t’s “The Return of the King,’ Costa Rican style

Introduction to Web site devoted to Fowlie.

Years ago in the faraway Kingdom of Pavones, the people lived in paradise under the benevolent eye of the king, a one-time visitor from the north.

The kingdom was a closed one and favored those knights known as surfers who exercised their art in the presence of a magical wave.

The king, using alien knowledge, created jobs, and infrastructure and even a cantina. And the people were pleased.

But one day dark forces from the north captured the king while he was on a foreign mission and held him for years. The land fell under a dark cloud and those touched with greed tried to take the king’s land.

Well, bad news, Those Touched with Greed. There is a report that the king is coming back.

Daniel Fowlie really is called the king of Pavones, and the fairy tale above is not too far off the mark. Fowlie was a benevolent ruler who quickly realized that the Pavones surf was among the best in the world.

Fowlie, then 41, arrived there in 1974 and began purchasing beach concessions until he had accumulated a 15-mile stretch of oceanfront. His kingdom was certainly out of a story book. The locals got jobs, and he helped teach them construction, heavy machinery operation and even gardening.

Fowlie had plenty of money when he arrived with his family. Some was inherited. The rest he made as a real estate speculator and from a leather goods business that supplied high-end department stores. He even had enough money to purchase the San José mansion of U.S. fugitive Robert Vesco of Watergate fame. That may have been why he came to the attention of U.S. anti-drug agents, perhaps with justification.

When he was detained in México in 1985, California investigators found there the evidence, an ounce of marijuana, that eventually resulted in a federal conspiracy trial. Fowlie spent 18 years in federal prison. And his land holdings began to deteriorate under pressure from locals who doubted that he would come back. He calls them sharks.

When he got out of prison, he returned in 2005 to learn the state of his holdings. Fowlie says his trip was peaceful and uneventful. La Nación quoted locals who said they feared him, and the immigration director at the time, Marco Badilla, banned him from the country based on the newspaper article.

The entry prohibition appears to have been overkill because Fowlie notes that he was accompanied by an off-duty Costa Rica police officer, and he was shadowed by two on-duty officers. A Web site constructed by friends said that the encounters where locals claimed they were threatened were taped and refute the claims.

Of course, the worthless jungle land that only interested a surf-crazy Gringo is now one of the most valuable tracts in Costa Rica.

The land manipulations there have frequently broken into the news with a fatal shooting in 1997 and the 2011 arson fire of the legendary Bar and Restaurant La Esquina del Mar that Fowlie built.

Fowlie appears to have purchased legally all the concessions that he holds and also has been paying the municipal taxes. Still, with the state of the Costa Rican court system, his efforts to reclaim any land he says he holds will be a big payday for scores of lawyers. Hundreds of expats and Costa Ricans face similar ownership threats.

Pavones is in southwestern Costa Rica on the Pacific. And it is true that the wave there, described as being almost mechanical, is one of the best in the world for surfing.

Terry Milliken, who identified himself in an email Monday as Fowlie’s godson, said he hopes Fowlie will be allowed to enter the country in a couple of weeks to press his legal claims.

Whether he reclaims his land or not, Fowlie holds a legendary history. His efforts in Pavones brought the 20th century to the area. He built airports, sports fields, medical facilities and all sorts of structures, including homes for many locals.

A friend writing nostalgically on the Internet of those days said of Fowlie:

“Aside from his flotilla of yachts and miscreant-manned fishing boats, his private aircraft, innumerable big boy toys and trinkets, personal extravagances and priceless artifacts from primitive cultures worldwide, he owned, or would soon own, a multimillion dollar farm in Riverside, California, a ranch in Baja, Mexico, plus Robert Vesco’s splendiferous, heavily fortified compound in San Jose, Costa Rica; and Danny, toting a suitcaseful of gringo green, was poised to possess the one thing he did not have, but wanted most — his own private piece of paradise, a far-flung Shangri-La which he would benignly rule, and share with his entourage of spooky hipster-savant cronies and hangers-on . . . .”

There even is a documentary, “The King of Pavones,” that features Fowlie. The film contains a lot of Fowlie’s own footage from the time he lived there. It is by Love Machine Films, and the trailer isHERE!

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