Venice: A Dutchman Fulfils His (Not Entirely Legal) Dream

"Aqua Alta Surfing": St. Mark's Square on a Wakeboard

A record high-water mark in the lagoon city of Venice gave Dutchman Duncan Zuur the opportunity to fulfil a long-held dream. The 34-year-old carved his way across a flooded St. Mark's square on a wakeboard.

Tourists on St. Mark's Square in Venice, one of the most famous piazzas in the world, had a double dose of climate change on Tuesday. Firstly, the floodwaters in this water-bound city reached levels not seen for 20 years and secondly, a wake-boarder appeared out of nowhere to carve his way between the historic buildings. Duncan Zuur, 34, who finished third in the world championships in 2004, decided to take a belated lap of honour around St. Mark's, acting out a long-held dream right in front of the Basilica. For the past four years, he and his team have repeatedly made the trek out to Venice but until this year, the water-levels never cooperated.

This time it was different. "Just 12 hours after the flood warning was given the entire team was in Venice and ready for action," said Zuur, who abandoned a family vacation and travelled through the night to get to the city.

Everything happened at the speed of light on Tuesday: just a few minutes after 11 a.m., the high-water mark had reached 1.35 metres, equivalent to a good half metre of water covering St. Mark's Square. His team pulled a compact, 20 horsepower motor winch from its hiding place and placed it under the square's arches. One team member, clad in rubber boots, pulled the winch’s cable about 120 metres across the square and pressed one end firmly into the hand of Duncan Zuur, who had taken the opportunity to get into his wakeboarding gear. Four elegant turns later, the event was over prompting by a standing ovation from an astounding crowd of tourists. And the police didn't even notice.