Passing on the Passion – “Nosara Surf Shop” Sold to New Owners

  • March 17, 2016

There’s a good reason people continue to surf into their twilight years. The popularity of the “Old Guys Rule” apparel among sun weathered surf veterans denotes a novel yet complex archetype of someone for whom, at some point, surfing became as crucial as love, drugs, food or anything else to get hooked on. From the desert coasts of Western Australia to the sub-zero shores of Iceland surf culture is rife with individuals that at some point surrendered themselves completely, no matter the cost, to an environment and lifestyle that continues to sustain them into their golden years. Hang on though. Can the same not be said about golf? The short answer is no! As a surfer the range is not always open, the tee time can never be set, and the perfect arena (Kelly Slater’s latest project ostinotwithstanding) can’t be terraformed. Instead, the successful pursuit of finding pumping waves, empty line-ups and aquatic bliss requires attuning oneself with fundamental natural patterns – weather, wind shifts, ocean rhythms, swell systems, and the elemental ebbs and flows of nature itself. Blissful as this may sound, and rewarding as it may be, this pursuit can be deceptively demanding; so demanding that for many a surfer it requires trading in a “normal life” to follow their passion. In short, it’s a lifestyle commitment that demands sacrifice.

For arguments sake let’s assume you’re neither independently wealthy or a WTC top 44 shredder, but you’re nevertheless determined to forge a lifestyle involving perching yourself atop of a board in pursuit of perfect lines. One such individual is life-long surfer and Nosara Surf Shop owner Michael Rourke. Another such individual is Ken Park, a former top ranked pro skater famed for dominating vert ramps in the late 80’s. The connection between these guys is two-fold. Firstly, they both embody the determination necessary to combine ones personal stoke with a way of making a living. Secondly, Ken Park, who linked up with friend and business partner Gary Cameron, make up the new team that have recently acquired the Nosara Surf Shop from Michael Rourke. Yup, you heard it here first. The new joint commander-in-chief of one of Nosara’s hallmark surfing institutions is one of the skateboarding worlds most celebrated sons.

Nosara Real Estate Report caught up with the characters involved in this landmark deal to get the scoop. Let’s begin with Mike Rourke. After a twenty year stretch lifeguarding at his home break in New York’s Rockaway Beach, and after many a winter spent riding Hawaii’s North Shore, Mike was seeking a wave rich sanctuary to call home. After  making his way to Hawaii in the 1990s, the North Shore Line-ups became increasingly hostile to outsiders, which prompted Mike to cast his surf radar further afield. “Obviously the North Shore experience was incredible” says Mike, “but this was a time when the aggression levels in the line-up were rising almost as fast the house prices. In 1997 on the advice of a friend I arrived in Nosara. The vibe was incredible, the people were cool,  It was love at first sight.”

Upon the realization he was here for the long haul Mike then faced the dilemma many committed surfers throughout the ages have wrangled with — how to fund the endless summer? “Nosara Surf Shop opened in 2000”, says Mike. “Since then I’ve woken up every day with huge gratitude that I’ve been able to make a living out of something that i’m truly passionate about. There’s a lot of great aspects to running a surf shop. Other than obviously getting to surf great waves every day of my life it’s an incredible way to meet people, and exchange stories with tourists stoked on being here and surfing. It’s been a wild ride, and although selling Nosara Surf Shop has been an emotional farewell I couldn’t be happier with who’s taking over.”

Enter the other guys; investor Gary Cameron, and ex-pro skater turned media executive Ken Park. Originally from Boston and now based in New York, Gary had been coming to Costa Rica for 5 years to spend time surfing up and down the Guanacaste coast. When he arrived in Nosara he was instantly seduced. “Nosara is an incredible place” says Gary. Everyone you meet seems to be loving life and living it on their own terms and that’s something that really appeals to me. The people I met share the same philosophy in terms of keeping it how it is, and working to prevent it going the same way as many other over-developed tourist towns. I love that attitude. In regard to his idea to purchase the Nosara Surf Shop Gary says “my desire to open a shop, along with me wanting to spend more time in Costa Rica seemed to come together perfectly when I discovered Nosara Surf Shop on the market and available for sale. After speaking with Ken, who was overjoyed when he found out Nosara had a skate park, we agreed that this was both a great way of playing a small part in preserving the soul of the town and a great legacy investment.”

Gary’s partner Ken – who was ranked 7th in the world for five years straight during the late 80’s also knows a thing or two about lifestyle. As a team rider for Vision Streetwear Ken spent his early twenties globetrotting around the worlds skate parks. He says these experiences continue to help define who he is today. “Back then was a unique time in skateboarding history” says Ken. “No matter where I went in the world there was an instant brotherhood among the skate community. What’s crazy is that I immediately felt that same connection with the people I met in Nosara,” he continues. “Gary and I would go out at night and everyone we met shared the kind of bond forged by people living a common lifestyle based around the pursuit of their passions.” As a committed skate hound it’s no surprise that the icing on Ken’s cake came when he found out Nosara had a skatepark. “Ive skated everywhere in the world and all I could think was what a perfect extension of the Nosara surfing and lifestyle mindset. Skateboarding and surfing are about having a great time, and sharing a great vibe with friends” says Ken.

For Mike Rourke he has stayed true to the Nosara Surf Shop original mission statement. “I wanted to create a soulful, off the beaten track surf shop where people would feel at home” says Mike. “One of the best things about selling the shop is that the new owners are continuing the lifestyle brand that I’ve worked to establish, and if anything enhance it.”

“Mike Rourke has done an awesome job and I really respect the purity of his intentions. He’s been very gracious and incredibly helpful. Here’s a guy who shaped a life around only ever wanting to surf everyday. He found a great way to do it, and it is inspiring” says Gary Cameron.

Ken Park representing “Gullwing Trucks”

“Being part of this surf shop is a dream come true” says Ken Park. “Gary and I come from different backgrounds but every idea we have about the place is aligned. I loved talking to Mike Rourke and I love what he created. It came from a great place and we just want to add to the passion and motivation he put into the place.”

Jeffrey Grosshandler, the owner of the local RE/MAX real estate Franchise and the real estate agent that facilitated the sale remarked “it’s been exciting to oversee a deal where both buyer and seller display the same high levels of excitement and satisfaction about a transaction. The new guys are coming in seamlessly from where Mike left off, which is the best case scenario for this kind of exchange. Nosara Surf Shop is a part of the Guiones landscape and being able to help preserve a place like that is one of the things I love most about my job. These guys are a great addition to town, and I’m happy to welcome them.”


Seconds away from Nosara Surf Shop, in the heart of the Guiones sits another fantastic turnkey business and real estate opportunity available for sale. Home to Tica Massage and Studio Guiones, this is the last opportunity of its type available for sale  with location adjacent to the Harmony Hotel.

In some ways Nosara finds itself at a crossroads — a choice between embracing growth while staying true to it’s soulful origins, or just embracing growth irrespective of what form it appears in. Luckily, if it’s an Apple store you’re after (the organic green juicy type not withstanding) then Nosara is light years away, and if economic progress involves the appearance of a McDonalds then this town remains proudly primitive. Although change may seem inevitable it’s both refreshing and encouraging when a rare deal takes place that ensures the ambiance of Playa Guiones, just like the relentless cycle of Pacific Swells that hit it’s shores, remains as amazing as ever.