Paddler Escapes Unhurt as Shark Attacks Surfski

Thursday, 26 December 2019 10:30 | Written by 
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Roger Swinney and his badly damaged surfski Roger Swinney and his badly damaged surfski

The shark smashed like a freight train into Roger Swinney’s surfski in an explosion of noise and spray, knocking him off into the water.  “I managed to get back on the ski,” he said, “but I fell off again and as I remounted the second time, I saw the swirl and tips of the shark’s fins.

“I didn’t see it clearly, but from the force of it and the movement in the water, it looked big!”

That sinking feeling

John de Smit was paddling nearby. “I heard a what sounded like a bang and then a splash,” he said. “I assumed he [Swinney] had fallen out and banged his boat as he fell.

“I asked him if he was ok as he clambered back onto his ski, but he wasn’t speaking so I waited for him to start paddling again, which he did. Assuming he was ok, I turned and began heading off to the wall again! Blissfully unaware!!”

Back on the ski, Swinney paddled towards his 16-year-old son, who was about 50m away. By the time he got there, the badly damaged craft had filled with water and had become unmanageable. The shark had bitten a crescent-shaped hole 40cm wide in the hull, just behind the seat. The force of the impact broke the back of the ski.

Swinney boosted himself onto the back of his son’s ski and lay there while his son paddled him into shore.

bite 1

The shark bit a massive hole in the bottom of the ski and broke its back as it impacted

bite 2

The waterlogged surfski was recovered by a couple of other paddlers who towed it back to the beach.

Swinney had launched at Nahoon Beach for an early paddle to East London Harbor at about 6am on Boxing Day. Conditions were sublime: sunny and calm, a gentle 6kt southerly breeze and a 1.3m southerly swell.


“I’d just got behind backline when the shark hit,” said Swinney.

There were some surfers out too, but they hastily exited the water when the paddlers told them what had happened.

“Not going to use that boat again!”

Swinney had just finished repairing the ski, which had been badly damaged in a paddling accident. “I spent about two weeks fixing it,” he said. “It was only my second ride on it.

“I’m not going to use that boat again.

“I was calm when it happened,” said Swinney. “But I’m feeling it a bit now! I just thank the Lord that I’m ok.”

He said the incident wouldn’t stop him paddling. “It’s my sport, you know,” he said. “But I might paddle on the river for a bit!”


The life guards closed the beach to swimmers

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