Veteran surfer Marcio Freire dies at Portuguese big-wave break Nazaré

Freire fell from his board and rescuers’ attempts to resuscitate him on land failed, authorities said, in first death at the famous surfing spot

Tributes have poured in for Marcio Freire after the legendary Brazilian died while surfing the giant waves at Nazaré in Portugal.

Freire was among three pioneering Brazilian surfers who featured in the 2016 documentary Mad Dogs about their attempt to conquer the giant wave “Jaws” in Hawaii.

He was killed on Thursday while surfing the celebrated Atlantic waves in Portugal, home of the Nazaré Canyon, rated one of the sport’s biggest and most terrifying challenges.

“A 47-year-old man of Brazilian nationality died this afternoon after falling while practising surfing in Praia do Norte,” the National Maritime Authority said in a statement.

“The rescuers found that the victim was in cardio-respiratory arrest, immediately starting resuscitation manoeuvres on the sand. After several attempts, it was not possible to reverse the situation.”

The Nazaré Canyon lies just off the eastern Atlantic coast, has a depth of 5km and is 170km long.

According to the local maritime agency, the victim was Freire, a veteran surfer who lived for 20 years in Hawaii, the sport’s traditional homeland.

Tributes from other surfers poured in on Instagram. “Today we lost one of ours,” posted fellow big-wave surfer Nic von Rupp.

“He surfed all day with a big smile on his face. That’s how I’ll keep him in my memory. Legend.”

Also posting on Instagram from Nazaré, Freire’s fellow Brazilian surfer Thiago Jacare paid tribute to a close friend he called “more than an idol” and “a true hero”.

Sports photographer Fred Pompermayer wrote: “Today we lost a great man, a very good friend and a legendary surfer, Marcio Freire. He was such a happy spirit, always with a smile on his face … Rest in peace my friend.”

Local sources said sea conditions were not particularly dangerous on Thursday.

Nazaré is where German surfer Sebastian Steudtner set the world record for the biggest wave ever surfed – an 86ft (26.2m) breaker – on 29 October 2020.

Several accidents have occurred at the spot since American Garett McNamara introduced it to the giant-wave surfing community in the early 2010s. However, none had been fatal until Thursday.

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

Guardian staff and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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