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Exclusive Interview with PURA VIDA – JC & Aileen Gonzalez

Exclusive Interview with PURA VIDA – JC & Aileen Gonzalez
Pura Vida 68 Viking
Pura Vida crew

Our marketing team recently had the amazing opportunity to join Pura Vida on their newly delivered 68 Viking in the stunning waters of Costa Rica. If you haven’t heard, Pura Vida has been dominating the tournament scene, clinching the 2nd Place boat title in the International Masters Angling Tournament. Owners JC and Aileen Gonzalez also showcased their skills with JC securing 2nd place and Aileen coming in at a respectable 6th. Continuing their remarkable success, Pura Vida secured 3rd place in the Triple Crown’s Ladies Only Tournament and celebrated a well-deserved 1st place victory in the Marina Pez Vela Open in Quepos.

After their tournament successes, they kindly welcomed us aboard for a day of fishing and filming to capture content, giving us the chance to learn more about their new boat and share in their fishing adventures. Read on for our exclusive interview below.

Exclusive Interview with JC and Aileen Gonzalez, Owners of PURA VIDA


What tips would you offer to those interested in embracing the sportfishing lifestyle?

JC: Win the lottery first. 😂 They say that this and car racing are the most expensive hobbies, but I think this surpasses it. However, I told her the other day, “When have we ever had this much fun in the 25 years we’ve been married, doing anything together?” We have great kids, great careers, we’re best friends, and we have so much fun together, but this is the most fun thing we’ve ever done.

Our guys, the community where we live—there’s a thing, our buddies at AQUAHOLIC—we tell each other every time we come in, even if we are first or last: as we’re pulling into Los Sueños, we say, “We WON. This is the greatest place on the planet.” We’re very blessed to do what we do, and we don’t take it for granted.

Share with us your journey working alongside Galati & Viking.

JC: It’s something out of this world. The sportfishing community is very small and tight-knit, and we were the newbies on the block back in 2020. The love and support we received from the Galati and Viking family was incredible. The way they treated our crew and us was very genuine. It wasn’t like we were just customers; it was as if we were family.

What made you choose to go with Viking?

JC: Living on the Gulf Coast, specifically in the Tampa area, getting to 400 ft of water is like traveling 100 miles for us. I used to have a 34-foot open fisherman, but she said, “I’m not going out 100 miles every day. That’s 100 miles out and 100 miles back; it’s torture.” I’ll never forget Father’s Day 2019 when I took my father-in-law and the kids out. The weather was supposed to be crystal clear and calm, but it turned out to be the worst day ever. Rough and horrible. When I got back to Anna Maria that day, I said, “I’m done with this; we’re buying a Viking.” I called Andrew Maryott and told him to find me a boat. It just wasn’t comfortable.

What were the differences between your 55 Viking & Your Recently Delivered 68 Viking?

Our previous model was a 2017 55 Viking Convertible. It was a great boat, and we had some nice successes with it, placing in many tournaments. However, it wasn’t the right size for us. When we went to Mag Bay and Cabo, we had a decent-sized crew due to all the fishing we did, so we needed something a bit bigger. We really enjoyed the 4 staterooms and day head on the 68 Convertible. After we put down a deposit, we fished on “Ohana” and realized, “Yes, this is the boat for us.”

Rudy, our captain, loved our 55, but there’s something about this boat that resonates with him. Carmine Galati and I were discussing it, and he mentioned fishing off our 55 on the first day of the Masters last year. We had a great day, but fishing on the first day of the Masters this year was something out of this world. The captain and crew were so comfortable with this brand-new boat. We had it for about a month here in Costa Rica, and it was astonishing how many fish they released during the week of the Masters.

What was the inspiration behind naming your boat “Pura Vida”?

JC: We purchased our 55 Viking from Galati and needed to name it. So, our two older kids, aged 22 and 23, got together with us to choose a name. Aileen suggested “Pura Vida” because it’s the only place we travel with our kids where we’ve had such a great time. When we were leaving and reached San Jose airport, we didn’t want to go home. Everything here is “Pura Vida,” “Pura Vida.” So, the day we named the boat and put the name on it, we sent it to Rudy, our captain. He said, ‘no way.’ Everyone loved it, and the name stuck.

Who got into fishing first?

Aileen: He got into it first.

JC: So, during the first season, I would come down and fish the tournaments with my buddies while Aileen stayed home since our son wasn’t in college yet. When we’d fly back, Aileen would say, “You guys are so hyped up about these tournaments. What is it about them? You guys just don’t stop talking about them.”

In 2021, at the Pescadora tournament, we entered the girls’ competition since you don’t have to hook your own fish; we would hook them and pass them. Aileen caught a blue marlin, and afterwards she sat down, and was just shaking. I looked at her and said, “That’s why we do this.” From then on, I couldn’t keep her away.

Aileen: I told him you’re screwed now.

Who is the better angler?

Aileen: I think it’s pretty even. I think he’s the better angler.

JC: I think she is the better angler.

If you had one last day to fish, where would you go?

Aileen: I think I would go back to Mag Bay.

JC: Mag Bay is like something out of that documentary Blue Planet—it’s like Blue Planet in real life. If you’ve never been there, you must go. If this is what you like to do, that’s like the mecca. You’re constantly in awe. It’s a beautiful place because of the fishing.

But overall, this is it (talking about Los Sueños). You can’t beat this, the calm weather, the people. We fell in love with this country because of the people, and the fishing is awesome too, so it’s great.

Aileen & JC: And our crew is okay. (jokingly)

Aileen: No, we love them.

JC: Yeah, we love our crew. We used to go to Colorado for skiing one year and then come here the next, back and forth. When we’d come here, Rudy was our charter captain. So, I’d call him beforehand to ask what days he had available, and we’d fish 4-5 out of the 7 days we were here for spring break—continuous hard-core fishing.

When I bought a boat, I said, “Hey, I’m going to come down there,” and I had a captain at the time, a great captain and part of the Galati team as well. Rudy was our second guy and he’d help us out. I’ve known him now for almost 13 years, and one of his sons is a mate on our boat; these are his childhood friends. His son is now the captain of our charter boat, Top Fly. So, it’s a family deal. We love these guys. The mate on Top Fly is one of the mate’s brothers. Good people, good families—that’s what it’s about.

We were talking to Laura Jessen about it, and we said we love hanging out with our guys. Yesterday we had lunch with them, and they’ll come over for dinner and stuff like that. We just enjoy being around these guys.

What is the biggest fish you guys have caught?

Aileen: I won that one!

JC: I had never caught a black marlin before. The day before the women’s tournament, Aileen hooked a fish on the right lure, and an 800lb black marlin appeared. She fought it for two hours by herself without a harness until the very end. It was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen.

Aileen: It dragged us out about four miles.

JC: It was the craziest fish ever.

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