Surfing legend Marcio Freire died Thursday in a place some call surfers' heaven: Nazare, Portugal, which is famous for its giant waves. The 47-year-old Brazilian died while practicing tow-in surfing, the local maritime authority said, per Reuters. He was one of three surfers in the documentary Mad Dogs, which looked at their efforts to conquer the massive waves at Hawaii's famous "Jaws" break without jet ski support or rescue teams. Freire lived in Hawaii for around 20 years. "Today I saw him surf all day in Nazare with a huge smile.. with that smile is how I'm going to remember him," fellow big wave surfer Nic von Rupp wrote in an Instagram story.
"A 47-year-old man of Brazilian nationality died this afternoon after falling while practicing surfing in Praia do Norte," the maritime authority said in a statement, per AFP. "The rescuers found that the victim was in cardio-respiratory arrest, immediately starting resuscitation maneuvers on the sand. After several attempts, it was not possible to reverse the situation."
AFP reports that this was the first fatal surfing accident at Nazare since surfing began there a little over a decade ago. The spot was made famous by American big-wave surfer Garrett McNamara, who surfed a record-breaking 78-foot wave there in 2011. His record for biggest wave ever surfed was surpassed twice at Nazare, most recently by German surfer Sebastian Steudtner, who rode an 86-foot wave in 2020. (It took 18 months to verify Steudtner's feat.)