Márcio Freire: the first surfer to die at Praia do Norte in Nazaré | Photo: Freire Archive

Brazilian big wave surfer Márcio Freire has lost his life at Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal.

The 47-year-old athlete from Bahia, also known as "Mad Dog," died this Thursday at the infamous Portuguese surf break while taking on the local giant waves.

It is the first death linked to surfing in the liquid mountains of Nazaré's Praia do Norte.

The alert for the water accident was given at 4:16 pm.

According to the Port of Nazaré captain, in the district of Leiria, the Brazilian big wave surfing pioneer "was towed to the beach by a partner [Lucas Chumbo] on a jet ski, already in cardio-respiratory arrest."

Lifeguards on the beach immediately initiated life support measures, which paramedics later continued.

The National Institute of Medical Emergency (INEM), the Nazaré firefighters, and the Maritime Authority were operational at the scene.

"He was an experienced surfer who fell while surfing," stated the commander of the Captaincy of Nazaré, Mário Lopes Figueiredo.

"Unfortunately, none of the life support maneuvers were successful, and death was eventually declared on the spot."

The body was later transported to the Legal Medicine Institute in Leiria.

On social media, tributes to Márcio Freire are already circulating.

"We are all extremely shaken by the tragic departure of our eternal idol, Márcio Freire, a guy I've always admired for his courage and technique in and out of the water, a pioneer in one of the most feared waves in the world, Jaws," wrote Lucas Chumbo.

"Nothing I say or write will ease our pain at this time, but I share my deepest condolences with family and friends. It's definitely one of the saddest and most challenging moments of big wave surfing."

"Today we lost a great man, a very good friend, and a legendary surfer, Márcio Freire," wrote surf photographer Fred Pompermayer, who shared images of the athlete from Bahia.

"He was such a happy spirit, always with a smile on his face. We will forever miss him. Rest in peace, my friend."

A Rebel Attitude

Hawaiian charger Matt Meola also shared a surprising story involving Freire.

"It was 2009 and one of the first really big swells I ever towed in at Jaws. It was Billy Kemper, Albee Layer, Marlon Lipke, and I - a bunch of young kids trying to prove ourselves in a lineup of all the best big wave surfers in the world."

"It was really intense and scary with countless tow teams and jet skis weaving and snaking each other for position."

"Then, out of the corner of my eye, I remember glancing in and seeing one guy sitting alone amongst all the chaos, trying to paddle in to the left."

I forget who was on the ski with me, but we drove up to him to make sure he was okay. Of course, it was Márcio Freire - no vest, no other surfers, just him and his gun."

"Márcio, along with Danilo Couto and Yuri Soledade, had been paddling and pioneering Jaws for a few years prior, but this day was different. It was so much bigger than I had ever seen attempted."

"We told Freire he was out of his mind and that it was too big to be paddling. He seemed so calm and just smiled. He said something like, 'I gotta try, maybe I get one, maybe I don't.'"

"At the time, I just thought he was a lunatic."

"I didn’t realize what an inspirational moment that was until a couple of years later when I found myself out in the lineup, terrified again, alongside him and all the rest of the big wave community. All of us on paddle boards. Not a tow team in sight."

"Márcio and the Mad Dogs changed big wave surfing forever. They were such an inspiration for me and so many others. More than all the charging, I will remember his huge smile."

The Dream of Surfing Big Waves

Márcio Freire was born in Brazil and was a household name in the surfing community.

In 2015, he had a near-death experience while surfing Jaws/Peahi in Hawaii.

Freire started surfing when he was still young, and his adventures have been portrayed in the documentary "Mad Dogs."

The 75-minute film directed by Roberto Studart features the original "Mad Dogs" trio: Danilo Couto, Márcio Freire, and Yuri Soledade.

All three athletes moved to Hawaii in the late 1990s to surf the biggest waves in the world.

The big wave surfing legend traveled the world and surfed for the love of it, always far from professional circuits.

His nickname, "Mad Dog," tells much about how he surfed and lived life.

"We didn't have any safety. It was pure courage guided by the desire to go down a huge wave," Freire recalled.

"The risks were many without proper safety. If an accident happened, it would be the end of the journey."

"Nothing forced us to do what we did. It was all for ourselves, for our personal satisfaction."

For the Love

At 23, Márcio Freire was among the first to challenge himself by paddling Jaws.

"I never made a living from surfing. I never made money from surfing," the freesurfer once revealed.

"I can count the times I got money from surfing with my fingers. In 2015, I wiped out badly and earned $1,000."

"And when our 'Mad Dogs' documentary came out, I also made some money. I was more of a soul surfer and didn't care much."

"And since companies in the United States weren't going to sponsor a Brazilian and I was out of Brazil, it was more difficult to negotiate."

"I was supporting myself and living my life. I

He worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant, as a gardener, in recycling, as a diving instructor, and as a tour guide on boat trips.

Márcio Freire's parents had come from Brazil to spend Christmas with the surfer and were in Nazaré this Thursday.

Psychologists from the Maritime Police are accompanying the family.

The World Surf League (WSL) and the municipality have not yet revealed whether the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge will be canceled.

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