Big Wave Bodyboarder Valentina Diaz is Pushing the Limits and Living a Dream
Chasing the world’s most dangerous waves and wearing her beauty with pride. Valentina Diaz speaks about following your dreams and saving the planet.
The waves were massive. As the only woman in the lineup, I was second-guessing my decision to paddle out that day. Sitting off to the side, another 25-foot face came racing toward the lineup. Just then another woman paddled out. As she neared me I could see a massive smile filling her face. Valentina Diaz greeted me with a fist bump.
“It’s Pumping! So fun! Good to see you Amiga.” And with that, she paddled straight to the main peak.
Professional Bodyboarder, Valentina Diaz is no stranger to big waves. At 29 years old she is a full-time sponsored athlete riding for O’Neill. She is also sponsored by her home country, Chile.
Getting Started in a Macho Culture
“It has been really difficult. Professional bodyboarding didn’t exist in Chile.” Say Diaz. When She started bodyboarding in 2008, she had to beg her big brother to let her tag along.
“I was born and raised in a family with a lot of boys. When I asked my brother to take me to the beach he said no. It is a super macho culture. When I started I didn’t see any other girls surfing. The guys laughed at me but it motivated me to get better.”
Valentina Diaz, like so many ocean lovers, found her solace in the waves. Her parents were going through a separation at the time and the ocean became her safe space. After those first few days riding waves, she felt like she had made the most important discovery in her life. “It blew my mind straight away.”
Dreaming to be What She Had Never Even Heard of
She had a dream, to make a living out of bodyboarding. But this was crazy because no one was doing that at the time. She started reading about waves all over the world. “When I first saw pictures of Pipeline, I was like, ‘I have to go there!”
When I first started bodyboarding, no one had faith in what I was doing. I was totally alone. But I did the things I could. I took the next necessary step. And now I’m living a dream
Valentina Diaz went to university in Chile where she got her degree in landscape design. She financed herself to take surf trips during those years by working as a ski instructor in the mountains and still found time to get in regular surfs. She worked until 27 as a landscape architect, never giving up her dream. She still traveled as much as possible around South America, to Puerto Escondido and Hawaii, to surf her dream wave, Pipeline.
Through dedication, hard work, and a massive amount of courage, she started to gain recognition for surfing some of the world’s fiercest waves. Now, at 29, she is fully dedicated to her career as a professional bodyboarder.
Getting Sponsors as a Female Bodyboarder
It took some convincing to get the Chilean government to sponsor a bodyboarder. There were already sponsoring some athletes in Olympic sports to help polish their image. But Valentina Diaz persisted.
“Bodyboarding is a tool to make people better, keeping them off drugs and out of trouble. Using our natural resources like the ocean is free. We need to educate children so we can use the free resources we have to empower ourselves. “
Eventually, the government agreed and some sponsorship money came through.
Women’s Competitions, or Lack-there-of
The heavy waves of Puerto Escondido became Valentina Diaz’s second home since 2015 after visiting for her first time in 2011. Which is where we first met. Valentina has been invited to the first-ever competition for bodyboarders in big waves in Puerto Escondido in the summer of 2020. Of all the invitees, she was the only woman on the list. “But they don’t have a women’s division. It’s the same macho culture. They need to give the women a chance to compete fairly.” It’s certainly not the first contest in Puerto where women must compete with the men if they wish to enter.
We met up for this interview in Hawaii, where new regulations have just been passed requiring all men’s surfing events to also include Women’s divisions. Diaz could not be more happy. Two days after this interview, Valentina was one of only a couple of woman to compete in the APB’s (Association of Professional Bodyboarders) Pipeline invitational. The women had to compete against the men as the new regulations have not yet been enacted.
“Even if it is just one or two women, let them have a heat,” she expressed noting that it will inspire and motivate other women to join in the future.
What it’s like to be a Woman Surfing Pipeline?
Diaz made her first pilgrimage to the North Shore of Oahu in 2009. She went straight to Pipeline.
“Surfing Pipe is a mix of emotions. It’s the most beautiful wave that I’ve seen in my life. I have surfed a lot of places, but she is the queen for sure. And super scary!”
Valentina has started using a helmet as of this year. She has seen too many head injuries. “In skiing, no one used to wear a helmet now it’s the majority of skiers. I think we are going to see more of this in surfing as well.”
It took many years for Valentina to get a lot of waves at Pipe. She put in her time picking off leftovers from those higher up in the pecking order.
“It’s the opposite of what you might think. They don’t like girls out at Pipe. They think you are not going to make it.” She describes the stress of the heavy waves is then doubled by the pressure from the lineup, and then tripled by the large crowd of spectators on the beach any day that Pipe is firing.
“Everyone wants to get the spotlight. In the water everyone is a beast.”
Eventually she made friends and got to know the regulars. Little by little she earned their respect.
“I learned I have to scream sometimes when I’m going for a wave. I don’t like doing it, but I have to, because it is dangerous.”
“Just one time I went on a wave, but I was scared so I went straight and I missed the barrel. It was a bomb, it was heavy! I could hear the lineup grumbling. After that, I was like, ‘I have to pull in.’ I have been pushing myself alot. If you are going to go, you gotta go.”
What are Valentina Diaz’s Goals?
“I want to do something big for my country. I want to be World Champion. If I ever have a world title I can do more for my country and for the world. My goal is to inspire the world to be better people. Bodyboarding is my way to do that.”
In 2020 Valentina will join the Association of Professional Bodyboarders Women’s World Tour for stops in places like Brazil, Chile, Portugal, Austria, and South Africa with the goal of being World Champion.
On the Female Form
At 17 Valentina had a full modeling contract. But she didn’t like the scene. She preferred to go to University to study. If you take a look at her Instagram you can’t miss her natural beauty. “Now I take photos just for fun. I love being feminine. I love to show the strong side of the feminine. I love being girly.”
No matter if you are tall, fat or whatever, you are a girl, you are beautiful.
Valentina had a lot to say about the balance between athleticism and sexuality which is so confusing, especially for young athletes trying to make a name for themselves. One look at her Instagram and you will see she isn’t afraid to show off her amazing feminine form. But you get no sense that she is looking for validation.
View this post on Instagram
Volver al mar es natural. ADN , cultura , humanidad , preconsciente , VIDA. Una tarde especial en Waimea Bay…✨🧜💛 _________________________________ Balsa wood turbo board check out @jimboyarborough work 👌 / 📸 @bruno_norberto_ 🤙/ 👙 @oneillchile _________________________________ #themermaidisoutofthewater #love #hawaii #bodyboarding #bodyboard
“We are so different from men. A woman is born with beauty, she is just born that way. It is natural. If you are a girl, you own this power of being beautiful. No matter if you are tall, fat or whatever, you are a girl, you are beautiful. You have to know that. You don’t need to develop it or work for it. But you can build really beautiful things on top of that which will make you much more than just a sexual image. You can have a sexual image but you already own that. You don’t have to feel bad to show it, we are women, we are born like this. It doesn’t have to be hidden. Just keep adding value on top of what you already have.”
Valentina Diaz’s Workout and Diet Rituals
Exactly how does Diaz maintain her shape? Obviously she is spending hours in the water when the waves are good. But when they are not, she isn’t super committed to one form of training or another. She enjoys Jiu-Jitsu but also will ride her bike or just spend time stretching if that is what her body needs.
“In Chile being a vegetarian was not a fashion statement. Everyone was like, ‘What the hell, why don’t you eat meat?’” She is clear that what works for one person doesn’t always work for someone else. Now her diet is mostly plant-based. She loves to learn about plants and traditional plant medicine. “I eat everything if I want it. I’m about 95% vegetarian. I just try to eat a lot of fresh living food to get the most energy out of it. For me, it’s raw veggies, a good amount of beans, a ton of water and good sleep. This is what works.”
What Can the Average Human do for Our Planet? The Best Answer Ever.
I asked a hard question, “What can the average person do for our planet?” Valentina provided the most thought-provoking response I have ever heard.
If you are full of love and energy you don’t want to take so much for yourself
“The first thing people can do is to know themselves. If you are at peace within yourself you will want to share that. If your glass is full of water you will want to share. The main thing is to not consume too much. If you are full of love and energy you don’t want to take so much for yourself. If you get low then you start putting things into your life to feel fulfilled. But if you start from a full place then you don’t need anything more to fill up. You can even give things away.”
Advice to Dreamers
Her last bit of advice: “Explore, go your own way, make your own rules. If you are looking for your purpose, that is good, that is your purpose. When I first started bodyboarding, no one had faith in what I was doing. I was totally alone. But I had this thing in my mind. I did the things I could. I took the next necessary step. And now I’m living a dream. I did what I could and I made magic things happen. If you have a purpose in life, you can give something good to the world. Go for your goals and make them happen!”
If you want more from Valentina Diaz you can follow her Instagram @valentinadiazl
Valentina is also hosting a coaching trip for bodyboarders of all skill levels this summer in Puerto Escondido. Check it out!