What could be better than a paddle off the coast of Byron on New Year’s Day, catching the swell as you enjoy looking back at the coastline and a view of Cape Byron?
But there was a shock in store for experienced, Sydney paddle boarder Andrew Sneddon when, after getting around 3km off the coast, he decided to head back into shore.
‘I was hit by a shark,’ said Andrew,
‘It happened very quickly, pretty much a loud smack towards the front right part of my ski. All I saw was the black back of the shark and its tail fin, both out the water. I couldn’t tell what type of shark it was but based on the width and height of its tail fin it was larger than 2.5m.’
Fortunately Andrew managed to stay on his surf ski and headed straight back to the beach.
‘If the shark had hit me closer to the middle of the ski it would have knocked me off. I’m not sure if it was an accident or a taste, but it wasn’t a great experience.
‘My surf ski is 20ft, made of carbon fibre and is sleek and fast,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘The beach was about 2km away and I knew there was damage to the ski because of the impact but couldn’t see the side of my ski to assess. About 500m further on I saw another shark swim below my ski but continued paddling and thought how bad my luck was to see two sharks on one paddle. I also felt my ski getting a bit sluggish so knew it was taking in water.’
Back on the beach Andrew was able to assess the damage saying that ‘it looks like a bite towards the bottom front section of the ski, also a crack under the Fenn sticker and the seam of the ski had popped/cracked. My ski was about a quarter full of water so I got help carrying it off the beach to my car. The water would have come through the bite puncture and the seam.’
Andrew called his wife to let her know what happened and she suggested he let one of the surf lifesavers know. However, it wasn’t until a few days later when he told the story to some friends, who again suggested he report it, that he spoke to a lifesaver about the incident.
‘The lifesaver told me there are lots of sharks around the lighthouse, he said they regularly have a drone out there and there are always sharks.’
Back in the water
The day after the attack Andrew was back down to Wategos Beach and in the water on one of his surf skis.
‘I’ve been paddling for 18 years at least four times a week and this is the first time I’ve been hit by a shark,’ said Andrew.
‘To be honest I feel safer paddling than I do driving a car. Everyone knows there are lots of sharks in the ocean and it hasn’t put me off paddling at all.’
However, Andrew said he has learnt a few lessons from the experience.
‘I am a bit more wary and the following day I stayed closer to the shore. The learning I have taken from the experience is that I should not paddle so far out to sea on my own. After the hit, my board was taking in a lot of water. In future I’ll go out with someone else if I am going to go so far out,’ he said.
‘It is also important to take a life jacket and have a leash for your board as well as telling people where you are going. I also know some people who take a phone or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) in case of emergencies.’