Alex Botelho: Big wave surfer survives terrifying accident in competition in Portugal

12 February 2020, 10:46 | Updated: 12 February 2020, 12:51

A surfer is in hospital after the jet ski that rescued him from a violent swell was hit by two waves, tossing him into the air.

Canadian-born big wave surfer Alex Botelho was tossed around in the powerful surf off the central coast of Portugal before support staff rescued him.

He got into trouble in a big swell when, following a wipeout, he was rescued by his partner Hugo Vau on a jet ski, the Guardian said.

With both men on board, they were unable to outrun a wall of white water rushing up behind them before the craft was hit by another wave from the front.

He was competing in the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge, held in an area which sees some of the biggest waves in the world.

Video of the incident shows around a dozen people drag an unconscious Mr Botelho out of the water and onto the beach, where he was put on a backboard and taken to an ambulance.

The World Surf League (WSL) said in a statement: "Big wave surfer Alex Botelho was involved in a very serious incident during the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge.

"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."

Nic Von Rupp, another big wave surfer, said it was difficult to watch, saying what happened to his "brother" was "heartbreaking".

The former fishing village has been a hot spot for big wave surfing since 2011, when Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara set a world record for the biggest wave ever surfed at 78 feet (23.77 metres).

That was beaten in 2017 by Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa, who rode an 80 foot (24.38m) wave, again at Nazare.

Waves there reached an average of 45 feet (14m) on Tuesday, the WSL estimated, helped by storms out in the ocean and light winds, calling conditions "exceptional".

The monstrous swells are increased by an underwater canyon three miles (5km) deep which ends where the North Atlantic meets the shoreline.