The Battle for Paradise: Surfing, Tuna, and One Town's Quest to Save a Wave

The Battle for Paradise: Surfing, Tuna, and One Town's Quest to Save a Wave

The Battle for Paradise: Surfing, Tuna, and One Town's Quest to Save a Wave

The Battle for Paradise: Surfing, Tuna, and One Town's Quest to Save a Wave


Pavones, a town located on the southern tip of Costa Rica, is a haven for surfers, expatriates, and fishermen seeking a place to start over. Located on the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), a marine sanctuary and one of the few tropical fjords in the world, Pavones is home to a legendary surf break and a cottage fishing industry.

In 2004 a multinational company received approval to install the world's first yellowfin tuna farm near the mouth of the Golfo Dulce. The tuna farm as planned would pollute the area, endanger sea turtles, affect the existing fish population, and threaten the world-class wave. A lawsuit was filed just in time, and the project was successfully stalled. Thus began an unlikely alliance of local surfers, fishermen, and global environmental groups to save a wave and one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

In The Battle for Paradise, Jeremy Evans travels to Pavones to uncover the story of how this ragtag group stood up to a multinational company and how a shadowy figure from the town's violent past became an unlikely hero. In this harrowing but ultimately inspiring story, Evans focuses in turn on a colorful cast of characters with an unyielding love for the ocean and surfing, a company's unscrupulous efforts to expand profits, and a government that nearly sold out the perfect wave.


It is not down in any map; true places never are.

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick

In a stucco garage on the dusty outskirts of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the world’s most infamous surfer sat on a metal chair and stared at a computer screen. He was mesmerized by the images flashing onto the screen, as if he were seeing them for the first time: a yellow bulldozer clearing jungle for a cabin, white men in hats instructing brown people on how to amend soil, jeeps with fat tires swerving in the mud, and Hawaiians surfing a lonely wave. a narrator provided a running commentary that crackled through the speakers. the old man sitting on the metal chair had been that narrator, and now he took great pleasure in hearing his own voice. His head, as if stuck in a vice grip, never moved except when he nodded at something he found fascinating, the way a proud father nods in approval when his son scores a touchdown.

“Look at Buttons there, just amazing how he could work a wave,” the old man said aloud but to nobody in particular.

This continued—the nostalgia and narration—for perhaps thirty minutes before the images disappeared and the computer screen turned black. the old man’s beady, gray-blue eyes remained fixed on the screen, as if the video ended without his permission. This awkward pause in action became more awkward when the old man’s son, a tan and brash fiftyyear-old, began to speak, and the old man cut him off mid-sentence, as if he had spoken out of turn, and then pressed the play button again: the bulldozers, the surfers, the jungle, and the white and brown people . . .

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