Despite a remarkable surge in women's professional surfing, the journey to a professional surfing career remains an uphill battle for many women in Costa Rica. Women of Papagayo aims to promote and support this cause with the upcoming event, Surf Like a Girl.
By Danielle Finnegan | June 16, 2023 | Guanacaste

In recent years, Costa Rica has witnessed a remarkable surge in women’s professional surfing, a sport deeply ingrained in the country’s culture and heritage. With local heroine Brisa Hennessy topping the charts on the World Surf League Championship Tour, this tiny yet powerful nation has cemented its place in the international surf community. However, despite these achievements, the journey to a professional surfing career remains an uphill battle for most women, plagued by objectification, pay disparities, and a glaring gap in opportunities.

Women of Papagayo, in collaboration with SurfX, is hosting a groundbreaking donation-based community surf event to bolster the female surf community and address these persistent challenges. Headlined by three remarkable Costa Rican professional surfers, the event aims to shine a spotlight on the struggles faced by women in the sport.

Leading the charge is Lia Diaz, Costa Rica’s number one longboarder and a bronze medalist in the Pan-American games. Diaz’s roots run deep in the professional surfing community, having grown up with her mother, Andrea Diaz, a national champion in her own right. Mother and daughter triumphed together in a remarkable turn of events, winning nationals in the same year. However, despite her undeniable talent and unwavering ambition, Diaz grapples with financial constraints and a need for sponsorships that could propel her toward her goals.
“The only way to secure a significant sponsor is through personal connections with executives at major brands,” Diaz reveals. “Unfortunately, these opportunities predominantly favor men, perpetuating a cycle where the same two women are repeatedly chosen. Astonishingly, certain brands continue to sponsor multiple men while ignoring women altogether, despite the men not having the most stellar careers in comparison.”

Valeria Salustri, a five-time national champion in stand-up paddle surfing, embodies the multi-faceted nature of modern female athletes. Beyond her achievements in the competitive arena, Salustri is an entrepreneur and public figure. She reflects on the neglected status of women’s surfing, stating, “It is disheartening to see how women’s surfing has been left on the sidelines. Promoting and championing the sport can inspire and empower other women to pursue their dreams, reminding them that they can achieve anything.”

Nataly Vindas got into surfing after a life-altering car accident turned her into a full-time wheelchair user in 2008. Amidst her immense challenges, Vindas discovered solace and purpose in the non-traditional sport of adaptive surfing. Immersed in the raw power of nature, she found a renewed connection with both the sea and a higher power. Vindas has become a prominent figure in the Adaptive Surfing Association of Costa Rica, serving as its founding member and president. Speaking of her journey, Vindas shares, “Living with a disability, I initially struggled with my self-esteem and believed I could never find joy in anything again. However, adaptive surfing changed everything. It empowered me and compelled me to share this transformative experience with others with disabilities.”

Valeria Salustri

While the accomplishments of women surfers in Costa Rica are undeniably remarkable, their uphill battle for recognition and equality is far from over. The upcoming all-female surf event organized by Women of Papagayo and SurfX is a pivotal step in shedding light on the daily challenges these athletes face. The event hopes to foster a greater sense of community and support for women surfers by amplifying their stories, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable future in the sport.

RSVP is required. Please email Hanna Storrosten or member services. If you cannot attend but want to donate, please click here.