A 22-year-old surfer from El Salvador died after being struck by lightning while training for an Olympic qualifier.
Katherine Diaz was near her home in southwest El Salvador at El Tunco beach when she was struck after entering the water. She was preparing for the International Surfing Association (ISA) 2021 Surf City El Salvador World Surfing Games in order to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
“Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” her uncle, Beto Diaz told a newspaper in El Salvador. “She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly.”
The Salvadoran Surf Federation honored the top surfer on social media with a tribute post. “A great athlete who has represented our country has left us,” it read. “See you soon, great warrior. El Salvador is in mourning.”
The ISA shared similar sentiments, writing that the young star “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,” the ISA wrote. “We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine’s family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched.”