16-Year-Old Junior Pro Surfer Dies While Surfing Hurricane Irma Swell Yesterday

Miles Clark | | SurfSurf
Zander Venezia.

According to the Royal Barbados Police Force, 16-year-old Barbados junior pro surfer Zander Venezia died after suffering a broken neck on a shallow reef break during a very big and heavy session on the Carribean island of Barbados on Tuesday at about 11am.

“We were surfing this secret spot, it’s a heavy wave and not really a safe wave but we were all surfing, having the best time of our lives, getting the best waves you can possibly imagine. The young kid caught a wave and rode it on the inside and he was paddling back outside and another wave came and picked him up and his head hit the reef.

One of the professional surfers was the first to get to him and he actually put the kid on his board and started performing CPR and then quite a few of us came and I took over in the water was well.” – Shawn Latino told Barbados Today

The big, heavy swell was generated by the approaching category 5 Hurricane Irma.

A High Surf Advisory was issued at 3pm on Tuesday for Barbados and remains in effect until 6pm Wednesday, September 6th, 2017. 

“Large battering waves and dangerous rip-currents can be expected and will create unsafe conditions for small craft operators. Sea-bathers and other users of the sea are also strongly advised to stay well away from the water.” – High Surf Advisory, yesterday

Zander Venezia after the win in August.

The surf break that the accident occurred at was just east of Zander’s hometown of Bridgetown at an expert wave called ‘Box by Box’.

Pro surfer Nathan Florence and others raced to Zander and pulled him out of the wave impact zone and onto shore.

CPR was performed and Zander was taken to the local hospital.  At the hospital doctors discovered Zander’s broken neck.

Zander passed away from his injuries in the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

Map showing location of Barbados.

“I’m told that Zander get overturned by a closeout set [a type of wave that can block a surfer’s path], where he likely hit bottom. Nathan Florence got to him first, then shouted for the other guys and started to perform CPR. Zander was bleeding, and he wasn’t moving. They tried to get him to the beach quickly, which was difficult. ‘Box by Box’ is a tough place to get in and out of, even if you have the ability. There’s lots of big rocks around, and some stick out of the water.” – Bajan pro-turned-surf instructor Alan Burke told Surfline.com

Zander had just won the Rip Curl Gromsearch 16 and under division competition at Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina in August 2017.  He was set to compete at the national final at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, CA in October.

GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricane Irma approaching Anguilla at about 7:00 am (eastern) today, September 6, 2017.

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