Hurricane Irma Claims First Victim – Surfer Zander Venezia

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

An up-and-coming and very promising 16-year-old amateur surfer from Barbados was killed Tuesday, September 5th after drowning in heavy surf at the notorious surf break, Box-Box, located on the eastern shore of Barbados. Zander Venezia was surfing alongside other top amateurs and pro surfers including Nathan Florence, brother of John-John Florence, when he went down on a wave.

The following according to

“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 get 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’s lots of big rocks around, and some stick out of the water.”

“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 closeout 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 closeout set came through.”


Thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of Zander.