Surfer Katherine Diaz Dead at 22 After Being Struck by Lightning

Katherine Diaz, a surfing sensation from El Salvador, died after being hit by lightning while training for the Olympics. Here’s what you need to know.

View gallery
Image Credit: Shutterstock

The woman called El Salvador’s “top surfer” has been laid to rest after passing away in a freak weather accident. Katherine Diaz, 22, died on Friday (Mar. 19) while training in the waters near her home in El Tunco, according to the Washington Post. The death sent shockwaves throughout the sports world, as this young surfing talent was taken just as the sport was about to make its debut at this year’s Tokyo Games. With tributes pouring in for this “great warrior,” here’s what you need to know about the late Katherine Diaz.

1. How did Katherine Diaz die?

Katherine died while training for the International Surfing Association’s World Surf Games, a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics, per The Guardian. She had just entered the waters in El Tunco, which is ten miles south of San Salvador, to start her practice session when she was struck by lightning. Emergency services attempted to revive her there on the beach, but their efforts were tragically futile. The sudden change in weather had caught those on the beach by surprise, with Spanish-language newspaper AS writing, “the sky was clear and it was an unforeseen storm that did not seem to carry much electrical intensity either.”

2. She was alongside her uncle when she died.

Katherine was reportedly alongside her uncle and her friend when she was hit, per The New York Post. “Katherine approached to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard. She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too,” her uncle told a local news outlet.

3. Katherine Diaz was considered a ‘global ambassador’ of surfing.

News of Katherine’s death was greeted by sadness and memorials. “It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz,” the International Surfing Association said in a statement a day after Katherine’s death. “Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport. 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. 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. We will never forget you.”

4. She was considered a ‘great warrior.’ 

Tributes came pouring in following Katherine’s death. “A great athlete who has represented our country has left us,” the Salvadoran Surf Federation said in a social media tribute. “See you soon, great warrior. El Salvador is in mourning.” Yamil Bukele, the president of the Salvadoran Sports Institute, said on Twitter that they were “very sorry for this death and I join the pain that overwhelms his family. A solidarity hug.”

5. She was beloved by her family.

A service for Katherine was held on Saturday, March 20, according to ElSalvador.com. Her mother, Amelia Hernández, was emotional during the funeral, but was confident that her daughter was “with God.” Her sister reportedly said that Kathrine “was a girl full of energy, with a free spirit who made every day feel worthwhile.” Her brother, Jose “Bamba” Diaz, wrote, “We will always carry you in our hearts. God decided to take you now. We already miss you. Love forever, little sister.” The wake continued at Church of God Manantiales de Vida Eterna, Playa el Tunco, with her body being laid to rest at the Municipal Cemetery of Puerto de La Libertad.

More From Our Partners