She may have started stand-up paddling (SUP) three years ago on a whim when someone suggested she try it, but 17-year-old Valeria Salustri has been killing it ever since.

After two years of being the bridesmaid — getting 2nd place in the national circuit for SUP surfing—late last year Salustri took the crown and became Costa Rica’s national women’s SUP champion.

To top it off, the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica recently chose her to represent this country at the first-ever surfing inclusion in the Olympics-sanctioned Central America Games. And there, among competitors from 26 countries, Salustri earned two medals—silver for the women’s SUP race, and gold for the overall win of the Costa Rican team.

“This was the first time there’s surfing and stand-up paddling in an Olympic event, and I was good, and I’m happy with my result. It means all my hard work and goals are being achieved,” she said.

That hard work includes a rigorous schedule. An average day might mean getting up very early in the morning to paddle or take a run before school, then going to classes, and afterwards a physical workout either at Tamarindo Fitness Center or a pool in the town where she lives. Of course, after dinner there’s studying.

“Surf is a beautiful sport, but with SUP you don’t have to fight for waves,” Salustri said. “If you get first in a race it’s because you crossed the finish line first and not because someone judged your wave riding. I like doing this because I’m really relaxed in nature. I love competing and I like winning.”