"It just kept munching" - Shark Destroys Surfski

Thursday, 08 June 2023 12:42 | Written by 
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"It just kept munching" - Shark Destroys Surfski

East London, South Africa: Angus Warren watched helplessly as the shark’s teeth crunched through the hull of his surfski. “It seemed to go on and on,” he says, “pushing and chomping. I was thinking, why is it not working out that it isn’t food?

“I can’t tell how long it took, but I had enough time to shout a couple of times to the others.”

The next thing he knew, he was in the water…

Just another paddle until...

Angus and his buddies, Andy Morris and Georg Wachter, had launched at Nahoon River Mouth near East London, South Africa, for a lunchtime paddle on Monday, 6th June.

They headed out, paddling steadily towards the reef at Nahoon Point.

“It’s such a familiar spot,” says Angus, “we often go through there.”

There was a NE swell, and a SE breeze and the waves were hay-stacking a bit, so the three paddlers went a little wider than normal.


The incident site - just off Nahoon Point


“We were just behind where the surfers go when it happened,” he says.

“I just felt an upheaval under the boat; I didn’t know what had happened. Then came the crunch, crunch…

“The image in my mind is of the thing in front of me, thrusting and biting at the ski.

“I don’t know how I was sitting on the boat,” says Angus. “I just remember that it was so close that if it had lunged towards me, it would have been right on me. I can’t remember where my feet where; I just have the impression that it was biting right to left in front of me.”

Andy Morris was paddling right next to Angus when the shark hit. “We were just far apart enough that we didn’t hit paddles,” he says. “We were chatting… actually I think I was moaning about lawyers…”

“The next thing, I saw the shark in front of Angus, munching at the ski; I was really concerned for Angus’ legs.

“I think what happened was when the shark hit, Angus must have been flung out of the cockpit onto the back deck, and the shark was actually holding the ski steady while it was biting it.

“When the shark finally let go, the boat was in two pieces and Angus must then have slipped into the water.”

“That’s not good…”

“Then it was gone,” says Angus. “I fell into the water and was trying to clamber onto anything that was there.

“I saw a big chunk of ski floating past and thought, oh, oh, THAT’s not good!”. He laughs…

The others yelled at Angus to get on the back of their skis.

But Angus didn’t want to swim away from the wreckage, knowing what was under the water.

“It was terrifying,” he says. “I was clinging to what was left, I didn’t want to leave it.”

Andy paddled alongside and Angus climbed onto the rear deck of his ski. “Andy paddles a Fenn Elite,” says Angus. “It was quite a balancing act, not the speed one would have liked, it was a very slow paddle back to the beach.”

Angus was only too aware of his legs still dangling in the water. “It wasn’t lekka!” he laughs. “My eyes were fixed on the water, trying to spot the shark.”

He still had his paddle, and it was dragging in the water. “I told him to drop it,” says Andy. “Georg picked it up, but it was difficult to hold in the choppy water and he fell off. He decided to leave it after that,” Andy chuckles.

“It seemed like an eternity to get back. Probably took 10-15min,” says Angus.

“The surfers were all at ‘Corner’ and we shouted to Georg to get them out of the water. He paddled over to them, told them what had happened, and they cleared out.”

When they reached the backline, Angus slipped off the ski and swam in. “By then I knew I was safe,” he says, “but it was still horrible to be swimming.”


The shark left a massive hole...

Wreckage – and a Mystery

The remains of the surfski had been swept away in a counter current, ending up in front of the clubhouse, some 200m behind the backline.  Local paddler Hennie Roos went out in his ski and dragged the wreckage back to shore.

Having been convinced that the shark had bitten the ski in front of him, Angus was shocked to see the location of the bite – some 30cm behind the seat.

“I must say I was quite taken aback – I thought it was biting the front of the boat,” he says. “I’m a bit puzzled how I ended up facing it.  I can’t remember what happened.

“I feel the impact, I don’t know what it is.  What hit me, what’s happening?  Then, the chilling part, the shark munching through the boat in front of me…  Calling for help.

“The crunching is what I remember.  The persistence of the thing crunching through the boat and not letting go.

“I remember seeing a fin on the way out, but you’re not sure what it was.  Dolphin?  Bird?  I didn’t think anything of it.  I’ve seen fins twice before – at the Freedom Paddle in Cape Town.”



“You realize your vulnerability,” he says. “It’s only when something like this happens that you realize how important it is to have other people around you.  Just always have other people around you.  You never know what could happen.”

Angus laments his surfski.  “I did two PE-EL Challenges in that boat,” he says.  “Two Cape Point Challenges, two Freedom Paddles, seven Pete Marlins…”

On the beach, the surfers and a couple of lifesavers came over to see what had happened.

“Then the next person we saw was a shark attack survivor,” says Angus.  “He’d been attacked while surfing and had been badly injured many years ago.”

“This was a bit of a wake-up call,” reflects Angus.  “I wouldn’t say I’m a reckless paddler, but certainly confident to go out on my own.

“I won’t stop paddling – although I don’t own a ski at the moment!  But when I do paddle again, I’ll make sure to have a crowd around me.”

“It makes you think,” says Andy.  “I had a similar incident back in 2007 a couple of km up the coast.  The shark knocked me off and punctured the boat but didn’t bite a great hole out of it.  I managed to paddle it back to Nahoon, full of water.

“So, for me it was old hat,” he laughs. “Angus was shaken, I was stirred.

“One of the guys on our WhatsApp group said he was surprised that Angus was attacked – he thought there was such a thing as professional courtesy between sharks!”

The remains of the surfski were examined by East London scientist Kevin Cole.  From the measurements of the bite marks, it’s estimated that the shark was some 2.5-3m in length.  It’s presumed to have been a Great White.

“Still, it’s a lot more dangerous to be on the roads,” says Andy Morris.  “You would expect though, for it to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

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