Juan Diego Evangelista has been involved with surfing most of his 38 years of life. He started surfing at 7, and shaped his first board at 14 back in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Since then, he has caught innumerable waves, and shaped over 3,000 boards on his treks around the world. Seven years ago, he and his wife Mareike, opened Cheboards on the road to the popular beach town of Tamarindo. Outside this factory warehouse, his trademark 5-point red star announces a place where his personally trained staff averages 600 to 900 boards a year, both to clients locally and internationally, as well as for the community kids, he helps to fulfill their dreams.
The Cheboards story actually began after he caught his first waves as a kid. From the beginning it was love at first sight; He financed his first board by doing ding repairs. Later, he visited a surfboard factory near home, and was entranced with the resin smell, and the attitude of the long-haired surfers and the craft they performed. With a loan of some tools from his grandfather, Diego set up a workshop in the upstairs of his grandmother's home, reshaping blanks from a bunch of '70s boards he acquired from his father's friend.
Next, at 16, he went to work at the Camarón Brujo, Extorsion and Doppler surfboard factories, but did most of his work at home at night. A short detour to dental school fizzled out, and he was back on the beach and in the shapers bay after 3 ½ years learning about teeth.
Evangelista gathered experience traveling from Brazil to Argentina, back to Brazil, to Chile and back to Brazil again with Peru and Nicaragua in between. He surfed and looked for work in surfboard factories. After a visit to Costa Rica in 2005, he and his new wife, head to the Canary Islands, a year later where the first Cheboards factory opened in Tenerife.
The name has nothing to do with the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, but rather was a nickname given to him by friends, the same friends represented by five points on the red star in the Cheboards logo.
"I really like to make shapes," he says. "In the beginning, people bought my boards just to help me out. I always chose a place to live where I could own the area, where there weren't many options for surfboards. That was the same thing I did when I came to Tamarindo. I saw a hole, and there I was."
Costa Rica beckoned again six years ago, and Juan Diego and wife Mareike loaded everything they had including the remaining boards he made in the Canary Islands into a 20-foot container and came back to Tamarindo, "a town with amazing waves and a bunch of surfers."
One of the first people Evangelista was introduced to was the legendary surfer Robert August, star of the two "Endless Summer" films. They had actually met on Juan Diego's first trip to Costa Rica, but at that time August felt that the young shaper still needed to practice his craftsmanship. And he had five years in the Canary Islands to do just that. Upon Evangelista's return to Tamarindo, August just happened to be looking for someone to finish the boards he was shaping in town.
"The first time I met him I was shy but the second time, I was more confident, and said ‘Yes, I can do it.' It's a pleasure working on these premium quality surfboards from a legend and a master," explains Juan Diego.
Now, Cheboards paints and glasses all of Robert Augusts boards, and these styles, as well as the ones Juan Diego shapes and finishes, are available in the local showroom and for international shipping.
To say that Evangelista is successful in Tamarindo, is an understatement. The sheer number of surfers asking for his wares speaks volumes. His "dream factory" produces longboards, short boards, SUPs, fun shapes and everything else you can think of. Evangelista works with epoxy or polyurethane blanks, offers a rainbow of colors, and seven different types of glassing. Individual consultations are welcomed.
"I want to make people feel happy and confident with a board," Evangelista says. "I like these relationships with everybody. I want to make the best board for you. That's the challenge. Every person is different, and I like to learn their surf habits: For example, do you surf once a day, once a month? It's a lot of things. Getting it right, in my heart, I explode with happiness." It's like the biggest barrel, or going out and getting the most waves."
Juan Diego is also well known in Tamarindo for his commitment to the community. He offers free boards to a lot of young kids from the area schools, such as Villareal, Costa Rica International Academy, Educarte and La Paz, as well as needy youngsters from the assistance organizations CEPIA (Culture, Education and Psychology for Infants and Adolescents) and Surf for Youth.
"I like to give all my life to surfing," he says. "Everything I have is what surfing brings me. Thank you. Because of surfing I have my friends. Because of surfing I am an athlete. Because of surfing I met my wife. Surfing supports my family. It's the most important thing in my life. Surfing is everything."
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