A young surfer from Barbados has died after surfing a heavy session on the island's east coast, while surfing the first pulse of swell generated by Hurricane Irma.
Zander Venezia, 16, from Bridgetown in Barbados, was surfing with Nathan Florence, Balaram Stack and Dylan Graves, with photographers Jimmy Wilson and Daniel Russo on Tuesday.
It is understood that no one saw Venezia fall on a wave, but his board was spotted floating on the inside. Florence was the first to reach Zander in the water, where he found the Bajan was unresponsive. After rushing to shore, no easy feat on that notorious stretch of reef, CPR was administered immediately until medics arrived. It has been reported that Zander may have suffered a broken neck but family are awaiting the results of an autopsy report.
As news of the tragedy broke yesterday, tributes have been pouring in from all across the surfing community. Local surf school owner Christian Neville Boos said: “The waves were was epic! But that all came to an abrupt stop, unforgettable horrific tragedy.”
Fellow Bajan, and CT competitor, Chelsea Tuach said: “Yesterday, it felt like the world stopped. As I tried to grasp the loss of your beautiful Soul. You had the biggest heart and most fun loving personality. I am grateful for the years I had watching you grow into a phenomenal surfer, seeing your courage on big days and your finesse in contests. You were the best kind of human. We love you with all of our hearts and we miss you Zan.”
@zandervenezia By all accounts you were as good a friend as you were a surfer...thank you for the impact you had on those around you for a life lived with joy and purpose. And thank you for taking this photo with me when you were 5. I will cherish it always. @louis_venezia sorry doesn't cover it. Words cannot suffice for your family and the loss of a son. The grief felt by so many is felt around this surfing work of ours. Much love to my #BarbadosFamily. #GoneTooSoon #ZanderVenezia •For those who don't know, Zander passed away while surfing today after catching what he said was the best wave of his life. He was knocked unconscious when he hit his head on the reef, possibly braking his neck and taking a long hold down for a number of waves. Friends and fellow surfers aided in a rescue attempt but his injuries were greater than could be addressed making him the first victim, by default, of #HurricaneIrma.
Hurricane Irma upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane yesterday. Keep up to date with the latest here.
Cover shot: Zander competing taken by the WSL