"Like Being Hit by a Truck" - Samoa Shark Incident

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 10:29 | Written by 
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Andy Wheatley with his shark-modified surfski Andy Wheatley with his shark-modified surfski Credits: Andy Wheatley

All I remember is that it felt like being hit by a truck,” said Andy Wheatley.  “The crunch was pretty impressive!” 

Flung violently off his surfski and into the water, Wheatley’s “first thought was to get back on and go!”

Gone paddling

Samoa resident Wheatley had gone down to the beach with his family; the wind was blowing on-shore so he thought he’d paddle his surfski out for half an hour and surf the waves back.  “It was so nice I thought I’d carry on for another 15 minutes,” he said.

And it was on the way back that the incident happened.  “I can’t remember if I was actually surfing a wave when it hit, but I definitely wasn’t moving slowly,” Wheatley said.

Tailless

The shark had bitten off the entire tail of the ski – from just behind the rudder.  Still afloat (barely – and thanks to the foam stringer in the Fenn Swordfish), the ski had just enough buoyancy that Wheatley could remount and start paddling.  At this point he was still a kilometre or two offshore.

“Being so far out, I didn’t have any other options,” said Wheatley.  “I was actually thinking how cranky my wife was going to be when I was lost at sea,” he laughed.

“I can giggle about it now,” he added.  “A bit!”

Staying Afloat

He quickly realised that the steering was still functional – and the ski was manageable.  “As long as I kept paddling,” he said, “the water seemed to drain out from where the tail once was.”

Swordfish

Catastrophic damage 

Anything can - and will - happen

Normally Wheatley uses a PFD and takes a phone with him, but they’d hadn’t planned to paddle so far, they were going to take turns on the boat.  So he had no safety gear at all.

“The biggest lesson for me was that you need to be prepared,” he said. “Wear a life jacket, take a phone and don't paddle alone if heading out off shore...anything can and will happen. I did none of this and am extremely lucky to be writing this.”

No Grudge

Dr. Mark Meehan, a scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science wrote, “Judging by the triangular shape of the teeth marks on the bottom of the ski it is almost certainly a shark. Attack from below and behind on the rear of an animal is typical of species that prey on larger marine mammals”. 

Wheatley was concerned not to “blame” the shark.  “Yes, this was a suspected shark encounter,” he said, “but no means an attack, just an animal looking to see what I was doing in their back yard.

“Just image the shock they got munching down on a mouth full of fiberglass!”

Swordfish Tail


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