The local surfing community was thrown into mourning today as one of their bright young sparks was tragically snuffed out in what is being described as a freak accident at Cattlewash, St Joseph.
Sixteen-year-old Zander Venezia apparently suffered a broken neck while surfing in a notoriously shallow stretch of the beach known to locals as Box by Box.
According eyewitnesses the young surfer, the son of popular rally navigator Louis Venezia, was slammed into the reef by a wave while attempting to paddle back from the point where the wave breaks.
Several other surfers rushed to his assistance and attempted to resuscitate him before he was taken by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) where he was pronounced dead.
American flight attendant Shawn Latino, one of a number of thrill seekers who recently arrived here to catch the mega-swells currently being generated by Hurricane Irma, was among the first people to rush to the teenager’s aide, performing CPR on the young man.
Latino told Barbados TODAY it was a sad day for surfing in Barbados and that the tragedy had sucked the excitement out of
“We were surfing this secret spot, it’s a heavy wave and not really a safe wave but we were all surfing, having the best time of our lives, getting the best waves you can possibly imagine. The young kid caught a wave and rode it on the inside and he was paddling back outside and another wave came and picked him up and his head hit the reef,” Latino said.
“One of the professional surfers was the first to get to him and he actually put the kid on his board and started performing CPR and then quite a few of us came and I took over in the water was well,” Latino explained, noting that their rescue attempts were made doubly hard by the huge waves and the shallowness of the reef.
“We all worked together and brought him in and we worked on him until the ambulance came,” he recounted, adding that he was extremely heart broken for the young man’s father, whom he said was present throughout the harrowing ordeal.
Six-time national surfing champion Mark Holder, who also assisted with trying to get Venezia out of the water in adverse
conditions, backed up Latino’s account, telling Barbados TODAY that the surfing community was both distraught and shocked over the incident.
However, while stressing that Venezia’s death had absolutely nothing to do with his skill level, as the young man was ranked among the best on the island, Holder sternly warned that Box by Box was no place for newcomers to the sport.
“That wave only breaks when you have hurricane swells and it breaks in a different direction, so that swell breaks like once in a blue moon. When it is breaking guys go there because it is a beautiful wave, but it is pretty dangerous. In my 45 years I have never surfed that break, I surf at Soup Bowl and other places around the island but I never surf that break because it is pretty dangerous. The way the waves are coming in today even at Soup Bowl, you have to be on your ‘A’ game. You must know what you are doing because out here is not easy. If you are not a professional today is a day you should sit down and watch,” Holder stressed.
The surfing community has reacted with shock and sadness to the 16-year-old’s untimely death.
The Barbados Surfing Association issued statement on their website expressing “heartfelt sorrow and sincere sympathy that we today mourn the loss of one of our extremely talented young surfers.
“Zander may you continue to ride the waves in heaven,” the statement read.
Meantime, local surf instructor Alan Burke described the surfing tragedy as “completely horrible news.”
“We are in shambles . . . We just travelled the whole east coast together, surfing the outer banks together. Zander was such a good, funny kid. He was always joking, and he loved surfing. I just can’t believe he’s gone. I’m a mess, man. We’re all a mess over here,” he was quoted as saying by surfing website Surfline, which today described Venezia as “a budding young pro surfer from Bridgetown, Barbados”, who died after surfing a particularly heavy session at a notoriously shallow wave on the island’s east coast.