Sérgio Cosme: the guardian angel of Nazaré

March 26, 2019 | Surfing
Sérgio Cosme: he saves lives in Nazaré | Photo: Reyer/Red Bull

He's been called the "guardian angel of Nazaré."

His name is Sérgio Cosme and, for the last 15 years, he's been a professional racecar driver - now, his focus is on being a rescue jet ski driver during the biggest days at Praia do Norte, in Portugal.

Cosme lives in a house on a cliff overlooking the sandy, ochre-coloured beach of Nazaré. He is one of the people who makes sure big wave surfers end up safely back on dry land each time.

With waves up to 30 meters tall crashing into shore, it has attracted surfers from all around the world to try and tame the foaming giants through each winter.

The 39-year-old only weighs 60 kilograms in a wetsuit, however his amazing jet-ski skill enables him to work wonders in the 10-15 seconds between each big wave.

He has to locate a fallen surfer, race toward them at top speed, retrieve them with the rescue sled attached to the back and get out of the next wave's path.

It is not for the faint-hearted and Cosme nearly died in 2017 piloting his Yamaha VX, which has a top speed of 100 km/h, weighs 300 kilograms and generates 110hp.

His jet ski was knocked over, which then hit him on the head and chest. On the cusp of blacking out, he pulled the cord on his vest which popped him to the surface with both he and Tissot making it back to land.

Despite near misses like that, Cosme went on to tow Brazilian legend Rodrigo Koxa into the biggest wave ever surfed at 24.38 meters (80 feet) on November 8, 2017.

Sérgio Cosme: saving lives in a whitewater chaos | Photo: Reyer/Red Bull

In Love With Nazaré

In a short mini-documentary, award-winning filmers Mikey Corker and Alex Laurel teamed up with Red Bull to profile an unknown hero of the world's most famous big waves.

Outrunning 20-meter plus mountains of water to scoop up the men and women attempting to ride them, Cosme has placed himself in one of the highest stakes positions in sport.

And he's making pretty much no money doing it. So, why take the risk? That's what Corker and Laurel will explore.

"This is our field - where I work. And it is really gnarly because all big waves end up here, and if you get pounded, you will end up in the rocks," explains Sérgio Cosme.

"I had hundreds of hours of jet ski experience and I also had a good sense of timing and distance from my time in motorsports. I just can't imagine a job that would be better than saving lives. All my surfers are sitting safe and sound in my garage in the evening."

"This is what makes Nazaré special - for better or worse. When I come back to the shore, I always pray and ask my angels: 'please put me out again and let me rescue my surfer."

"This is not a place to play. I do this because I can't stand watching someone in a bad place. If I can help in any way, I'll be there."

Praia do Norte: rescue jet ski drivers are paramount here | Photo: Reyer/Red Bull

A Continuous Dedication

Andrew Cotton knows Sergio Cosme very well. The British surfer has already suffered at the hands of Praia do Norte and had to rely on rescue jet ski drivers like Cosme.

"There is no safe zone at Nazaré. I always find surfing the easy bit. Once you get on the inside, it starts to separate what kind of person you are, how you function, and what level you are," explains Cotton.

"Making life or death calls in milliseconds; not many people have that skill set. Sérgio does it numerous times on a daily basis. He's become one of the best guys out there - and for not much reward."

Portuguese big wave surfer Nick Von Rupp also praises Cosme's continuous dedication.

"Very few people are worried about the safety and well-being of others. And Sérgio is that guy. He really is looking out for others. The others are a priority. And he's the man - everyone loves him," adds Von Rupp.

"I believe that five or ten years ago, the sport was a lot less safe. Nazaré was unrideable. The safety wasn't in place, and the reason why people are able to surf here these days is because of guys like Sérgio."

"[Rodrigo] Koxa was only able to win his world record because he has Sérgio and people that give him that structure of success. Safety is everything over here, and you're only as good as people you work with."

In "Sergio Cosme, The Guardian Angel," the first episode of Red Bull's Nazaré Series, you'll be able to watch Cosme doing maintenance on his rescue jetski on the dock in Nazaré before getting back to work in one of the most dangerous surfing arenas in the world.

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