Surfer Katherine Diaz Dies at 22 from Lightning Strike During Olympics Training

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2021

A surfer rides a wave during a tow surfing session at Praia do Norte or North Beach in Nazare, Portugal, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. A big swell generated earlier in the week by Hurricane Epsilon in the North Atlantic, reached the Portuguese west coast drawing big wave surfers to Nazare. (AP Photo/Pedro Rocha)
Pedro Rocha/Associated Press

Katherine Diaz, a 22-year-old Olympic surfing hopeful, died while training at the El Tunco beach in El Salvador after being struck by lightning while training, per Matias Grez of CNN.com. 

"Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard," her uncle Beto Diaz, who said he was with her in the water, told an El Salvadoran newspaper (h/t Grez). "She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly."

According to AS, "the sky was clear and it was an unforeseen storm that did not seem to carry much electrical intensity either" before Diaz was struck by the lightning (h/t Sven Busch of the Olympic Channel).

The La Bocana and El Sunzal beaches in El Salvador are set to host the International Surfing Association's Surf City El Salvador World Surfing Games between May 29 to June 6, which will also be the final qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Games. Surfing will make its Olympic debut at this summer's Games.

According to Chris Bumbaca of USA Today, Diaz was also a chef and had her own business in El Tunco alongside being an Olympic hopeful in surfing. 

ISA @ISAsurfing

It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz. https://t.co/7SQCEHPpu3

ISA @ISAsurfing

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. https://t.co/mIBxCQzRcw

"Katherine was a girl very passionate about sports, she was very motivated and happy for the event that was approaching," El Salvador's surfing association, FESASURF, said in a statement (h/t Grez). "'The Paddle Out'—a ceremony in her honor—will be held next Tuesday."

A funeral was held for Diaz on Friday.