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The Inertia

Surfing at Nazaré when the waves get outrageously big is unlike surfing at other big wave spots. There’s no channel to kick out into at Nazaré, so nearly every ride requires a ski assist. Tow teams depend on each other to save each other’s lives, but every so often, something goes wrong that simply can’t be avoided. Such was the case at the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge on Tuesday.

If you were watching the event, you might have been more than a little curious. With just a few minutes to go in the final heat, and just moments after the safety coordinator was onscreen talking about the dangers of surfing Nazaré, Alex Botelho and Hugo Vau ran into a huge amount of trouble. It is terrifying footage. The live feed was cut off and many viewers were left wondering what exactly happened. Botelho could be seen floating face down in the water as a rescue swimmer frantically fought through the surging whitewater to reach him. Once he was on the beach, his unconscious body was loaded onto a spine board. And then it was hours until any update came.

“We’re happy to report that Alex remains stable. He is currently in the hospital under close observation for the next 48/72 hours,”the WSL wrote. “We are all wishing Alex a full and quick recovery. “He will stay at the hospital for further evaluation.”

While at the time of this reporting there are no additional details, what can be said for certain is that the water safety team on-site at the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge very likely saved Alex Botelho’s life. The work they do to keep the surfers safe is incredibly important. There are inherent dangers with surfing waves of this size, but the men and women on the rescue crews are some of the most highly trained and experienced people in the world for this particular venture. And for that, we should all be grateful, because without them, the first-ever Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge could have ended in tragedy.

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