Andrea Diaz’s stoke for the ocean is contagious. Costa Rica’s first female surfing national champion grew up in the city and didn’t touch a board until she was 16. She’d been pursuing an Olympic swimming career, but after just one surf session she gave up the pool and moved to Playa Grande to chase waves.
At a time when women were still a minority in the water, she became respected for her hard-charging style. Now, the mother of three is sharing her passion through Surf for Youth. For over a decade, she’s coached kids ages 12 to 18 with the agreement they commit to school. “Kids here don’t have a lot of extracurricular activities,” she says. “Surfing teaches accountability and discipline.” The goal, she says, isn’t to mold pro surfers, though participants have competed in the national championships. Her hope is to instill confidence and positive attitudes in kids. “I always tell my kids the best surfer is the one having the most fun,” she says.