A popular Brazilian professional surfer was shot and killed outside his home earlier this week following a scuffle with an off-duty police officer and another man.
Ricardo dos Santos, 24, underwent four surgeries before dying in the hospital after the confrontation. The news of his deaths sent shockwaves through the surfing community, where Dos Santos was known as one of the world’s premier tube riders who once bested 11-time world champion Kelly Slater at a 2012 contest in Tahiti.
“[Ricardo dos Santos] was truly one of the great barrel riders of his short time (myself and a few others learned that the hard way against him at Teahupo'o a couple years back when he won the #AndyIronsAward in the event)," Slater wrote on his Instagram page. “Condolences to Ricardo's friends and family around the world. Our small community has lost another way too soon."
The surfer was shot after he allegedly tried to stop a group of men from openly using drugs in the street and playing loud music on the beach outside his home, which is near the southern city of Florianopolis, according to reports in social media. Other reports said Dos Santos was shot after he argued with men about a car parked at his property.
Brazilian authorities have taken two men into custody – a pair of brothers, 25 and 17 years old. Police said the older brother, off-duty police officer Luiz Paulo Mota Brentano, shot Dos Santos three times, according to Brazil’s O Globo website. Despite the multiple surgeries and many blood donors, the surfer died of massive blood loss.
Tributes and message from around the tight-knit surf community have circulated around the web, with a group of surfers paddling out to Hawaii’s famed Banzai Pipeline to form a circle in remembrance of the slain Dos Santos.
"What to say when u lose a great friend?" fellow Brazilian surfer Adriano de Souza wrote on Facebook. "What to say when u lose a so cheerful person, good hearted and good about life as Ricardinho? I have so many good memories of him it is hard to choose one. But I want to keep forever in my mind these qualities and his courage to move on. Once I heard that the ones we love never die, depart before us. May you stay with God, my friend, and from up there you can protect us."
Current Asp World Tour champion Gabriel Medina posted a black-and-white photo of Dos Santos on Instagram with the message: "Ricardinho, you did not deserve it! Not at all, ever! Why does this happen to good people? I do not understand it!"
Dos Santos became a household name in the surf world after defeating Slater, Jordy Smith and Taj Burrow in the 2012 Billabong Pro in Tahiti at the infamous Teahupo'o reef break. For his performance he won the Andy Irons Award for Most Committed Performance and the following year he picked up the Wave Of The Winter award in 2012-2013 for a huge barrel he caught at Hawaii's Pipeline.
In his Instagram tribute to Dos Santos, Slater bemoaned the high rates of violent crime in Brazil – a country which hosts a stop on the surfing world tour and is frequently visited by professional wave riders.
Between 1980 and 2011, homicides in Brazil soared 132 percent to claim 1.1 million lives, from a rate of 11.5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 1980 to 27 per 100,000 in 2011, according to the Map of Violence report. Among those aged between 14 and 25, homicides skyrocketed 326 percent to reach 53 per 100,000 inhabitants, said the study published by the Latin American Studies Center (Cebela).
"This was truly a senseless loss of life. It unfortunately brings to light the number of murders yearly in (Brazil), officially documented at over 50,000 with many thousands more going unreported," Slater wrote. "Lack of education, poverty, and drugs don't make for a good mix and make life challenging in this country, one of the most beautiful and scariest places I've been."