Surf Ski Attacked by Great White

Saturday, 29 July 2006 00:31 | Written by 
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ImageFish Hoek, Cape Town, South Africa - 16h40, Friday 28 July 2006

It was supposed to be a normal Friday winding-down paddle from Fish Hoek to Roman Rock lighthouse and back.

Five paddlers were bunched together about 30m from the catwalk near Sunny Cove when a Great White shark attacked the ski closest to shore. 


Bruce Neil was paddling on Lyle Maasdorp's left when he saw the shark hit Lyle's ski.  "The back of the ski was lifted right out of the water as the shark breached," Bruce said. 

Lyle's first impression was that someone was playing a trick on him.  But, glancing over his right shoulder, he "saw something in the water" and knew that all was not well.  Then he felt the back of the ski being forced under water by the weight of the shark.  Lyle tried to stay on the ski, "I knew there would be serious admin if I fell off!"  But as the ski tilted up, he slid off into the water right next to shark

Lyle Maasdorp shows the damage to his surf ski
Lyle Maasdorp shows the damage to his ski

"The water looked like a Jacuzzi," said Bruce, "the shark's tail was thrashing, Lyle was thrashing..."

Lyle had landed with his left arm draped over the shark.  "The shark's tail was curved around him," said Bruce, "he was surrounded by shark".  The shark was still biting the ski and Lyle, having lost his paddle, thrust himself back on the ski and tried to paddle into shore, surfboard style.  At this point the shark disappeared.

Surf ski stringer
The stringer clearly shows the bite size

By then the other paddlers (Bruce Neil, Ant Pearse, Mike de Villiers and Dom Strano) had turned towards the shore.  Ant Pearse who was closest to Lyle shouted to him to get on the back of his ski.  Lyle swam the few metres across and surged on.  The paddlers all headed for the rocks as fast as they could go.  Lyle scrambled up, ran up to the road and was given a lift back to Fish Hoek.

When the rest of the paddlers got back to the beach, they called the NSRI - there were another two paddlers still on the water.  Neil MacDonald, one of the two, takes up the story: 

"We left before the rest of them and paddled around the lighthouse.  We had been on the water for an hour when the NSRI arrived - at speed.  The crew were still in civvies not having had a chance to get into their gear.  They told us what had happened, took us off the water and took us back to Fish Hoek beach.  Hats off to them."

Alison Kock, from the Iziko Museums Shark Research Centre, estimated from the size of the bite taken out of the ski that the shark was between 3 and 4m in length.  This was a "hard bite" she said, not an exploratory nibble.

Close up of shark bite damage on Lyle's surf ski
Close up of the bite area - note crushed rudder and bite damage behind the rudder

The incident was the third attack on surf skis in the area in the last four years.  Paul Mauger was attacked off Glen Cairn in September 2002.  In that attack Paul's ski was attacked from behind and the last metre of the stern bitten off.  He was on his own and had to swim 100m to shore.  He swam very, very quietly.

In October 2005, Trevor Wright's Dorado surf ski was bitten in the bows by a Great White - just off Sunny Cove.  He managed to stay on his ski and paddled it to the rocks when the shark let go having bitten the ski twice, doing severe damage.

The guys involved in today's incident all said they'd be paddling this weekend - but thought they'd perhaps avoid Fish Hoek for a few days...

size comparison of surf ski shark bite
Size comparison - the book is 30cm long; the bite is about 40cm wide

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