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Candelaria Resano: Nicaraguan Surfer Aims for Olympic Gold in the World's Most Dangerous Waves

Resano is the first Nicaraguan surfer to compete in the Olympic Games. "Nicaragua and its beaches are my home," she says

Nicaraguan Candelaria Resano rides a wave during a surf camp on the beaches of Teahupo'o, Tahiti, in July 2023. Photo: Courtesy

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10 de julio 2024

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Nicaraguan surfer Candelaria Resano, 18, starts her training routine at 5:00 a.m. on the beaches of Teahupo'o, Tahiti. The young athlete spends at least eight hours a day in what surfers consider "the most dangerous waves in the world." It is part of her preparation to represent Nicaragua at the Olympic Games in Paris, which start on July 26, 2024.

Resano is the first Nicaraguan surfer to compete in the Olympic Games. Surfing was included as a water sport in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.


"It is an honor to represent Nicaragua. I have worked very hard to take my country to high places. I didn't start preparing a month ago, I started four years ago, when I decided I wanted to be part of these Olympics. And I worked very hard until I qualified," says Resano.

At the beginning of June, the young Nicaraguan traveled to the island of Tahiti, in French Polynesia, where the Olympic surfing competition will be held.

These beaches are considered some of the most dangerous in the world for surfing, because their waves break over a shallow coral bottom, where any surfer who takes a bad fall can be seriously injured or killed, according to international media.

In July 2023, Resano suffered a broken nose on those beaches because an amateur surfer let his board get away from him and it hit her while she was participating in a camp organized by the International Surfing Association for potential Olympic qualifiers. 

At the Olympic Games, the Nicaraguan will compete against 23 athletes from around the world. She is the only Central American in the women's competition and her goal is "to make history and bring the first Olympic medal [in surfing] for Nicaragua."

Candelaria Resano poses with the bronze medal she won at the U-18 World Surfing Championship in Brazil in November 2023. // Photo: Courtesy

How Resano qualified for the Olympics 

Resano qualified for the Olympic Games by obtaining one of the two "universality places" granted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Resano and Bryan Pérez from El Salvador won these places among competitors from more than 50 countries. The main requirement was to be among the most qualified surfers to be eligible, and to represent a country that has had little representation in previous games.

"To enter [into the universality quota selection], I had to be at least in the top 30 in the last two world championships. They see who you are and know that you are at the level to be in these Olympics," says the surfer.

"Of all the girls," she continues, "they saw who had the best results and the highest levels and they decided that I did. It makes me very proud to be able to show the world what Nicaragua has."

Resano during her participation in the U-18 surfing world cup in Brazil in November //Photo: Courtesy.

"Surfing is my passion and my escape from everything"

Resano has spent most of her life in the water, searching for the best waves. At the age of six she participated in her first competition on a beach in Leon, in western Nicaragua. Since then her extreme discipline, her competitive personality and her willingness to throw herself into the biggest waves have consolidated her as one of the most complete athletes in Nicaraguan surfing.

Resano's dedication to surfing has brought with it a series of sacrifices, from not attending school in person and taking online classes, to investing her savings in being able to participate in tournaments. 

The teenager is studying at a distance-learning program in two international schools. This allows her to have flexible schedules, and she takes classes in French and English. She will soon begin studying finance at Point Loma Nazarene University.

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"The life of an athlete is very demanding. In my case, I study a lot and I'm about to enter university, so I balance my life between studies and sports," says Rezano. "If you want to take your studies seriously, you have to focus, and if you want to be a high-performance athlete you also have to put everything into it," she stresses. 

"You lose a little bit of social life, but the important thing is to have fun in training. I do have fun training and I get my fun out of surfing," Resano adds.

To devote herself to this sport, both Resano and her family have dedicated their efforts and resources to pay for her participation in the championships. In the upcoming Olympics they have also had the support of the Nicaraguan Olympic Committee.

Candelaria Resano as a child with her father Manuel Resano on a Nicaraguan beach // Photo: Donald Stone

"Riding a board" since the age of three 

Even as a three-year-old girl, Resano could already stand up on a surfboard. She started riding with her father Manuel Resano, an Argentinian sailing trainer who came to Nicaragua in 2003 to develop a sailing project in Granada. Living in Nicaragua, he fell in love with the Spaniard Beatriz del Caso, and they settled in Popoyo beach, in Rivas.

The young Resano is part of a family with outstanding women surfers. Candelaria's sisters Valentina, 20, and Maxima, 15, have taken first places in international surfing tournaments. Of the three, however, Candelaria is the one who has gone the farthest.

Resano believes she "owes" her surfing skills to her local beach, Popoyo. "Nicaragua and its beaches are my home. It's who I am," she says.  

At the end of 2023, Resano managed to position herself in the top ten of several international tournaments:

  • Bronze medal in the U-18 World Surfing Championship in Brazil, in November.
  • Fifth place in the senior category at the World Open Surfing Championship in El Salvador in December.
  • Seventh place at the Pan American Games in Chile in October.

Resano is aiming for a gold medal

At the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the Nicaraguan will compete in the "women's short board open" category and aspires to win "a gold medal". The surfing competitions will take place from July 27 to August 4. While they are scheduled to take place over the course of four days, four more days will be added in case of bad weather or bad wave conditions. 

"Two surfers go into the water for 20 or 30 minutes, catch as many waves as they want, and then the two best waves are scored from one to ten, each. Then a summation is done and the surfer with the most points advances to the next round.  At the end, the one with the most points stays in the championship. There are at least five rounds," Resano explains.

"They are going to be evaluating the biggest waves. The bigger the wave and the longer you're in the tube, the more points you earn," says Resano.

"I feel privileged to know that I have worked so hard and have made it to this point. There are so many good surfers in Nicaragua who don't have representation because everything is so expensive," Resano says. "It takes someone to step up and show other generations that it can be done."

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.

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Redacción Niú

Redacción Niú

Revista Niú es un proyecto periodístico de CONFIDENCIAL que nació en agosto de 2016 para compartir contenidos sobre cultura, estilo de vida tendencias mundiales e historias que inspiren.

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