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16-Year-Old Pro Surfer Dies Trying to Catch a Wave in Barbados During Hurricane Irma

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A teenage budding pro surfer died Tuesday while riding the mega-swell waves in Barbados during Hurricane Irma, multiple outlets report.

Zander Venezia — of Bridgetown, Barbados — was surfing a heavy break known as “Box by Box” on the Caribbean island’s east side when he was caught by a closeout set that drove him into the shallow, rocky bottom where he hit his head on the reef, was knocked unconscious and drowned, Surfcide reported.

The 16-year-old’s death comes just two weeks after he won the $250 top prize at the Rip Curl Grom Search in North Carolina.

Venezia was in Barbados with fellow surfers Nathan Florence, Dylan Graves, Balaram Stack and Asher Nolan as well as photographers Daniel Russo and Jimmy Wilson, StabMagazine reported — who had all flown in to island to surf Irma’s swell.

They were all hitting the waves Tuesday morning when Florence first spotted Venezia’s board floating in the water, the magazine said. Rushing over to see what was wrong, he found Venezia’s limp body still underwater being hammered by the building surf.

Former Bajan pro-turned-surf instructor Alan Burke told Surfcide Florence shouted for help, trying to get a bleeding and unresponsive Venezia to shore. “They tried to get him to the beach quickly, which was difficult,” Burke said. “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.”

“When they finally did get him in, they performed CPR on the beach,” Alan continued. “The ambulance came really swiftly from Speightstown, and the whole drive Nathan Florence, Dylan Graves and the paramedics continued to try and revive him. But once they got him to the hospital, Zander was breathing, but not responsive. From the time Nathan got to him in the water to when they arrived at the hospital, it was about 75 minutes of nonstop CPR.”

Venezia died later at the hospital, where his family — parents Lisa and Louis Venezia and sister Bella — had joined him. Autopsy results reported Wednesday said he suffered no fractures, Surfcide reported.


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