Praia do Norte, PORTUGAL - Professional surfer Alex Botelho and his jet-ski driver Hugo Vau were taking part in the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge, one of the most important competitions in surfing. According to the World Surf League, 'each tow team will get two, one-hour heats to whip each other into waves of mind-boggling heights.'
The event's directors had extended the contest by two additional one-hour heats after the competition was finished due to the great conditions of world-breaking waves at Praia do Norte. There were 30 minutes left in the competition when the commentating team took time to reflect on the impressive work by the water-safety team and how the competition had run relatively smoothly and without any real risks of danger. They may have spoken too soon.
Just ten minutes later, impressive footage captures the moment surfer Botelho and his jet-ski driver, Vau were caught in the middle of two breaking waves, known as the impact zone. The two men were catapulted 20 feet in the air, before vanishing beneath the water.
Alex and Hugo were knocked out and pounded by a set wave, nearly drowning. They were found floating head down in the whitewater. The pair were dragged back to land while still unconscious and treated on the beach before medics quickly rushed them to hospital.
'I got a 00:30 am update from the orthopedist who was taking care of Hugo Vau, and the internist who is taking care of Alex Botelho. I can confirm that Vau has not broken his leg. He will be released from the hospital today,' said Walter Chicharro, mayor of Nazaré.
It was later reported that Botelho had regained consciousness in the hospital and the World Surf League confirmed he was in a stable condition. Vau, who was initially described by some as suffering from a spine injury, is 'doing fine.'
'Fortunately, we have a very well-prepared team here at the beach. Today, we were put to the test. It was almost a ridiculous situation - Alex was hit by a 300-kilogram personal watercraft, and the outcome could've been tragic,' WSL statement read.
Inevitably, some in the surfing community questioned the WSL’s decision to hold live events in such dangerous conditions.
Hawaiian big-wave surfer Albee Layer was more succinct: 'Our lives are clickbait,' he wrote on Instagram.