LISBON (Reuters) – Surfer Alex Botelho was in hospital in stable condition on Tuesday night after a horrific incident during the inaugural Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge on the central coast of Portugal, which boasts some of the biggest waves in the world.
Canadian-born big wave circuit regular Botelho was competing for Portugal in the team competition when the jetski taking him out of the impact zone was thrown high into the air by two waves colliding.
The unconscious surfer was tossed around in the violent surf before support staff managed to get him to the beach, put him on a backboard and get him to an ambulance.
“Big wave surfer Alex Botelho was involved in a very serious incident during the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge,” the World Surf League (WSL) said in a statement.
“He was rushed to the hospital and we now have an update on his condition. Currently, he is stable and conscious. He will stay at the hospital for further evaluation.
“A heartfelt thank you to the safety and medical teams for their quick response. We are wishing Alex a full and speedy recovery.”
Further details on his injuries and condition were not immediately available.
Nazare’s monstrous waves are magnified by an underwater canyon 5km (three miles) deep which ends where the North Atlantic meets the shoreline near the former fishing village.
Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara put Nazare on the map in 2011 when he set a world record for the biggest wave ever surfed at 78 feet (23.77 metres).
Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa bettered McNamara’s mark in 2017, again at Nazare, by conquering an 80-foot wave (24.38m).
The WSL estimated waves reached around 45 feet (13.7m) on Tuesday as storms out in the ocean caused a solid swell which, together with light winds, created “exceptional” conditions for the competition to take place.
Hawaiian Kai Lenny won the Men’s Wave of the Day for a giant righthander breaking towards the dangerous rocks, while France’s Justine Dupont won the Women’s Wave of the Day after successfully navigating a huge lefthander.
Lenny and his partner Lucas Chianca from Brazil won the Teams event.
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, additional reporting by Miguel Pereira, editing by Lincoln Feast