Heavy Surf Claims the Life of Bajan Pro in Barbados

R.I.P. Zander Venezia, one of Barbados’ most talented junior pros, who passed away today. He was 16 years old. Photo: Courtesy Facebook

Posted 9-6-17


We are shocked and saddened to report that Zander Venezia, a budding young pro surfer from Bridgetown, Barbados, died today after surfing a particularly heavy session at a notoriously nasty wave on Barbados’ east coast. While the family waits for an official autopsy, it is believed that Zander possibly broke his neck upon hitting the shallow reef.

After getting his fair share of big barrels all morning, the 16-year-old got caught by a closeout set, which drove him into the shallow, rocky bottom. Bleeding and unresponsive, he was pulled out of the water by Nathan Florence, who was among a cadre of pros who flew over to Barbados to catch the mega-swell currently being generated by Hurricane Irma.

“Horrible news,” original Bajan pro-turned-surf instructor Alan Burke told Surfline. “I feel empty, we are in shambles over here. I wasn’t there [at the spot], but my wife has been with the Venezia family at the hospital.”

“I’m told that Zander gets overturned by a closeout set, where he likely hit bottom,” Alan managed between tears. “Nathan Florence got to him first, then shouted for the other guys and started to perform CPR. Zander was bleeding, and he wasn’t moving. They tried to get him to the beach quickly, which was difficult. ‘Box by Box’ is a tough place to get in and out of, even if you have the ability. There are lots of big rocks around, and some stick out of the water.”

Always comfortable in the bowels of Soup Bowl, Zander’s last session actually happened a bit further north, at a treacherously shallow reef break known as “Box by Box.” He will be dearly missed. Photo: Mark Harris

“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.”

“He was one of my sons’ [Josh and Jacob Burke] best friends, and like a son to me,” Alan continued. “We just traveled the whole East Coast together, surfing that last Outer Banks swell together. Zander was such a good, funny kid. He was always joking, and he just loved surfing. He was so jovial, such a joy to be around. I just can’t believe he’s gone. I’m a mess, man. We’re all a mess over here.”

If there’s any consolation to be found in this tragedy, it is in Zander’s last words, spoken to Dylan Graves just before that fateful close out set took his life.

“He told Dylan, ‘I just got the best wave of my life!'” Alan finished. “Dylan was the last person to speak to Zander. Then that next close out set came through.”

Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of this very talented, very likable Bajan surfer.

(C) Towsurfer.com 2017