Team RAFA, Costa Rica’s men’s youth rafting team sponsored by the Rivers and Forests Alliance, is ranked fourth in the world after competing in the International Rafting Federation (IRF) World Rafting Championship (WRC) 2022, held in Bosnia and Herzegovina from May 26 to June 1. The team, all young men from the Turrialba area, also won a bronze medal in the Head-to-Head race, where two teams battle it out paddling a downriver obstacle course.
The Costa Rican Master’s Men’s Team also finished fourth place overall in the competition. Both teams paddled hard with great heart and passion and proudly represented Costa Rica against the world’s top rafting teams.
The IRF WRC 2022 was the first competition since 2019 due to the pandemic. Four-person men’s and women’s teams from dozens of nations competed in four events: sprint, head-to-head, slalom, and downriver. The opening ceremony and first three races were held on the Vrbas River in Banja Luka, and the downriver race and closing ceremony took place on the Tara River by the town of Foča.
“It was a dream come true. We did really well and nearly finished in third place overall. I’m very proud and satisfied with our results,” said Team RAFA member Enrique Segura. “At the start, we were nervous because we were competing against seven powerful teams in the under-23 category, the most we’ve ever competed against in a World Rafting Championship.”
Competing for Team RAFA in the WRC 2022 were Enrique Segura, Sergio Jiménez, Marcelo Omodeo, and José Contreras, team captain. Marlon Bustos of Turrialba coaches the team, and they are managed by Tom Ranieri, owner of the Pacuare Outdoor Center.
Team RAFA came in fourth after the Czech Republic, Japan, and continuing world champions Australia. Those teams have won numerous medals in world events, making Team RAFA’s achievement in Bosnia even greater. See the complete WRC 2022 results here.
The youth team first began competing together in 2016. In 2018, after the team won the national championship and the right to represent Costa Rica in the WRC in Argentina, Rafa Gallo helped them with neoprene gear for rafting in the cold-water rivers.
“Rafa quickly took these kids under his wing and helped them go to several competitions, including the 2019 WRC in Australia. There, he brought them together with the Colombian Remando por la Paz – Rafting for Peace team, forging their deep friendship. The Costa Rica youth team has traveled to Colombia twice, in 2019 and 2021, to participate in friendly competitions,” said Tom Ranieri.
In November 2021, the Rivers and Forests Alliance (RAFA) declared it would continue Rafa’s sponsorship, and the team’s name changed to Team RAFA. As part of the agreement, the team helps at all RAFA events and are “Environmental Ambassadors” in Costa Rica and worldwide.
“We are very proud to represent RAFA and Costa Rica. It is a great responsibility to honor the name of Rafa Gallo and represent his legacy and all that RAFA stands for. We will never forget all that he has done for us and now that Roberto (Gallo) and RAFA are doing for us,” said team member Sergio Jimenez.
“We are very happy to sponsor Team RAFA. These young guys have an amazing passion for rafting and proudly represent Costa Rica and our organization with respect and honor. They say that my dad (Rafa) is in the boat with them when they go downriver,” said Roberto Gallo, RAFA Board President and Executive Director of Projects and Operations.
“It was amazing to be in Bosnia at the WRC – everyone who saw the name RAFA on our shirts immediately knew what the name meant. It was like immediately being included in a huge family of the IRF,” Roberto added.
We wish Team RAFA the greatest success in future competitions and are happy they are part of our family.