Shark Encounter Updated - Black Tip bites Mako(6) off Durban

Monday, 27 August 2007 18:14 | Written by 
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Anton Fouche of Durban, South Africa was hurtling down a wave at 25-30kph off Umhlanga when his Fenn Mako6 ski came to an abrupt halt.  The sound of the impact was "really loud" - but what had he hit?

More accurately, the question is what hit him?  "I caught a glimpse of a large dark object & a big splash," he said, "and almost fell out trying to turn to evaluate the damage & whether I was going to sink or not."


Shark Bite Damage to Anton Fouche's Fenn Mako6 Surf Ski
Shark Bite Damage to Anton Fouche's Fenn Mako6 Surf Ski (Photo: Ant Fouche)



Tooth Fragment


Ant Fouche
Ant Fouche (

The shark that bit Ant's ski was clearly moving extremely fast given that it avoided the ski's rudder, yet bit into the tail of ski just behind it.  And given that it stopped Ant almost dead in the water (no pun intended) it must have been a big specimen.  Fortunately, having "tasted" the ski, it disappeared and Ant paddled on as fast as he could.


"I was pretty much on my own at that point," he said, "Daryl [Bartho] and Clint [Pretorius] had left me behind."

Most of the tooth marks are just deep scratches, with one or two of them penetrating the hull.  A small fragment of a tooth was left behind and Ant took it to the Natal Sharks Board for identification. 

Black Tip Shark 

Dr. Geremy Cliff of the Natal Sharks Board confirmed that he was “99% sure” that the shark responsible was a Black Tip Shark (Charcharhinus limbatus).  What certain is that it was not a Mako or a White shark.  “White shark serrations are very coarse and easy to see with the naked eye,” he said, “this tooth is typical of the Black Tip.” 


Black Tip Shark (Charcharhinus limbatus)
Black Tip Shark (Charcharhinus limbatus) (Photo: Edward Callaghan


“It could be one of the species related to the Black Tip, but as they are not common in South African waters, this is unlikely,” he added.

The Black Tip shark normally feeds on fish so why did it bite the ski?  Dr. Cliff believes that the shark may have been attracted by the black rudder on the surf ski, especially as the ski’s hull is white and the rudder would have stood out in contrast.

Should we consider painting the rudders so that the colour blends in with the hull?  “Incidents like this happen so seldom,” Dr. Cliff said, “that it’s difficult to say whether it would help.” 

Known incidents involving sharks/skis in South Africa over the last ten years:


  • Double ski in Durban: rear tip bitten by a Mako
  • Double ski in Durban: vertical strike on the mid-section of the ski by a Great White. Ski was broken in half, wreckage was paddled in.
  • Single ski in Durban: bite on paddlers foot as he sat waiting for a companion with his legs in the water

 Cape Town

  • Single ski in Cape Town: rear tip bitten right off by a Great White  (Paul Mauger)
  • Single ski in Cape Town: bow “mouthed” by Great White (Trevor Wright)
  • Single ski in Cape Town: bitten on the rudder area, crushing the rudder – massive crescent shaped hole bitten out of the ski (Lyle Maasdorp)
  • Sea Kayak in Cape Town: vertical “hit” on sea kayak near Simonstown harbour wall.  The sea kayak was lifted about 1m out of the water and the paddler knocked out.  The craft was not badly damaged and the paddler was able to self rescue.


Shark bite damage to surf ski
Area of damage - directly behind the rudder


More info on Black Tip Sharks 

Shark Warning issued in Cape Town

Ant's "interaction" off Durban occurred a few days after the City Council of Cape Town issued a warning about sharks in Cape Town.

At this time of year, Great White sharks in False Bay are known to leave Seal Island where they predate on seals to move inshore.  Bathers, surfers and other ocean users were urged to be careful over the next two months. 

"Being careful" in False Bay in a ski means, for me, not paddling near Sunny Cove on calm days! I reckon you've got to be extremely unfortunate to have an "encounter" in the middle of a howling southeaster though.