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Portuguese pilot Sérgio Cosme is the guardian angel of Nazaré

blast from the past issue 213

Portuguese resort Nazaré is home to some of the biggest waves in the world from October to March and jet-ski pilot Sérgio Cosme is one of the people who makes sure big-wave surfers end up safely back on dry land each time.

Here is all you need to know:

– Cosme lives in a house on a cliff overlooking the sandy, ochre-coloured beach of Nazaré – a small resort 100km north of Lisbon – which is a surfing hotspot.

– With waves up to 30m 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 60kg 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 100kph, weighs 300kg and generates 110hp.

– Even though he wears an inflatable vest with carbon-dioxide cartridges to help him rise quickly to the water’s surface, he nearly lost his life on January 4, 2017 towing Brazilian Fabiano Tissot back from a 7m-high wave.

– 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 24.38m (80ft) on November 8, 2017.

– He said: “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.”

– British big-wave surfer Andy Cotton added: “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.”

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