Olympic surfing hopeful killed by lightning strike

March 22, 2021 | Surfing
Katherine Diaz Hernandez: the 22-year-old Salvadoran surfer will never be forgotten | Photo: ISA/B-villacorta

The world of surfing is in shock. Katherine Diaz Hernandez, a 22-year-old surfer from El Salvador, passed away after being struck by lightning.

Hernandez was a member of El Salvador's national surf team, and she had hopes of competing for her country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

Katherine Diaz was expected to compete at the upcoming 2021 ISA World Surfing Games at La Bocana and El Sunzal in El Salvador.

The young Salvadoran was killed by a lightning strike at Playa El Tunco in La Libertad.

According to local reports, Katherine was about to paddle out at 5 pm for a training session when the tragedy occurred.

Passersby rushed to her aid before an ambulance arrived and transported her to the hospital. Unfortunately, she could not be revived.

Katherine Diaz Hernandez was the sister of the president of the Salvadoran Surf Federation (FESASurf), José "Bamba" Díaz.

She also managed a business in El Tunco and worked as a chef.

Surfers Are Always at Risk

Hernandez will always be remembered for the energy and passion she put into her surfing and for proudly representing her country at an international level.

Fernando Aguerre, president of the International Surfing Association (ISA), sent his condolences to Diaz' family, the El Salvador surfing community, and all whose lives she touched.

This is not the first fatal accident involving surfers and lightning.

In March 2019, Luzimara Souza, a talented 23-year-old Brazilian surfer, died after lightning struck the water in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Surfers are one of the groups at risk of getting struck by lightning.

Therefore, they should monitor specific wind, rain, and cloud patterns before getting into the ocean.

People, in general, should stay indoors - or leave the water immediately - during a thunderstorm, and every time the flash-to-bang count is shorter than 30 seconds.

In the United States, every year, lightning kills an average of 49 people.

Katherine Diaz Hernandez, 22, was getting ready for a training session at El Tunco in El Salvador when she was struck by lightning.

The Summer Surf Gear Guide 2021