Katherine Diaz, Leading Salvadoran Surfer, Dead at 22

She was struck by lightning while training for Olympic qualification

Katherine Diaz
Surfer Katherine Diaz died after being struck by lightning while training.
International Surfing Association

When virtually anyone dies at the age of 22, it feels both tragic and premature. For surfer Katherine Diaz, who died on Friday after being struck by lightning, that sense is magnified exponentially. Diaz died while training for Olympic qualification; she’d hoped to represent El Salvador at the Tokyo Olympics. Her death has led to an outpouring of grief from the surfing community.

On Saturday night, the International Surfing Association paid tribute to Diaz with a moving post on Facebook. “Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” the organization wrote. “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.”

The Guardian‘s report on the tragedy notes that the sky was clear when Diaz began training; the storm was “unforeseen,” in the phrasing of the Spanish newspaper AS. The beach where she had been training was located near her home in El Tunco, in southwest El Salvador.

The Salvadoran Surf Federation also addressed Diaz’s death on social media. “A great athlete who has represented our country has left us,” the organization posted. “See you soon, great warrior. El Salvador is in mourning.”

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