june 2012

surfing sharks
The shark put its nose into the guy and pushed him across the top of the water like he was toying with him or something.


Eleven-time ASP World Champion surfer Kelly Slater told this story when we were driving through Italy in a motorhome.

I don't really remember who told me this story, but when I heard it, I was pretty creeped out for a while. I guess it was a few years ago. There were four guys surfing out at South Stradbroke Island (a small island a few hundred yards off the beach near Surfer's Paradise in Queensland, Australia).

The place has always been known to be super sharky and just getting out to there is sketchy. If you don't have a boat, you have to paddle across a deep channel to get to the break. The channel is only a few hundred yards across, but it's so deep that it goes down to pitch black. Everybody knows this place is sharky, so it just makes it that much creepier. I heard about an Australian guy paddling across the channel with a bleeding mullet tied to his leg one time-but that's a different story altogether. The wave is a beachbreak that breaks pretty close to shore.

So these four guys--two of them brothers--were sitting out there. They were sitting out in the lineup talking and waiting for a wave when out of nowhere a huge shark surfaced right outside of them and charged toward their group. The shark was supposedly like a fourteen- or fifteen-footer, either a tiger shark or a bull shark--I can't really remember.

They only saw it for a split second when the shark singled out one of the guys and rammed him, sending water splashing everywhere. The shark put its nose into the guy and pushed him across the top of the water like he was toying with him or something.

At this point, everybody's freaking out. The shark had separated one of the four guys, pushed him about twenty yards out, and was circling around him as the other three guys watched. All the guy who got pushed out to sea could do was scream, stay still, and hope the shark didn't start eating him.

After a few seconds, the shark started thrashing around the guy, and they all thought it was over--the guy was gonna get eaten right in front of them. The brother of the guy about to be eaten decided he had to do something. So instead of paddling in with the other two guys, he paddled straight out toward the shark and his brother. Just as he got near his brother, the shark rammed him and spread the two guys out even more.

By this time, the other two guys were on shore just screaming and freaking out. The two brothers were out in the water separated by about twenty to 30 yards, with the shark circling the brother who'd paddled out to save his bro. It was like the shark couldn't decide who to eat first. The thing just switched off circling each guy for a few seconds.

They only saw it for a split second when the shark singled out one of the guys and rammed him, sending water splashing everywhere.

The two brothers were yelling at each other and decided to make a break for it and try to paddle for the shore. They saw a set coming, so the one brother screamed to his brother to paddle for his life. They both started paddling for the wave like crazy-the shark was going nuts right by them in a frenzy. They scratched for the wave, both of them started to catch it, then one brother missed it and fell out the back of the wave.

Now, they were in the same situation as they had been in the first place-one brother was safe on the inside watching his brother as he's about to be eaten by a huge shark. So he did the same thing and paddled back out and sat next to his brother, probably knowing they're both gonna die. The shark rammed them again, putting them back outside the lineup. These guys were just freaking out. They made another mad dash for the beach and just barely caught a wave all the way to a little sandbar on the inside.

The guys on the beach swear that the shark was chasing the brothers as they belly rode the wave in. They could see the fin racing behind the guys with water spraying up behind it like a rooster tail from a race boat or something. So they just barely escaped. They were all on a tiny sliver of land in the middle of the channel, and the shark started circling the two guys just off the beach where they were standing. All they could do was just sit there and wait.

I guess they waited for a few hours until the shark finally left and a little water taxi just happened to come by. I don't know--that's pretty much the sketchiest shark story I've ever heard. I didn't surf South Straddie for a while after that.

Unattributed story published online at Transworld Surf

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