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Bob Van de Gronde and Marcio Freire in Hawaii in 2016Getty Images

Brazilian surfing legend Márcio Freire has died while surfing the huge waves in Nazaré off the coast of Portugal.

The 47-year-old fell while practising on Thursday.

Freire was one of three pioneering Brazilian surfers featured in the 2016 documentary, Mad Dogs, about an attempt to conquer the giant “Jaws” wave in Hawaii.

He had moved to the US state to surf the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world.

According to reports, Freire was practising tow-in surfing – where surfers use artificial assistance, such as a Jet Ski, to catch faster moving waves than they would be able to if they were paddling by hand – when he fell.

A surfer rides a wave in Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal, in February 2022

Reuters

He was taken back to the beach; there, rescuers found him in cardio-respiratory arrest, but he was unable to be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene, Portugal’s National Maritime Authority said in a statement.

Freire was seen as a big-wave pioneer in the surfing community, who travelled the world to surf giant waves.

“We didn’t have any safety. It was pure courage guided by the desire to go down a huge wave,” he is quoted as saying in Mad Dogs by Surfer Today.

“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.”

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Tributes have been pouring in on social media, starting with fellow big-wave professional surfer Nic von Rupp, who paid tribute to Freire in an Instagram story:

“Today we lost one of ours. Always had loads of respect for Márcio as one of the paddle pioneers at jaws. Today I saw him surf all day in Nazare with a huge smile.

“With that smile is how I’m going to remember him.”

Fellow Brazilian surfer Thiago Jacare also paid tribute to his friend on Instagram, calling him “more than an idol” and “a true hero”.

The area where Freire died boasts some of the biggest and most terrifying waves in the world, caused by the Nazaré Canyon on the seabed off the coast of Portugal.

It was in Nazaré where German surfer Sebastian Steudtner set the world record for the biggest wave ever surfed in October 2020.

Several accidents have occurred there but until Thursday, none had ever been fatal.

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