Interview: First Responder From The Rescue At Mavs
February 3, 2011
Alex Botelho on a Bomb

Alex Botelho is the team rider for Volcom Europe who secured the unconscious Jacob Trette on the back of the jet ski at Mavericks. He traveled from his home in Portugal to California to get a taste of the XXL winter swells, and soon became a respected Mavericks charger.

Knowing that Trette made a full recovery, he agreed to give the gnarly details of the rescue.
SWELL: How would you describe the conditions leading up to the set that cleaned up the pack so violently?

Alex: The conditions that morning looked a little smaller than expected, there was a huge storm covering almost the hole north Pacific and we were expecting a big swell. It was inconsistent and most of the set waves were not bigger than 15 feet, most waves were in the 12 foot range. But it still was a very strong swell with big intervals so it should have been kept in mind that the occasional big set could come through, and thats what happened.

SWELL: How many waves were in that set. It looked like you were in the worst spot and how did you endure such beatings?

Alex: That set had a first smaller one, and then the two bigger ones behind it. I was in the worst spot because i did the mistake of paddling to the first smaller wave of that set without knowing what was behind it. The moment i saw that wave i knew i was going to take that beating on the head, so i thought to my self, this is going to happen and you have no escape so do it right, and after that it all pretty much went instinctively. I guess staying calm is what gets you through a beating

SWELL: Your actions are being described as heroic. Tell us how you located and carried Jacob Trette’s body to safety.

Alex: After those sets my leash was broken and i had no board, Russell Ord picked me up on the ski and took me into the lagoon, we found some boards floating around, and i jumped in to get them. Then a man on a kayak in the lagoon called for attention and thats when we saw Jacob floating in the water. The kayaker spotted him, then Russell pulled him on the sled of the ski, and i got on the back to hold Jacob in place on the sled. I think we all did what we could in our positions, i happened to be there on the spot to help.

3. Do you think the PWC ban should be uplifted for lifesaving purposes?

Alex: Yes, i definitely think the PWC ban should be uplifted. I can understand some reasons why they have banned it, and that as a surfer paddling out there you must understand the risks that you are putting yourself through without having to count on a ski to help. But there are skis out there allot of the times, and in any situation if help is possible, then it should be done, not imposed because of a law, and that is what Russell did, who knows how long it would have taken to find Jacob another way.

SWELL: What other lifesaving actions on led to Jacob Trette’s surprising survival and progress?

Alex: The fact that the ski was there to pick him up so quickly was the key. On the sled i held him down firmly with my elbows holding his shoulders in place and both of my hands holding his neck straight and firm, in case of neck injury. As soon as we got him to the beach we took his wetsuit off and checked for any cuts, since it was probable that he went through the rocks while he was unconscious. While others on the shore helped us, we put him in a slight angle and in safety position to help get the water out of his stomach and lungs. We kept on assisting him until the arrival of the paramedics

SWELL: I heard You paddled Out at Mavs the very next day. That must have shocked people. Are you hooked on that wave or just crazy?

Alex: I paddled out the next day, which was a smaller day, because i didn’t want to leave that spot with the last experience being that way, and i wanted to feel comfortable again, because maybe the next session would only be in almost a year from now, i did not want to have that in my head for that long.

SWELL: Is there anything else about that day that was especially eerie or interesting?

Alex: The whole experience was a little eerie, to be picking up someone in that state and seeing so close what a wave there can do to you after i was just surfing there was a little shocking. But at the same time it was a big eye opener, and it made me realize some very important aspects about the wave, and it brought a new perspective to me of the way Mavericks should be approached. But most of all i am very happy that Jacob has made a good recovery so far, and i intend the most respect with everything i said here towards Jacob and his family.

Alex Botelho on a Bomb