Shark bites surfski at Sunny Cove

Monday, 03 October 2005 12:06 | Written by  Cape Times
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.sharkskiTrevor Wright's kayak was attacked by a Great White shark off Sunny Cove beach on Saturday. He was not hurt, but has no intention of going back into the water soon. Great Whites have been spotted hugging the coast in False Bay as the predators move away from their winter feeding ground off Seal Island.

Clive Wakeford, president of Western Province Lifesaving, confirmed that a Great White shark was also seen swimming near the Sunny Cove walkway at 10.30am yesterday.

Two Great Whites were cruising off Muizenberg's back line and another two were swimming close to Fish Hoek beach.

Mike Meyer of the City Shark Working Group, said: "Research done by scientist Alison Kock indicates that the sharks have left Seal Island, their winter area, and moved closer inshore."After a week of shark warnings that had lifeguards at Fish Hoek beach on high alert, Trevor Wright's surfski was attacked by a Great White shark in Sunny Cove just after 3pm on Saturday.

Wright, 52, was paddling 80 metres from Sunny Cove when the shark attacked. Wright was unharmed in the incident, but the shark destroyed the front of his surfski, puncturing the fibreglass with four tooth marks."Here's trouble," was the first thought Wright had when he felt "a hell of a knock" on the back of his surfski.

Knowing that the water was too deep for protruding rocks, Wright said he quickly realised "something was not lekker".A Great White shark then appeared in front of his surfski.

"I still have this vision of the shark's open jaw and eye," said Wright. Although Wright did not see the Great White approach, his friend Alan Weston said the shark came up out of the water to attack the surfski."I just saw the front of the boat in its mouth," said Wright.
He was too far from the shark to hit it with his paddle. "I thought: it's you or me and it's not going to be me," said Wright. The shark then released the surfski and swam alongside the craft, thrashing about in the water.

When the shark dived under the surfski, Wright and Weston paddled to the rocks. "If I had fallen into the water, it would have been far worse," said a relieved Wright.

As soon as the two men returned to shore, they alerted the authorities.
The National Sea Rescue Institute sent a boat out as a precaution, while Fish Hoek lifesavers helped retrieve the damaged surfski.

Swimmers were cleared from beaches between Muizenberg and Simon's Town as a precautionary measure. The shark that attacked Wright is estimated to be about four metres long. Although Wright said he could not guess the shark's size, he said he could not see its fin when it swam next to his surfski.

Brian Sturman, co-ordinator of Fish Hoek lifesaving, confirmed that a Great White shark had been spotted three times near the shore on Saturday morning, but not close enough to warrant sounding the alarm. According to Wakeford, the shark tends to appear between 10 and 11am, and again at 3pm. "We are not sure why this is the pattern, but Marine Coastal Management will do a study," he said.

Greg Olefse, chairman of the City Shark Working Group, attributed the recent sightings to the sharks' summer pattern of moving to waters closer to shore.

"This is a natural phenomenon that has been happening for years," said Olefse. What has changed is the number of paddlers taking to the water. "Surfsking is a relatively new sport and there are now more people paddling off the coast."

Despite increased shark sightings near Fish Hoek in the past week, Olefse said there was no reason to panic. "I don't think we should be overly concerned. Saturday's attack does not really qualify as a full-blown attack. It was more of a curious bite to see what the ski was."
Olefse urged swimmers and paddlers to be cautious. "Rather paddle in large groups. We also recommend that people swim at Muizenberg and Fish Hoek where there are shark-watching programmes."

Fish Hoek resident Tyna Webb, 77, was killed by a shark near Sunny Cove in November last year. The most recent fatal shark attack was in June when Henri Murray was killed while spear-fishing off Miller's Point.
Although Wright said he is not thinking about going back into the water after his ordeal, he is pragmatic about the attack.

"It happened to me now. It won't happen to me again."

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