The international surfing community was shocked this past Friday (March 19) when Katherine Diaz, an Olympic hopeful from El Salvador, died when she was struck by lightning on a beach near her home in El Tunco.
Diaz, who was only 22, was training for the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador, an Olympic qualifier contest, which could have put her on a path to compete at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. This year will mark the first time in Olympic history that surfing is included in the games.
According to Yahoo! Sports, there was a series of electrical storms in the area where Diaz was training. Lightning hit her while she was in the water. Paramedics arrived at the scene but were unable to revive her. In a statement on social media, the International Surfing Association called her a “global ambassador” for surfing.
“It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz,” the ISA said. “Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all. She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.”
On Sunday (March 21) in Ecuador, a group of surfers memorialized Diaz with a special ceremony.
Yamil Bukele, the President of the National Institute of Sports of El Salvador, said the death of Diaz was “a great loss for our sport.”