The local surfing community today formed a floating circle in the waters off Drill Hall beach in Hastings, Christ Church, in surfing’s most hallowed ritual to honour the life of a fallen surfer.
The high waves that they love to ride were replaced by gentler ones as they said goodbye to Alexander Zander Venezia, the 16-year-old junior pro surfer who drowned while surfing on September 5 in a notoriously shallow stretch of the beach known to locals as Box by Box.
Unlike the sombre mood that submerged the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens on Wednesday for his funeral service, today’s paddle out was more celebratory.
Family and friends were dressed in white t-shirts emblazoned with #livelikeZander, and around 4:40 p.m. the surfing community paddled out to sea where they formed a circle.
As the waters gently rocked the group, everyone cheered for the former St Michael School student with the surfer’s call, and threw wreaths in his memory.
“Zander touched the core of not just the surfing community around the world, he touched parents of teenage kids or younger. He touched people outside of the surf community, people who never heard the word surfing before or never seen surfing,” former pro surfer Alan Burke said.
A close friend of the family, Burke described Venezia as a son who often spent time with him on the overseas competition circuit because the young surfer travelled and trained with Burke’s son, Jacob.
The passing of “the son of competitive surfing” was the second to rock the local surfing fraternity in a three-month period, having already lost “the father of competitive surfing”, Bill Thomson.
Burke disclosed that they both will be memorialized during two of the biggest events, with the World Surf League (WSL) Junior Pro Competition to be held in November being renamed WSL #LivelikeZander Junior Pro in Venezia’s memory and the WSL Qualifying Series (QS) 1000 being referred to as the WSL Thomo QS 1000 in Thomson’s memory.