie in Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
Charger fans will feel right at home at Eat at Joes Restaurant & Bar in Tamarindo, particularly during football season. Joe and Holly greet all guests with a warm smile, a cold Bavaria and a great seat at the bar to watch Central America’s favorite team: the San Diego Chargers.