February 11th, 2016
Margret River Shark Attack: First Hand Account from the Line-up
After last week’s fatal shark attack at Margret River, few surfers could be reached for comment due to the shock and heavy grievance. SWELL caught up with Cen-Cal Surf Instructor, Chance “C-Note” Smith, one of the few guys surfing the point during the first fatal shark attack since 04′ in West OZ. Chance took his chances by selling everything, and moving to the heavy surf zone of Yallingup, home to WCT vets Taj Burrow and Claire Bevilacqua. Here’s what he had to say about the attack,
SWELL: First off, I’d like say how stoked everyone here feels to know your safe. I’m sure the mood over there is pretty heavy. Whats the latest in the Margret River surf community?
Chance: There are a lot of mixed emotions around here at the moment. I’ve talked to a lot of people from both the Margret River area and up here in Yallingup. A lot of people are still shocked, scared, and reluctant to surf as much as usual. The surf community is really tight around here and this attack has brought a fair bit of reality and fear into the equation. We all feel such a loss and are trying to keep good spirits as much as possible. The whole thing was just horrific and just rattled everyone at the beach that day.
SWELL: You survived every surfer’s worst nightmare. Any clue why things played out like they did?
Chance: I think luck had a lot to do with things. There were a couple seals that came up to Matty Walters and I. The Seals came within about 30ft of us and then split towards the rocks at north point. The group of seals looked frantic, which was pretty odd at first, until we realized they were being hunted by a Great White Shark. They were hugging the shore as if they were trying to get out of the water but then took off towards the next peak down where the attack occurred. Out of respect for the victims family, thats all the detail I’ll share except for that we helped him in and tried to keep him alive.
SWELL: Most people would probably black-out with panic, so what advice would you give to surfers put in the situation you just survived?
Chance: My mate and I just tried to stay together and appear as a bigger object in the water, rather than thrashing around like a little injured seal. Catch a wave and go straight ideally. The whole thing happened so quickly and the shark took off. Matty and I were lucky to be out of his way.
SWELL: When stories of this nature surface, rumors start flying. Whats the most random bunch of bologna you’ve heard?
Chance: Thankfully I haven’t really heard anything that wasn’t true. A lot of people approached us to hear the story, but nobody was in the mood amidst the tragic loss.
SWELL: Australian Authorities called for the hunting and killing of the shark. Any thoughts on that?
Chance: It’s a hard call. I wouldn’t have a problem with that shark not being around. I don’t want to defend that specific animal after what happened but the reality is that we surf where they hunt and we look a lot like seals to them. I would feel a lot safer though without that shark in the water but that is a risk of surfing and we know they are around. We can’t just go kill a bunch of sharks. I fell like the whole thing relates to being in the water with those seals so people just need to be aware when not to go in the water.
SWELL: The Beach was closed for 24hrs, right? When the next time you’ll get wet in that zone?
Chance: I know people are already surfing out there but I’m going to stay out of that area for a bit. I surfed the next day up towards Yallingup just to try and shake things off but that was even hard. I was still tripping a bit but I think time will help. The odds are that another attack wont happens for a long time but that whole incident was devastating.
SWELL: Thanks for revisiting that terrifying session C-Note. We can’t wait to get you back here, and we’ll check up on ya up on the Central Coast.
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