Every surfer’s biggest fear is being second on the food chain. Any surfer that has survived an encounter with a Great White and survived, would be excused if they politely called “time” on their sport, and moved on to another land-based pursuit. But not Aussie Legend, Mick Fanning who in 2015 now famously punched out his toothier opponent while competing in the finals of the World Surf League at Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa; and survived.
In some parts of the world, lightning does strike twice.
During the quarter finals in July this year, in the exact location, Fanning again had a close encounter with a beast returning to settle the score. Fortunately however, officials had adopted significant improvements to shark monitoring and response protocols and both on-water competitors were rapidly extricated from surf zone to safety on jet skis.
But Jeffreys Bay is not the only World Surf League event affected by sharks. In April 2016, ABC reported that during a WSL event in Margaret River, a large Great White also made its presence known. US surfer Kanoa Igarashi described the size of the shark seen at Margaret River on Thursday at sunset as "like a submarine".
In risk management terms, such near misses are important Key Risk Indicators that demand close attention.
These events have caused event organisers to take action. New protocols at these surf events include: shark monitoring jet skis, drones fitted with cameras, and the banning of in-water cameramen.
These were implemented at Jeffreys Bay and helped mitigate the risk.
However two near misses in two years begs the obvious question; is it worth holding competitions in known shark locations, given the risk? According to competitors……….yes!
Clearly the rewards of conquering the ocean far outweigh the risks.