"He was hospitalized fifteen days and alleged further psychological injuries, including nightmares and a fear of the ocean."
The WSL has moved to compel arbitration in its suit with Alexandre Botelho, member of the Big Wave Tour.
In February of this year, Botelho sued the WSL, along with Bill Sharp (General Manager of the Big Wave World Tour) and Scott Eggers (Safety Director of the Big Wave World Tour) in California state court for injuries sustained during the 2020 Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge. During the event, Botelho was thrown more than 20 feet in the air when his jetski was launched after trying to drive out of the impact zone.
Botelho landed on the ski, rendering him unconscious. He floated for almost six minutes before being pulled onto the beach.
It took more than a minute for personnel to revive him.
He was hospitalized fifteen days and alleged further psychological injuries, including nightmares and a fear of the ocean.
Botelho alleged that the WSL “willfully and fraudulently” misrepresented its safety measures, particularly in failing to hire a rescue swimmer after promising surfers that an additional swimmer would be on hand.
Botelho further claimed that the WSL failed to ensure necessary safety measures, including working radios and a coherent emergency strategy.
According to the complaint, surfers did not become aware of the lack of adequate safety measures until the eve of the competition, but still signed the competition agreement due in part to costs associated with traveling, training, and perceived obligations to sponsors.
On March 21st, the WSL filed its response and moved to compel arbitration.
Calling the events, “an unfortunate accident” (reminding one writer of a “shark incident”) the WSL alleged that Botelho actually had access to the agreement, including the safety provisions, for “almost three months prior to the Event.”
Further, they claimed that Botelho signed the agreement “four days before the event was even greenlit.” Thus, Botelho “had months to contemplate the terms of the agreement before actually putting on a jersey and competing in the Event.”
The WSL further noted that there were four titles awarded after the event: “Men’s Wave of the Day, Women’s Wave of the Day, Team Champions, and the Commitment Award.”
According to the WSL, in apparently a nod to the adequacy of the WSL’s safety measures, “after observing the quick and professional response of the WSL’s safety team that day, the surfers made the unprecedented decision to give the Commitment Award, not to any of the competing surfers, but to the safety team.”
The WSL also claimed that Botelho had “received weekly payments [of thousands of dollars] under the insurance policy the WSL procured and paid for” and only filed the suit “on the eve of those payment [sic] expiring.”
Arbitration would effectively shield the litigation from public view.
If the court grants the motion, the resulting proceedings and outcome would likely remain confidential.
More as the story develops.