Watch: Harrowing Near-Death Rescue of Big-Wave Surfer Alex Botelho at Nazare

Earlier this week, the World Surf League (WSL) green-lit the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge after a large North Atlantic swell and favorable weather conditions lined up on Portugal’s west coast.

On Tuesday morning of the competition, the infamous big-wave surfing spot showed its teeth—and Portugal’s Alex Botelho got bit.

“Big Wave Surfer @alex_botelho was involved in a very serious incident during the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge,” stated the WSL in an Instagram post. “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.”

As you can see in the video, Botelho is holding onto the jet ski’s rescue sled for dear life as the duo gets flanked by mountains of whitewater on all sides. With nowhere to go, the ‘ski driver has no choice but to slam into the plumes of seawater head-on. This launches both men into the air, only to crash into the subsequent wave, which sucks them both violently over the falls.

Obviously the critical situation could have had a much worse outcome. The efforts of the rescue staff on-hand were a deciding factor in saving Botelho’s life.

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Surfers and technical team help the Portuguese surfer Alex Botelho (C) who got injured during the Nazare Tour Surfing Challenge.Photo: CARLOS BARROSO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The first event of its kind, the new contest on the WSL Big Wave World Tour calendar is unique in that surfers are towed via personal watercraft into the monster waves. All other big-wave contests on the tour require surfers to paddle into the skyscraper-sized waves under their own power. While the event certainly produced its fair share of fireworks, it’s good to at least hear that all participants involved did not suffer more serious consequences.

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